You all have been on my mind lately for the past few weeks. Then I heard how some were struggling and desired to grow spiritually/draw closer to the Lord again. But something came up in my mind with regard to you all, a dynamic I have seen in others and even in my own family.
Forgiveness & reconciliation are essential parts of the spiritual life of any Christian. Pursuing peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation with others brings peace into our own lives. On the other hand, if we harbor ill-will or bitterness against another person, it will impact our own hearts. I have seen this often in people’s lives. In my own life, I have ended up hospitalized a number of times for mental illness after I became embittered against various people in my life.
Humans are made for love. We are created in love by God. We need love from others to grow. We need to love others freely to fully be mature. Indeed, the measure of maturity one has is the measure of how well you love others. A childish person is one who is selfish and unloving.
A person who has not matured in love will have waves of joy and waves of sorrow, depending on how rooted they are in a covenantal relationship with God. Happiness is too easily overwhelmed by hatred if bitterness eats away at the root of one’s relationship with God. Like a little bit of poison seeping into a well, when bitterness leeches into the soul, soon the very fountain of life within is corrupted and peace, joy and all virtue is spoiled. Oh, that we might guard our hearts against the defilement of bitterness!
Another parabolic way of understanding this is a flow of water. If water flows freely in a creek or fountain in the high mountains, it can be fresh and refreshing. But if the water pools in a hot puddle, soon all kinds of parasites and germs will make the water toxic and unusable. Love and forgiveness are like that flow of water. When the flow of mercy and grace go through the soul from the heights of God’s love to others, then the heart will be clean, fresh, and at peace and happy. When the outlets of this mercy and grace are plugged up in the soul, foul words, bitter looks, harsh attitudes and actions will flow out.
Reconciliation is a matter of unplugging these stopped up wells of grace within. First one must get out the bitter defilement from the heart, and then the relational flow must be restored by connecting one person’s heart-house to another by freely letting grace and mercy flow from one to another. Jesus did not come to judge or condemn the world. The world condemns itself because they have cut themselves off from kind and patient relationships with God and so all interpersonal relationships are rendered somewhat spoiled as a result.
We as Christians must guard our hearts. We must not condemn nor be too quick to judge our neighbors to whom our pipes of God’s love are connected. If we introduce such noxious substances of undue judgment, bitterness, condemnation, or resentment and pretending there are irreconcilable differences in our relationships, it will be like pumping sewer straight into the clean water. The source of God’s love remains clean and fresh and healthy. However, if we mix love with hatred in our relationships we will soon find ourselves sick. Our relationships will start affecting our health, our mentality will be toxic, and before you know it our spirit will wither and shrivel as the flow of life from God is choked by hard-heartedness.
The root of church life and the root of social life is found in the family. Let me ask each of you? How have you harbored ill-will or toxic thoughts towards others? How have you hindered the flow of grace and reconciliation in your relationships? How are you holding out on extending mercy to others and so choking off the joy that God wants to give us? How are you keeping times of refreshing from flowing to your family members and to the broader church and community beyond? What do you appreciate about one another? What do you like most about each other?
God is love. But if we do not love others as He does, we will miss out on our access to the fullness of God and our full relationship with Him. I will continue to pray for you all. My hope is that you will again learn to love one another and reconcile as believers in Jesus who will one day have to spend eternity in the same house: God loves it when his children love one another and relate to one another freely and gladly.
Your friend and brother in the Lord Jesus,