Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ministry of Reconciliation?

Just thinking aloud here. I'm befuddled by the complexities of some of my personal and family relationships, and it causes me to wonder, what does forgiveness really look like? Is it ever acceptable for a Christian to "give up" on a relationship or "write off" a person, particularly a family member? Shouldn't love always win out?

What happens when the sins and hurts in need of forgiveness aren't one big thing, but a series of unaddressed minor issues and patterns of relationship? How does one even start on that? Stuff all the past in the past and move forward with a clean slate? Dredge up each incident one by one?

Some say it takes two to tango. If the other person appears uninterested in developing a deeper relationship, what is my responsibility to continue reaching out? What form should it take? At what point does it cease to be loving and become annoying?

Finally, I'm left wondering, at what point do my efforts to connect spring from my own pride and selfishness rather than a real concern for that person?

All I know is that Christians are called to a ministry of reconciliation. God desires a complete and revolutionary restoration of relationships. It has to start with me.

Change my heart, O God! I need your remodeling crew to tear down the walls of self-protection I have built over the years of perceived rejections, and your courage and wisdom to both know how to move forward and be bold enough to follow your lead.

1 comment:

  1. Tough questions, and ones I can relate to! I've learned a lot from the Boundaries and Safe People books (Cloud and Townsend) in these areas - not that I have it down yet. My thought, though, is that yes, it is acceptable for Christians to "give up" on certain relationships, even family.

    It seems to me that this is one area where balance is needed. There's such a thing as taking reconciliation too far - such as a battered wife not protecting herself and her children, for instance. (See "Don't cast your pearls before swine" and "as much as lies with you live in peace with all men") Then again, there's such a thing as protecting ourselves with walls so much that no relationship can take place. The verse in 2 Corinthians 5 about the ministry of reconciliation is talking about our role as ambassadors to reconcile people to God through Christ, not about individual realtionships.

    What I learned from Boundaries is that it's o.k., and necessary, to have walls; but you also need a gate in your walls that you can use to choose who, and what, is allowed in.

    One thing I've learned is not to expect people to change, and to accept them as the wounded and broken people they are, while protecting myself as necessary. Sometimes when I'm feeling fragile and insecure, I have to keep the gate closed to protect my heart. Other times, I'm feeling confident of who I am in Christ, I'm learning to enjoy the good parts of a wobbly relationship, and put the rest in an imaginary basket instead of letting it get to my heart. And the hardest part - setting boundaries on hurtful behaviors, risking conflict and being willing to remove myself from the situation if necessary.

    I don't think either stuffing the past or dredging up the past are ideal solutions. Stuffing leads to ulcers and cancer, and dredging it up one at a time may not be fair, or loving. Acknowledging and forgiving the past (not forgetting!) and then starting fresh with good, communicated boundaries seems like a healthier option.

    - your oldest cousin :-)


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