Monday, September 4, 2017

Does the Bible say you MUST Reconcile with Everyone?

I sat idle for about 5 minutes comprehending what I had read, and then felt compelled to comment.  The article was about forgiveness when there are divisions within a family.

It was well worded and would bring many to move toward forgiveness and reconciliation with those they disagreed with and rightly so... where pride had taken over and hardened hearts on both sides of a disagreement.  And I applaud the author for encouraging and urging us to see the big picture; God intended families to be unified and grow together in love.

But there is another end of the spectrum in which reconciliation is not encouraged biblically.  I felt I needed to stand up for those who are not under the typical family disagreement structure. Those who deal with toxic people within their extended families.  And I felt it right to give a voice to those who have been guilted into a false reconciliation meant only to appease another's wants instead of adhering to the Bible.

The sad truth of the matter is that abusive and toxic people are out there, and they belong to someone's family and they may be sitting in the pew next to you at church. There are family members reeling with the after effects of behavior. Being a Christian DOES NOT require you to be in a relationship with these types of people.

 It is not warranted to reconcile in the name of family.  Sweeping issues under the rug, not enforcing consequences, not calling out behaviors as a Christian is detrimental both to yourself and to them. Enabling another's sin justifies it to them and makes it easier for you to justify your own sin.  Projection of issues is common with toxic individuals, but it can be just as common and sometimes worse with enablers.

However, the Bible DOES call us to forgive.  Not necessarily directly to that person; sometimes it is most advisable and advantageous to enforce (at least for a time) a full cut off of that individual.  It calls us to release them of what we have considered a wrong done against us.  It lets go of the hold and control we are trying to assert over their life for something that they may never seek to truly make amends for.  God has called us to repent that hold and to fully forgive them in our hearts SO THAT we may pray for them with properly aligned motives, have compassion on them, love them--even if loving from afar is the closest we will ever be to their presence again.

I urge you, just as the author of the article did, to take time to think through what the Bible has to say.  She references a couple verses with anger as the common denominator; as a call to look inward first and check yourself.  Here, I'll point you to this verse:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

~Romans 12:18

And as Martin Luther once said:

“Peace if possible. Truth at all costs.”

~Martin Luther

That is an incredibly powerful statement in light of what we are talking about.  Sometimes peace is not possible. It is a basic reality of life on this earth.  The truth ought to always be heralded... even though the truth will cause division and strife by nature. Those who want an exemption from being held accountable for their own sin will buck and claw at the truth (or the upholders of truth) when brought to light and the sin will be held in a place of honor above God's word, people, and (what then become) empty words.

Go ahead and read the entire chapter of Romans 12.  Look at this verse in context.  See and examine your life and the relationships you have with others to challenge yourself and your walk with God.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

~Romans 12:2

Are you conforming to the world or those who are living in it?  If you do not stand up for Christ, your mind cannot be thoroughly renewed.  We all need to pray for courage to stand up for what the Word of God says.  Seeking the truths of God and the Bible in our lives will freefall our nature into a gift of discernment, of knowing what is pleasing to Him. What is not, is worldly; you need to decide today where you stand.  Which side of the line do you tread?

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

~Romans 12:3

Do you take pride in the hard stances you have made for Him?  You depraved human, step back and see the holiness of our God, to make a stand for Him is but nothing short of obedience, it ought not to be praised. You are just as depraved as the sinners you have stood up against, but you have been redeemed; remember that grace and mercy have been extended to you to cover over your sins.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

~Romans 12:9-10

Are you sincere and compassionate?  Do you have a heart for the lost souls?  Do you see the depth of what their sin stands for and where they are headed?  Hate the sin.  Know where it is leading the sinner if they are unrepentant. Then pray for the sinner.  Pray for their lost souls.  Pray for your own depravity, you were once on the very same path to Hell.  But cling voraciously to Him.  See Him as your only true Savior.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

~Romans 12:11-13

Are you joyful? Are you so downtrodden in failed relationships that you have lost your joy? Remind yourself to whom you are running this race for, His glory alone, the reward of eternity with Him. (This is not meant to discourage those who are in the trenches with a toxic individual but meant to encourage--look Heavenward while you are in battle on this earth.)  Have patience in trials, this will not be the last of them; when dealing with relationships there typically are scores of people that will now be affected. Keep your focus on Him, the line you are enforcing is ultimately for His glory, for their hearts, and for the protection of yours.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

~Romans 12:14-17, 19

Are you bitter? Are you wishing and hoping for earthly vengeance?  You are still called to be holy, even when you are tempted to retaliate.  Two wrongs do not make a right. Remain an appropriate witness for the precious name you represent: Christ.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

~Romans 12:18

Is it possible to live at peace with all people?  No, it is not.  So rest assured, Jesus did not intend to force us into relationships with toxic people. We will be challenged by them though, our name may be slung through the mud, others may take sides, but stand firm in your faith and your calling.  You are His and no one can take that away or mar your relationship with Christ.  Let it ever embolden you to strengthen and rely on Him.

I challenge you to reacquaint yourself with David.  Starting in 1 Samuel 27, we read the account of David fleeing from King Saul with a small army of 600 men. They (the men, their wives, and children) were granted permission to take refuge and live in Ziklag but found upon returning from battle that their town had been destroyed and their women and children taken captive. Then we read as follows:

So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.

~I Samuel 30:4-6

His army wanted to kill him. Saul and his followers wanted to kill him.  Two of his wives (and possibly children) were taken from him.  He was very alone. "But [he] found strength in the Lord his God." Amen. And Amen again. Carrying along with lessons we can learn from David, go ahead and read 2 Samuel 16.  After King David's son Absolom overthrows him, David escapes and a man from King Saul's family comes out cursing him while literally throwing stones at him and his men.  David does not sin in his response, instead he grants authority of the situation to God, "If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’" and then David also says, "Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to."

Live your life looking Heavenward.  Live it knowing you are in full and plain view of our holy Creator God Almighty. You cannot hide your actions from Him.  He cannot be mocked.  Always strive to glorify Him in every situation, and relinquish authority that is His alone when dealing with others.

[The article I referenced above can be read by clicking here.]

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