As Christians, we have no excuse for leaving a trail of broken friendships and relationships behind us. Yet it does happen.
Our church just hosted a farewell event here prior to our leaving. Some of the folk who came had been members of our church many years ago and had moved on. It was great to see them.
One of the things Elaine and I always worked on was trying as best we could to remain on good terms with folk who for various reasons, good, bad or indifferent, left our church. At the time, it usually hurt. We had invested as best we could in those folk, and to be fair they had often invested in our church in return.
We found there were two options. We could sit around nursing our wounds, replaying the hurts and rehashing all the ways we were right and they were wrong. Or we could remind ourselves that we had caused God much greater hurt, and he had chosen to forgive us.
So there really was only one option, and by the grace of God we always managed to take it, even if it took time.
And so we were chatting with these folk today about how good it is that we were able to sit together as brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of whatever had happened in the past.
One of the stupidest things Christians do is to blow up the bridge after someone has taken the road out of town. And sad to say, leaders are no exception.
Jesus told a very simple story. There were two debtors. The king forgave the very large debt of the first man. But that man was also owed a debt, actually a very small one, by one of his fellow servants. Instead of seeing his own good fortune as an opportunity to help out the other guy, he had him thrown into debtors’ prison. The story did not turn out well for the first debtor.
Christians, of all people, are aware not only of their enormous debt, but of the price that was paid to cancel it. That is why unforgiveness and broken relationships are a scandal in the body of Christ. We have had an incredibly large debt cancelled, actually a debt so large we could never repay it. And we turn around and refuse to forgive the few pennies someone else owes us.
In case we’re discouraged as we look around us, we’re in good company. Even in the church of New Testament days, only one generation removed from the time Jesus told that story, Christians were in busy in court suing each other. Paul had some good advice: “Why not rather be wronged?”
We can lose by winning, and we can win by losing. Think about it. You can publicize all you want how bad was the conduct of that person who hurt you. And you may be right.
But when you do that, you lose two ways. First, by your bitterness and anger, you cut yourself off from the grace and forgiveness of God. Jesus said exactly that in the story. Second, you just wind up diminishing yourself in the eyes of the people you are dumping your troubles on.
And this is particularly true for leaders. As fathers and mothers in the body, we are called upon to take the hit. You don’t walk out on your kids and slander them all over town when they disappoint you. You just keep loving them. And why should it be any different in the body of Christ?
And in the end, taking the hit is worth it. Because there’s a bridge left for people to come back on and say thank you. That’s worth all the tea in China.
My sin left a man hanging naked on a Roman cross. Through his nakedness, he clothed me. What gives me the right to expose and uncover the sin of those I’ve had some battles with?
The next time you’re inclined to blow up a bridge, take a deep breath and go back and read the story Jesus told. In the long run, you won’t regret it.