Friday, 12 March 2021
It was a difficult and stressful season. Spiritually bruised, it had been almost two years since I spoke to a family member. To say our relationship had been difficult is an understatement. The relationship was almost fractured beyond repair. As I look back, it was difficult to point to a single reason for the estrangement. But it was a gradual deterioration, interspersed with many “skirmishes” and pain.
Perhaps it was also my fault for not showing enough patience, care or understanding. Perhaps my standards were just too high. Or perhaps it was the perceived lack of respect towards me.
But I also needed to repent for my actions. In the heat of the moment, words were said that I utterly regret. I had failed to control my tongue.
I decided to look to Jesus for help. He is gentle, sacrificial and loving. However, I am aware that Jesus too had gotten angry and upset. Jesus unleashed harsh words against the Pharisees and scribes. On a few occasions, Jesus even scolded his disciples for having little faith.
But He was always forgiving and patient. Jesus preached forgiveness, love and repentance. He preached reconciliation of mankind to God.
Why can’t I be more like Jesus? I truly want to walk in obedience, but it is not easy.
I admit that two years of silence was just too long. It is not healthy. During those days, I agonised much over the estranged relationship. “This must not be allowed to continue,” I said to myself. Thankfully, my wife then decided to intervene and mediate. By God’s grace, we were eventually reconciled.
Jesus opposes pride. He opposes hypocrisy. He led a humble life among the regular people, reaching out to those who were thirsty for God’s love. Jesus said: “ Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Perhaps that’s why the author of Matthew quoted Isaiah 42:1-4, saying “ a bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out”.
I am no saint. We are all sinners. Works in progress.
I sometimes struggle with showing patience. So I pray and often ask for strength to forgive others earnestly, to love unconditionally. Since Jesus accepted a lesser bruised reed like me, shouldn’t I do the same for others?
However, I am also aware that I should balance my attitude. Forgiveness and repentance go hand in hand together. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Cor 7:10).
Repentance is necessary for forgiveness. To those who continuously show an unrepentant attitude, we must be cautious not to be overzealous by extending cheap grace. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer described, cheap grace is “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance.“
Today, if you are facing a similar estranged relationship with a family or church member, don’t despair. Trying to analyse who is at fault, is usually a futile exercise. Why not chose to forgive freely, as we ourselves have been forgiven? God’s glory is magnified when brothers and sisters live together in harmony (Ps 133:1).
Forgiveness should emerge from the bottom of our hearts, not from the lips alone (Matthew 18:15). I pray that you will have the courage to seek forgiveness, forgive unconditionally and seek reconciliation. Like me, you may be spiritually bruised. But I pray that the Lord will bless your many endeavours as you bring glory to Him and Him alone.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for my sins when I delay forgiveness to others. Teach me to truly forgive others from the bottom of my heart. In Your name alone I ask, AMEN.