Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 92; 149, Jeremiah 31:23-25, Colossians 3:12-17, Luke 7:18-28 (29-30) 31-35
[Note: this post is about relationships and forgiveness, but it is not intended to address physically or emotionally abusive relationships. If you are or suspect you are in an abusive relationship, please seek support, safety, and counseling.]
When a relationship sours, it isn’t uncommon for one or both parties to be able to do no right in the eyes of the other. Good behavior – say, a spouse who starts showing more kindness – can be met with suspicion, or dismissed as “too little, too late.” Eventually a relationship can pass the point of no return where people are more invested in being right than in reconciling. Such relationship implosions aren’t limited to individuals. History is full of national, political, and religious feuds that long outlast the actual sins and become matters of stubborn pride; we continue to disagree or take offense not over what is done, but who does it. Once we sufficiently vilify the other side, we feel justified in no longer asking what role we played in the decline of the relationship.
Had the Pharisees reached the point of no return in their relationship with God? John and Jesus were hardly the first to tell them God desired mercy over sacrifice. It seemed that no matter who God sent to warn them, they could find a reason to dismiss the warning. Jesus told them:
John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
Fortunately, Jesus specializes in retrieving those who have seemingly passed the point of no return. Blindness? Sight restored. Lifelong illness? Cured. Death? Overcome.
Broken relationship? Forgiveness.
Oh … that’s a little tougher. That requires us to do something more than show up and let Jesus do his thing. Perhaps that’s because we didn’t cause our physical ailments, but we did contribute to the failure of the relationship. Maybe not equally, maybe not much, but forgiveness isn’t about the size of the offense; it’s about the peace in our heart. When we heed Christ’s words, we realize the point of no return is the limit of our willingness to forgive. He’ll bring us back, as long as we’re willing.
Comfort: Through Christ, you are capable of forgiving more than you realize.
Challenge: Reflect on a relationship you blame someone else for breaking. Consider the ways you contributed, and whether you need to forgive them or yourself.
Prayer: Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Amen.
Discussion: Do you think of yourself as good or bad at relationships?
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