To proclaim the truth of the Gospel of Christ in the context of relationship, to confront the Church to return to "true truth," and to disciple and encourage people to grow in faith and participate in influencing their culture.
“Forgive and forget; that’s the Christian way!” Don’t you
hate this reminder? Forgive and forget? No way! Revenge is sweeter. “Don’t get
mad; get even!” That sounds better to the sinner’s ear. Harboring hatred
appeases for the moment, for our mind acts out our vengeance. We imaginatively slay
the person, think ill of him, and wish bad to befall him. Yet, we are
Christians and a mark of a disciple of Jesus is forgiveness, for the Savior did
say in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for them that persecute you.” Forgiving
the dastardly is proof that we are sons of God, for only true believers can
really love the one they hate (Matt. 5:45-46). Furthermore, Jesus said that if
we harbor anger in our hearts toward our brother, we have basically murdered
him and are guilty before the court (Matt. 521-22).
conflict arises in churches, sin increases and leaders either add to the
problem or become soothing balm in healing the hurt. Hatred of those that
cause the conflict will only stir up more strife, but loving them will cover
their sins and ease the controversy (Prov. 10:12). In such situations, leaders
must be strong, yet humble; steadfast, yet understanding; and decisive, yet
loving. If they the shepherds have sinned, then they must model what confession and forgiveness
look like, for the sheep (i.e., true believers) will follow their lead and seek
reconciliation with others. Those who fail to admit their sin and who harbor an
unforgiving attitude will in all likelihood leave the church and retain their
served a church that had a major split over worship and direction of the
church. The senior pastor resigned, but many of his supporters remained in the
church, causing disquiet among the elders. After preaching a number of sermons
on forgiveness and leaving the past behind, I asked the congregation during the
confession time of the service to bow their heads, close their eyes, and raise
their hands if they had transgressed God’s law by sinning in any of the ways I
described. I then mentioned a litany of sins that broke fellowship and strained
relationships with one another. Just about every hand went up. I then asked
them to lower their hands, keep their eyes closed, and confess their sins
silently before the Lord, asking for His forgiveness and the power to forgive
others that have hurt them. With eyes open I had them look around the
sanctuary. If they saw anyone in the congregation with whom they had strained
relationships and about whom they just prayed to forgive, then they were leave
their seats and approach the person or persons that they had sinned against in
their minds or held bitterness towards in their hearts and ask the person’s
Spirit was moving in that church and people stood up and approached those they
harbored bitterness toward. I heard the buzz of confession and the sobbing of
joy as the Lord brought peace and unity to a torn congregation. I kept an eye,
however, on two key families that were centrally embroiled in the conflict.
They remained in their seats and were shocked when a number of people
approached them, asking forgiveness for the bitterness they had carried toward them. Their
hearts, however, remained hardened, for they refused to surrender their self-righteous attitude,
thereby locking themselves in the darkness of unforgiveness.
Lewis Smedes (1921-2002), former
professor of Fuller Theological Seminary once said, “When you forgive a person
who wronged you, you set a prisoner free, and then you discover that the
prisoner you set free is you.”
How right he is! Without forgiving the person who has seriously offended us or
harmed our family, we allow the bile of bitterness to eat us up. And when we are
bitter, that acid is not hurting the one we are angry at, it is hurting us.
Freedom is in forgiving; bondage remains for the impenitent.
Proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Christ in the context of relationship, to confront the Church to return to "truetruth,"andtodiscipleandencouragepeopletogrowinfaithandparticipateininfluencingtheirculture.