To follow up on my last post appeals to the law, I wanted to include Paul’s appeal to love.
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Philippians 2:1-4 – The Message
The biggest disappointments I’ve had on this journey are the brothers in Christ I got separated from in various conflicts and disagreements, especially those with whom I’ve shared some season of sharing the Father’s gifts together. Love is easy when everyone sees things the same way, but isn’t it really tested when we don’t? If it’s love it endures the pain and seeks a course that serves each other’s interests. Scripture records many moments in the life of the early church where disputes and violent disagreements pitted brother against brother and the outcome wasn’t always glorious, so I’m not surprised when it happens.
Nothing is more painful than a close relationship that goes awry, especially when a former friend thinks they have more to gain by turning on you than honoring the friendship. Even David felt it’s pain as he showed us in Psalm 55: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.”
Love isn’t easy over the long haul, which makes me appreciate my relationship with Sara over 35 years all the more! We have found a way through ever disagreement, every struggle and every hurt to continue to forge an enduring relationship that means the world to both of us. We have found our way to ‘us’, mostly by following Paul’s counsel above. Notice it doesn’t take much of any of those things Paul lists there: “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ…, if his love has made any difference…, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything…, if you have a heart…”
From the smallest bits of love and grace any friendship can be restored. But both parties have to take that risk. I got an email recently asking how much do we have to do to make reconciliation happen, especially from those who had made harsh judgments against them. I told her there isn’t much anyone can do until the other party wants reconciliation. Forgiveness is one-sided, reconciliation takes two soft and willing hearts. I told her all she can do is keep her heart ready to respond in love when they open a door.
I guess I have a hard time with those who toss aside friendships so casually, or trade it away for more temporal objectives. Real open and honest friendships are some of the greatest treasure we get in this age. I guess I won’t every understand those who chose betrayal and division over healing and reconciliation.