‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ – Colossians 3.12-13From David King:
This time of lockdown can put strain
s on our relationships. One challenge is keeping contact when you can no longer see others. Another is living with others, in the same household, with no chance to get out! For some of us the latter challenge is made all the greater because our home is small and so we find ourselves living on top of one another.
At times it leads to arguments. At other times it leads to people inhabiting the same space, but living different lives. The Bible though talks about how hard times, for the Christian, are refining, and this will be true for our relationships as well as our character. It is not when things are easy that our relationships grow and deepen, but when they face challenges.
So here’s a precious piece of advice from God’s word:
Be quick to say sorry and forgive
In the verses above, Paul encourages the Colossian Christians to be quick to forgive. What help does he provide?
- Work at it. The context of these verses is Paul encouraging us to put off our old life (the one we had before we knew Jesus) and to put on the new self. In other words it takes deliberate effort. Resentment comes naturally – no-one needs to be taught it! Letting go takes effort. One of the challenges of unforgiveness and resentment is that it becomes the background music to our life – we stop noticing it. It is wise to take time to examine our hearts and relationships to consider whether we are still wearing the clothing of resentment, unforgiveness or guilt.
- You are chosen, holy and beloved. One of the reasons we hold on to resentments is to protect ourselves. Each resentment is another bullet we store in our relationship gun, to be ready to shoot off when we feel threatened. But we do not need to protect our self-esteem or our identity, because we are chosen, holy and beloved of God
- Have zero tolerance for allowing conflict to linger. Paul goes on to say, “Put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” That is how I want my household to be – a place of perfect harmony. Perfect harmony will not mean that there is never conflict, but that through commitment to resolving it, the love between us will grow deeper, stronger and truer. Maybe the next time you have an argument and you resolve it, by God’s strength, why not use it as an opportunity to have a conversation about how to change how you deal with conflict as a household (the best time to initiate it, is when you were most to blame! It makes it clear that you are not setting yourself over others.)
- Be quick to forgive. You and I have been forgiven far more by God than anything anyone else has ever done to us. Forgiveness might feel costly, but consider the wonderful cost that the Lord Jesus paid for you to be forgiven.
- Be quick to say sorry. God’s forgiveness of me is a reminder of how untrustworthy my heart is. The Puritans had this great idea of self-suspicion. They were suspicious of their hearts. They knew that sin affected their every act, decision and thought. And so they were humble. In any conflict, I can know one thing with certainty – I will need to ask for forgiveness from God (and perhaps the other person) for some aspect of the conflict. A good goal in relationships is to make it your aim to say sorry first. It is scary and it leaves us vulnerable, but it is possible when we remember that we are already forgiven by our loving Father who counts us chosen, holy and beloved.