Relationships are a struggle. No joke.
And it doesn’t matter what kind of relationships we are talking about. Marriages, engagements, dating, friendships, acquaintances, family…it’s all the same.
There are always so many emotional, mental, and spiritual dynamics at work within the individual, and then between people, it is a wonder that we ever get along.
It could simply be a word that is said or a look that is given that can tip the delicate balance of a relationship.
It could be misconstrued intentions or just a lack of communication that makes one sideways with another.
It could be a selfish act or a betrayal of trust that works to devastate a friendship.
And as you are well aware…the list goes on and on and on.
All of this makes one wonder if there is any hope for a person to ever have whole and healed relationships with others. It seems as if the odds weigh too heavily against it.
But let me suggest that if just one person in a relationship has the awareness and courage to take the humble and lowly position of Christ, there is greater opportunity for the fertile ground of forgiveness and reconciliation to bring forth healing, peace, and a stronger relationship.
The truth is that the path to whole and healed relationships always begins with the emptying of oneself, the pouring out of oneself, and the crucifying of oneself. It is the very imitation of Christ’s humility.
We do nothing out of selfish ambition or out of our own self-interest, but we are always, always, always looking to the interest of others. In our relationships with one another we should have the same attitude of Jesus by humbling ourselves and being obedient to others even to the point of death.
These are not just big and lofty ideas without any hope for practical application. For we are reminded through the Scriptures that we should, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” I have hope in my own life that the way of Jesus can be lived out in humility and self-sacrifice because I have witnessed it happening first hand with two close friends of mine.
Ann and Linda have been very close friends for quite sometime. Both are followers of Christ and have a past history of substance abuse. Through meeting together weekly, they have walked together, prayed together, and held each other accountable on the path of sobriety.
One day I received a text from Ann asking me to pray for Linda, as she went back to her old ways of substance abuse. Linda had even told Ann that she didn’t care if her behavior ruined their relationship. As you can imagine, Ann was in tremendous pain. She not only felt as if she was losing a friend to substance abuse, but that she was losing a close sister and friend who did not seem to value their friendship any longer. I encouraged Ann to pray for Linda, to be patient with her, and to extend her enormous grace.
After several days went by and Linda began to realize that she did not like the path that she was on, she and Ann began to talk. Although deeply hurt and wounded by Linda’s actions and words, Ann humbled herself and selflessly forgave her friend, welcoming her back without judgment and with unconditional love.
I have never seen the love and forgiveness of Christ played out so beautifully in the lives of two great friends. To be honest, when I have seen situations like this in the past they have never ended up very good. I believe that this situation ended differently because each lady was committed to imitating the way of Christ in the way they humbled, forgave, and loved each other through their suffering.
The truth is that every single time we take the humble and submissive way of Christ, it may look like defeat for you as an individual, but it is a great victory for the Kingdom. The victory is the giving of grace, forgiveness, and love in return despite the offense.
It is the unconventional response to an offense that is the upside-down way of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. When you have every right to be bitter and to cut another person off, but instead choose to show Christ-like love through your submission, grace, and forgiveness…that is the unpopular, but healing, way of the Kingdom.
It is when everyone has counted a relationship as dead and buried that the scandal and victory of resurrection can be lived out in and through those who carry the cross of Christ. Yes, in the moment when all seems bleak and lost, healing and life break forth from the grip of destruction and death. When you humble yourself and become obedient to everything including death itself, resurrection comes for those who have died. And when your will and your way have died, that is the great accomplishment of Christ that resurrects in you.
When the abused son or daughter, years or decades after dealing with the consequences of verbal, mental, sexual, or physical abuse chooses to forgive and love rather than harbor bitterness and hatred…That is the scandal of the resurrection.
When those who are at odds with each other within the church put down their arms of contention and actions of division and submit humbly to each other…That is the great victory and accomplishment of Christ.
When a close friend violates your trust and hurts you to the core with her words or actions, but you tirelessly forgive and work for healing and reconciliation…That is when the love of Christ is victorious in you.
When a marriage is on the rocks because of unmet needs or expectations of your spouse and you believe that it is all her fault, but you continue to carry the towel and water basin kneeling like a servant to wash her feet…That is the way of the suffering servant.
The glory of God on earth is when we become the very embodiment of the broken body and spilled blood of Christ in every situation and circumstance by humbly breaking ourselves open and pouring ourselves out…not only for our greatest friends who may fail and wound us, but even for the vilest offender who violates us. That is the way of Jesus Christ…and the way of those who follow him.