Tuesday, October 22, 2013

We Are Family

Today I attended the memorial service of a cousin I barely knew. I remember her from growing up; mostly from our simultaneous visits to our grandmother's trailer "down the shore".  I remember when I was about 10 and she about 9, having just learned how to do a round off (sort of twisting your body in the air during a cartwheel to land on both feet at the same time). I showed her this, thinking that, being the older cousin, I would be teaching her something new. What I didn't know was that Bernadette was an athlete and a gymnast! She got up and did a perfect round-off! And probably a flip! I was now intimidated by my younger cousin!

Listening to the eulogies given by people close to her, people who loved her and had all the inside jokes, made me realize that I wished I'd known her better. She sounded like the kind of person I would have loved to hang out with! Meeting her nieces and nephews-my extended cousins-and seeing all of this extended family that I had no knowledge of made me want to know the surviving cousins more! I saw so much that I've missed out on.

Family is so important and, sadly, the thing we most often take for granted. When I hear of people who are estranged from their families, or members of their families, it saddens me. Unforgiveness is a cancer that eats away at families; destroys relationships. The bitterness that feeds the unforgiving soul harms everyone affected, but ultimately destroys the unforgiving person. The unforgiveness that steals the joy of relationships, family or otherwise, takes hold of a person so fiercely, that they often cannot recall exactly what led to the depths of their unforgiveness. Unforgiveness leads to emotional, psychological and physical ailments. 

Jesus told us to forgive. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25). The verse before that says that whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:24). If we have unforgiveness in our hearts, we have sin in our hearts, and the blessing that is ours through Christ Jesus just may be withheld-until we forgive. It sounds harsh, but there it is. I'm not saying it, He did.  I'm not a theologian; maybe I've misinterpreted it, but that's what it means to me. If we withhold forgiveness toward someone, then God may withhold forgiveness toward us. We miss out on the blessing.

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, sent some "Rules For Holy Living" which is the title in my bible. 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 whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Col 3:12-14). This is not a suggestion, but a command. We can only forgive by putting on the love of Christ each morning, just like we put on our clothes. We really cannot do it on our own. 

God forgave us by giving us His only Son, Jesus Christ. He suffered a cruel and agonizing death so that we could be free from the bondage of sin, the punishment of death, and the chains of hell. Jesus forgave the very ones who crucified him!  How dare we think that we are exempt from holy living, and permitted to choose not to forgive. Forgive as the Lord forgave.

Walking in unforgiveness leads us away from the Father, away from the blessing, and away from the calling (if you are a disciple of Christ, you have been called!). It leads us into discomfort, discord, dissatisfaction, disharmony, disease and dysfunction. Choosing to forgive leads us away from sin and to the Father, to the blessing, to our calling. When we choose to forgive, we draw close to the One who removes the pain; the One who supernaturally heals us from our hurt.

My prayer for you (and me!) today is that we would desire to walk in the blessing of forgiveness. That God would reveal to you and me those places where we have chosen to stay in unforgiveness; reveal to us those individuals that we have held captive to our debt. That we would release that person's debt to us, even though we desperately want to hold on to it and continue to make them pay; even if we don't feel like it and even if we don't feel any different after we do! Don't wait until the death of a family member for it to hit you in the face; it may be that very family member that you've held in unforgiveness and then it will be too late.  Don't wait until it's too late. Forgive as the Lord forgave.

Blessings Along the Path,

Song of the Day
We Are Family (with lyrics): Sister Sledge

Video of the Day (I wrote what I wrote before I saw this video; she and I agree!
Power of Forgiveness (Mother forgives killer)

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