“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” – Matthew 24:10-13
On the last morning of 2016, my wife Namiko and I joined fifteen young adults from our church family at a community park in Serangoon for a personal retreat. We individually reflected on what God had done in our lives throughout the year, and were led to thank Him and look forward to the year ahead. It was definitely an important time — without intentionally scheduling a retreat, we would have rushed headlong into a new year of activity, much of it unplanned and fruitless.
One lesson which came up again in my latest reflection time, and which our Master has been trying to teach me for years, is about a needed breakthrough in my ongoing journey to emotional health.
While I am thankful for the gospel truth that Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins and to give me new life, it humbles me to have to admit that I am “all kinds of broken” and still finding my way. However, what I often forget is that God’s deep, forgiving love for me is the reason for that supreme sacrifice. The full dimension of God’s love includes the mystery of forgiveness. Without love there is no forgiveness, and without forgiveness there is no love. Indeed, one of the most significant testimonies of Jesus was His public forgiveness of those seeking to kill Him (Luke 23:34). He also instructed us many times to keep short accounts with God and one another.
In our daily life — whether in the family, workplace or church context — people cannot help but do or say things that hurt others. Likewise, people take offense many times a day over things big and small. The pastor-writer John Bevere calls the taking of offense “the bait of Satan”. In his book of the same title, he adds “Many are unable to function properly in their calling because of the wounds and hurts that offenses have caused in their lives. They are handicapped and hindered from fulfilling their full potential. Most often it is a fellow believer who has hurt them.”
Indeed, bearing a grudge is a kind of self-poisoning, and leads to unfruitful living, lack of true community, and perpetuates relational sin. Whenever we harbor offenses, we not only keep that person outside our heart, but Christ as well. Thus unforgiveness isolates us, and keeps us from experiencing the full favour of God (Matthew 6:15).
On the other hand, asking for and extending forgiveness to one another is the most basic and yet the most compelling, practical expression of Christ-love.
This new year, I asked God to help me to keep working towards the fullness of reconciliation with Him and my fellow man. I started by asking my nearest and dearest (wife, parents and siblings) to forgive me for the personal sins I had committed against them: whether by my angry or judgmental words, wilful neglect, disobedience, breaking my promises and many other sins that I am either unaware of or too ashamed to write about here. I also resolved to keep short accounts with my brothers and sisters in the church. My dear friends, and especially my fellow church leaders, in sharing this testimony I hope to encourage each of us to open our hearts and experience the liberty that God has given to us in choosing not to take offence, and to regularly seek and extend forgiveness among one another. Let us, who have experienced God’s mercy, also be mercy-givers to one another.
By Aaron Lee, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 7&8 January 2017)