Friends, family, and lessons in forgiveness are topics that weigh heavily on my heart in these troubled days.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17
Contention reigns in our world. The ability to agree to disagree has vanished. As Christians, we’re supposed to be different, but the Church has long been a bastion of division. Jesus had something different in mind for the relationships between friends and family.
Friends, Family, and Lessons in Accepting Differences
King Solomon wrote, “Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you— better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away” (Proverbs 27:10). His father, King David, had multiple wives and children by each of them. I suspect he had plenty of experience along those lines. When differences arise, my friends have remained true no matter what the situation.
Sadly, it’s often the relationships that should be strongest that are the most vulnerable. Families must stick together when life grows hard. Yet, time after time, I hear of family members who refuse to love, support, and forgive. The story of the Prodigal Son shows a family torn apart by sibling rivalry, in spite of the father’s display of loving forgiveness. It is never God’s will for differences to destroy relationships.
Friends, Family, and Lessons in Learning to Forgive
During this time of limited social interaction and societal unrest, the cohesiveness of the family unit is more important than ever. I believe God places diverse people in our lives to teach us how to cooperate with others. For example, when Paul and Barnabas took young John Mark on their first missionary journey, it was an opportunity for the young believer to learn from them. Their mission produced only one convert in Pamphylia, and John Mark turned back, for reasons never explained.
A disagreement over John Mark accompanying them on a return visit to their converts eventually split the team of Paul and Barnabas. Paul chose Silas as his companion, and Barnabas, the encourager, gave John Mark another chance. The split resulted in two teams of missionaries rather than one. We should never be divided by anger. Christians must learn to agree to disagree while maintaining a love relationship.
Friends, Family, and Lessons in Bearing One Another’s Weaknesses
John Mark learned much during his time with Barnabas. Though we are never given the details, Paul must have seen growth in the young man because he refers to him as a “fellow worker” in Philemon 1:24. Later, near the end of his life, Paul wrote, “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
We are to bear with one another in love. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:2-6). We must forgive as we desire to be forgiven.
Friends, Family, and Lessons in Healthy Relationships
Whether dealing with biological family or Christian brothers and sisters, forgiveness and love must be foremost. Our byword in relationships should be 1 Corinthians 13:4-6, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Agreement in all matters isn’t necessary to have healthy relationships. Love and forgiveness are the keys. In time, we will forget what caused a disagreement. We never forget when someone offered forgiveness and treated us with love and kindness.
Who needs your love and forgiveness today?
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8