I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays.
I am certain that I am not alone in this. There may or may not be breaks from work, travel, lots of food, time with family. And there is where the rub occurs for many of us.
I love my family, except in those moments when I don’t. We all have these moments. Someone says or does something that raises your ire. Maybe harsh words follow. Feelings are hurt. Then comes the awkward dance trying not to make things worse as some tiptoe around the eggshells. I am fairly certain that all of us have experienced some version of this.
I am perfectly willing to take some of the blame within my own family. I can be pretty opinionated and not always sensitive to the feelings of others. And why can’t my family see things the way that I see them? It is such a selfish position. Why doesn’t everyone else feel the way I do, why don’t they see things the way I do, why don’t they believe the same things, and more. In those moments I add to the struggles, because all I am focused on is myself and what I want or care about.
The Bible is pretty clear that relational strife has been around for a very long time. It is actually part of the curse for Adam and Eve after eating the forbidden fruit. In fact, the first books of the Bible, which tell the history of the people of Israel, are filled with stories of dysfunction. Lying, cheating, adultery, abuse, murder and more–and that’s just in one family over multiple generations. The really crazy part is this is all part of the family heritage for Jesus.
That is where things get even more complicated. As followers of Jesus we are now called part of the family of God.
I am struggling with getting along with 4-8 people already. Now God is saying that 10, 20, 50, even 100 or more people are also a part of the equation? And that’s not counting the rest of the Church around the world.
The first thing we need to be aware of is that just because someone else is also a follower of Jesus, it does not mean that they believe all of the same things I do. That is not a bad thing. The Church is made of diverse people with very different backgrounds and experiences. This naturally leads to different perspectives on life and the circumstances we face. And the Bible also says that we are all unique and have different roles to play within the family of God.
So what does the Bible say about how we should interact? Be encouraged, most of the New Testament letters were written because of situations where people were not getting along. Paul wrote, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” in 1 Peter 4:8.
Love each other deeply. That is so much easier said than done. Jesus said that we are to love others as we love ourselves. Again, I am selfish and loving myself is generally easy. Part of the problem I am writing about is our struggle to love others just as much.
How God Loves Us
The Bible says that we are all made in the image of God. It goes on to tell us that we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made,” that God literally formed each one of us in our mother’s womb. As a result of this, the truth is that every single person on this planet is seen as valuable in God’s eyes.
Later we read, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
First, we are valuable to God and second, despite our constant rejection of God and His ways, He loves us enough to sacrifice Jesus for our sins.
God doesn’t ask us to get on the same page as He is before he will show us love. He doesn’t expect us to even believe everything about Him first. We don’t have to clean up our act or fix all of our issues. God did all of this because we can’t fix our problems. He loves each one of us and is pursuing everyone in order to restore this relationship that is broken by sin.
Therefore, if God sees the various people around me as so worthy of His love and sacrifice, what excuse do I have to not love them? Only that I, too, am broken. But through God’s work within me I am constantly being stretched and renewed so that I can begin to love others the way I should.
How We Can Love Others
Awareness of my own brokenness is also important. It is a lot harder to judge others when I am aware that I too make mistakes. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:2 that we should “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
This humility leads us to one more thing. Forgiveness. In recognizing my own brokenness and mistakes, and that God has forgiven me, this should make me more willing to forgive others. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:13 to “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
There are multiple examples where Jesus stated that a person’s outpouring of love and worship was a direct result of their awareness of how much they had been forgiven. The greater this awareness grows, the greater I find my willingness to forgive others.
These truths are the same not just in how we interact with our biological families and our church families, but also with the world in general. I can treat others with respect and kindness despite differences of belief, politics, culture, gender, and more, because of what God has already done for me, and for them.
Love covers a multitude of sins, not ignoring them and their impact, but allowing us to love despite our brokenness.