2015-10-23 / Chaplain's News

During messy relationships, offer forgiveness

By Chaplain (Capt.) Peter Robinson DDEAMC

What do arguments, tension, and frustration have in common? They only happen when more than one person is involved. The focus for this year’s Pastoral Care Week, doing “Spiritual Care Together.” Unfortunately, “together” has the potential to be messy and messiness knows no boundaries. The foul effects of togetherness can be found in the most dysfunctional home just as easily as they can be found in the chapel.

In 445 words and 25 verses, Paul with the help of Timothy wrote the shortest letter in the New Testament to Philemon to provide guidance on how messiness in togetherness should be handled.

Paul commands Philemon with harsh kindness to provide forgiveness and work towards reconciliation when a member of Philemon’s community betrayed him.

Sometimes, I desire to work towards avenging those who have betrayed me or have caused me harm with no regard for forgiveness and reconciliation.

When my actions follow through with those desires, something always gets messed up, and I generally make things messier than they were to begin with. How do you handle the messes in your life? When things get messy, what can we do?

One thing that we can do is offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us or betrayed us. Forgiveness does not mean that we let someone “off the hook” for their consequences, so much as we give up our right to get revenge and make a step towards the path of making the relationship right. In Paul’s letter, he does not ask the victim to relieve the perpetrator from the consequences in totality. In fact, Paul offers to pay for what was stolen. Often in personal relationships we are hurt unintentionally. It is our responsibility to let the person know we have been hurt, so that the relationship can be mended but to address the person with a compassion heart that longs for things to be made right. We can only accomplish the great fruits of togetherness when we choose to live by looking through a heart of compassion and forgiveness.

What relationship messes do you need to make right by working through forgiving? As we embrace this year’s Pastoral Care Awareness theme of doing ‘Spiritual Care Together’, let us understand you be the answer to someone’s prayer.

Be the blessing to someone else that God has called you to be. Remember the words of Christ, ‘it is better to give than to receive.” The best is still yet to come as we do spiritual care together.

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