Today, Dr. Tom Eliff spoke on strengthening relationships. Let me just add a quick note – if you ever have the opportunity to hear Dr. Eliff speak don’t miss it. You will be blessed. What he talked about this morning hit home with me, and it is not just useful information for missionaries, but for all believers.
First, forgiveness. Forgiveness is not the same as restitution, reconciliation, and it is not the approval of the sin that was committed against you. Forgiveness is a singular, deliberate, volitional decision in which a person is no longer indebted to you. Forgiveness is an action, something that we are told to do. Jesus tells the story of the servant who would not forgive in Matthew 18:21-35. The climax is the last verse – which you will have to read. I encourage you to go read this parable and focus on the last verse. Forgiveness is of God, not man. What does forgiving others do for you? It releases you from your debt. You may be wondering, “What in the world does that mean?” When someone does something or says something that hurts you, what is your first reaction? Probably, if you are like me, what can I do to get back at them. By forgiving that person, I no longer feel the need to “get even”. Forgiveness also means we have reliance on God and we can be restored to usefulness. We cannot be useful to the kingdom of God if we have bitterness and hatred in our hearts. It contradicts everything that Christ taught. An unforgiving heart torments us. Think about it, who suffers when you don’t forgive someone. The other person is probably at home sleeping like a baby, but you can’t sleep, have health problems, and are bitter to those around you. Forgiveness is a huge issue that we, as Christians, look past. We think we don’t have to forgive someone, whether the offense was great or small. By not forgiving, we are saying our standard of judgement is better than God’s.
Breaking refers to breaking the curse of words (see James 3:1-12 as a reference). James 3 will explain better than I can what this means, but I’ll try. With our words we paint pictures on the walls of people’s hearts. We can build up or destroy. Is there something that you do or don’t do because of what someone said or how they made you feel. For example, (this is a little thing) my mom made all my clothes when I was little. When I was in the fifth grade, I told her I didn’t want her to make me any more clothes, which I am sure hurt her feelings. Why did I tell her that? Because none of the other kids had homemade clothes and I felt different. My mom didn’t make me anything else until I was in college. There is power in words.
So how do we overcome or break the curse of words? It begins by believing in the awesome power of words in your life. Yours words can influence the course of people’s lives, negatively or positively. Beware of the awful problem with words in your life. You cannot domesticate your tongue, in other words, you must always be mindful of what you say and how you say it. There is inconsistency in our words. In one breath we praise God, and in the next we tear someone down. I have realized over the years that there are things that I do or don’t do because of something that was said to me as a child. God help me to not think they are true and not to be defined by a hurtful word from man but instead be defined by God, who is conforming me to the image of Christ. – MacKenzie