Mercy in Relationships Lent 4 March 27, 2022 / bwk
“We are all members of one another…be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:25 & 32
Hanging Mobiles—several items connected together by string, balancing each other. Touch or remove one piece and the entire mobile is affected. We are all inter-connected. What we do to one, affects us and all the others.
A mother of 8 came home one afternoon from the grocery store and walked into her house and everything looked pretty much the same, though it was a little bit quieter than usual. She looked into the middle of the living room and 5 of her darlings were sitting around in a circle, exceedingly quiet, which is a danger sign for parents. She put down the groceries, walked a little closer and that’s when she realized that the children were playing with 5 of the cutest baby skunks you can imagine.
Mom was instantly terrified and she hollered, “Run children, run!” And they did. Each child grabbed a skunk and ran, in 5 different directions. Well, that was the wrong thing to do. Mom was scared so, she screamed louder and more frantically. Well, that scared the children so much, that they each clutched their skunk tighter. And you know what, “Skunks don’t like to be squeezed!”
Now and again we can all cause a stink! We are all inter-related!
Joseph’s story. A doting father, a spoiled son and jealous brothers. The coat of many colors, intense jealousy and hatred; the desire and opportunity to “get even” and eliminate the cause of jealousy. Rather than kill Joseph as they originally intended they sell him as a slave. Joseph ends up as a house slave for a high ranking official in Egypt, Potiphar, captain of the guard. Joseph’s troubles don’t end there. He does well and is promoted and trusted until Mrs. Potiphar tries to seduce him. Joseph resists, running out of the house leaving Potiphar’s wife holding his garment. She lies about him and again Joseph’s life goes down the tube. He is now a prisoner, but soon is in charge of the prison.
Joseph spends years of neglect in prison and being forgotten. Yet through dream interpretation Joseph becomes a ruler in Egypt—second only to Pharaoh himself—and manages their countries resources through a seven year drought.
Joseph has had a hard life with lies, hatred and abuse. He could have been angry and bitter. He could have succumbed and died in prison as a “grumpy old man.” Yet, somehow he rose above all that and learned how to make the best of bad situations. He prospered and excelled because he did not let anger or bitterness control or ruin his life.
How did he do that? He saw the bigger picture of what God was doing and decided to be part of God’s plan rather than fight and resist.
Life is not fair or easy. Relationships are hard work. Period. There is evil in the world. And the evil is not always out there, in others or caused by others. Sometimes we are the ones causing the hurt and pain. We are not like Putin and so many others who cause unbelievable pain and suffering, but we do little things that pile up. Selfish little acts. Cutting words spoken carelessly. Little actions aimed at taking care of ourselves without realizing how it hurts or harms someone else. Joseph’s story illustrates that. All three groups were wrong—a father playing favorites, a spoiled son gloating over being special, and the jealous rage of the brothers. They all affected each other. Yet the most damaging of all was holding on to the bitterness and anger caused by jealousy. That is where Joseph, through years of suffering learned how to “let it go and let God” and by managing his emotions rather than letting his emotions ravage him he became a great leader and changed the course of history for the entire Hebrew (Jewish) nation.
“You always hurt the ones you love, the ones you shouldn’t hurt at all…” Mills Brothers (1930’s)
The good news is that we do not have to give in to hurting and harming each other. We can rise above all that. Because of God’s love in Christ, and the Holy Spirit working in and through us we can “put away falsehood.” We can stop giving into lying, cheating, and stealing. We can learn how to be angry without letting that anger rule and control us. The Apostle Paul says, “don’t give the devil a foothold in your life.” Holding on to bitterness, anger, and grudges whether we feel we are right or not, hurts us and harms our relationships. Negative feelings that we seem to cherish cause decay and rottenness.
Stop rehearsing the hurts and harms others have caused you. Don’t hold on to the bitterness. Stop harboring anger. Stop the wrangling and fighting. That grieves the Holy Spirit who is working inside your heart and head to turn you away from such destructive and negative ways.
Learn to be kind. Learn to be patient. Learn to be tenderhearted and forgiving. Remember that God forgives you. That is your motivation for letting go and forgiving others—even when you do not believe they deserve it. We don’t deserve it either! Let it go.
The good news is that God promises forgiveness. God forgives our sins for the sake of his Son Jesus Christ: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). God reconstructed our broken relationship by reconciling us to Himself through Jesus. Through the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord, he has forgiven our corruption and restored a right relationship to him. This is divine mercy. This is God’s grace. When we have sinned against others, when we are the source of corruption in the relationship, we confess our sins to God and to those we have wronged. We are assured that we are forgiven by God, and we seek the forgiveness of others.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.