Treasures New and Old
Elkmont Baptist Church
Beloved: Grace and Peace
I have had several reminders of an important truth that relates directly to the health of the church body. I want to thank a couple of good brothers in the faith for the reminders.
Love Equals Forgiveness
May God bless you all!
Three verses that need to be examined together are: 1 John 4:16b: "God is love", 1 Peter 4:8b: "for charity [love] shall cover the multitude of sins", and finally 1 Corinthians 13:5c&d: "[love] is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil." (Also look at Luke 17:1-4 regarding repentance and forgiveness.)
Unquestionably the hardest thing for "living stones" (that's you and me) to do is to love one another. We are all sinners saved by grace, we all have huge blind spots, and we are all working out "our own salvation" (that is going through the sanctification process). Along the way we make mistakes, sin, hurt each other, do meaningless stupid things, and all the rest of the package that goes with being a new creature in a fallen body. I have been guilty of doing exactly what I am asking you not to do - to think evil of someone's motives based on an outward action. One person can say or do something quite innocently, and another can be quite offended. We often go beyond judging the fruit (the outward action) and judge the motive as well (the inward motivation). 1 Samuel 16:7c: "for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." Fruit inspectors - yes; heart judgers - no.
I believe one of the long standing problems in the church that has caused so many to leave is that we have not been practicing the very difficult art of "love thinketh no evil." We are all guilty of this sin, and it drives deep wedges and creates wounds between us. I have seen and heard things from others and made assumptions about their motives (and, of course, how very bad they were in thinking such thoughts), and did not stop and consider that I can't look on the heart; only God does that. The end result is ill will towards the "offender" and loss of fellowship, not just with that person, but with the Lord as well.
I think that we have all been guilty (I know I have) of two things:
One is to think evil of those around you who may say or do something that offends. Take that offense and give it to the Lord. Some things need resolution between the two parties, and Luke 17:3 says, "If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him." How often do I forgive? - Oh, say 7 times 70 in a day. It will be much easier if at the same time, you are remembering that our God IS LOVE. That that love can flow through us, and that love (towards the one who has offended you) can cover (forget, hide, forgive, erase, pay the price for) a multitude of sins.
Two, we are slow to repent (you may be the exception - but I struggle with this). Our nasty pride says, "Oh yeah, what about what he/she did to me?" This is the other really hard part - being willing to say you are sorry for what you have done. Purpose (and promise) not to do it again; repent, and be willing to "think no evil" if that other person does not ask your forgiveness, because there is a really good chance that he/she may not even know what they did. I think that may be one of the reasons God intended for us to have the Lord's Supper often, so that we can have a regular time of reflection, repentance, forgiveness, a time to go to your brothers and sisters and get the air clear on those things that are bothering you, and keep short accounts. I hope that we never just tack on the Lord's Supper to the end of a service - but while we are remembering the Lord until he comes, that we also remember that He is love, that His loves covers a multitude of sins, that His love doesn't think evil of others, and that His love drives us to gain back our brother or sister by going to that person and asking forgiveness and keeping short accounts.
If, while you are reading this, you are thinking of things I have done to offend you, please forgive me; I assure you it was not intentional. I often do stupid things.
If, while you are reading this, you can think of someone you think may be offended at you, contact them and get the air clear and gain back your brother/sister.
Two last thoughts: I must decrease - He (the Lord) must increase (John 3:30; paraphrased), and may the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be pleasing unto you, oh Lord (Psalm 19:14; paraphrased).