AS Christmas draws near, the time for families to be together approaches. For some, it also means that the time of tension is drawing near.
In many families, the division and pain is intense these days. I have written about this in The Thirteenth Man. But many are trying to mend those broken relationships through forgiveness.
But what if the other person doesn’t reciprocate?
God demonstrates through the passion and death of Jesus that forgiveness does not depend upon another, or other’s reaction to or acceptance of our forgiveness. Jesus forgave His enemies from the Cross. But some did not accept it then, or perhaps ever, as has been the case in each generation. Does it hurt God? Yes, because He sees the sorrows and sufferings of his children when we refuse His love.
So too do we experience pain when others fail to accept the gift of reconciliation we extend by either offering an apology or making acts of good will toward the other. We acutely feel the gulf that remains between our soul and theirs. But we should not feel guilty. We are asked to give without expecting back.We are responsible for obeying our Lord’s words which tell us to…
…love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:27-28, 31)
If we do this, then we can be at peace, even if the one with whom we are at odds refuses the gift of our love.
WHAT IS LOVE?
At that point, you need to have supernatural eyes. God is love. By an act of kindness or service, or by attempting to reconcile, you are loving that person—you are are sending the seed of God into their heart because God is love.
I remember an incident that occurred with a fellow employee I worked with several years ago. She was quite mean, always finding a way to put me down. But I would always have a comeback of some sort (comes from the Irish side of me.) But one day I felt the Lord saying that I needed to repent of my pride, and respond to her with kindness instead. So I did.
A while later, she went to work for another company. Then I was laid off a short time after that and ended up applying for a job at her company too. When she saw me waiting in the lobby, to my surprise, she came up all smiles and gave me a big hug! Then I understood… we may not at the time see or reap the love we plant. But when we love someone unconditionally, a supernatural grace goes out to that person; God Himself becomes present. If we persevere in that love, and patiently water it with our prayers, then the other person may eventually receive that love too, and sometimes in a very powerful and healing way.
So when you go home this Christmas, be the face of love to your family members, especially those with whom you’ve been estranged. Smile, listen to them, serve them at table, and treat them as if they were Christ… even Christ in disguise.