Leading Question: Can a broken relationship be healed without forgiveness?
Our lesson for this week focuses on five different kinds of broken relationships, and encourages to ponder ways in which our commitment to Jesus Christ can help provide healing for these broken pieces. The centrality of forgiveness to the healing process suggests the relevance right t the beginning of this striking quote from Henri Nouwen:
Forgiveness as the name of love. Forgiveness is the name of love among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all of us love poorly. We do not even know what we are doing when we hurt others. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour – unceasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family. – Henri Nouwen, Weavings vii.2, March/April, 1992
The five examples:
- From fracture to friendship: Paul and John Mark: 2 Tim. 4:11. The problem with John Mark is described in Acts 15:36-41. Mark had abandoned Paul in an earlier trip; Paul kept that memory alive; Barnabas was ready to restore, Paul was not. In the course of time however, the wound between Paul and Mark was healed. Paul asked for Mark to come to him. He would be “useful” to Paul (2 Tim. 4:11).
- From slave to son: Philemon. The little book of Philemon tells the touching story of how Paul took the initiative to restore the slave Onesimus to his master Philemon. That story can still be illumnating for us, even though we have no slaves.
- From comparison to complement: 1 Corinthians. In several places in 1 Corinthians Paul points the believers towards ways in which they can complement each other instead of constantly falling in the trap of deadly comparison.
- Different preachers for different purposes: 1 Cor. 1, 3. Paul’s most explicit comparison of the contested preaches comes in 1 Cor. 3:6, where he suggests that the comparisons can be resolved when the different roles of each is considered: perhaps the difference between the evangelist (Paul) and the pastor (Apollos):1 Cor. 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.
- Different parts of the body: 1 Cor. 12. Paul uses the human body as an illustration of the fact that each person may have a different function within the body of Christ and thus be an essential part of the whole.
- From friction to forgiveness: Luke 23:32-34, Rom. 5:6-11. Jesus himself modeled forgiveness for us. His reassuring words to the thief on the cross are a precious heritage. Paul develops Jesus’ role theologically in Romans 5where he points out that even while we were still shaking our fists in God face, he died for us.
- From Rancor to Restoration: Matt. 18:15-17. Jesus lays down the crucial principle of interpersonal relationships when he states that we should talk to each other when a person has been hurt. That is simply an application of Jesus’ second great command.