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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Pass The Cranberry Sauce" is Not a Relationship

Is there a specific person in your life whom you find very difficult to love?

To be completely transparent, I admit that I have one or two … or three … people who are difficult for me to love.

One of these provides me with a daily exercise in self-restraint and the forgiveness of small offenses. It’s the thorn in the side syndrome.

And the other person I see only at Christmastime, which provides a year’s worth of awkwardness to be dragged out into the middle of the room like a big ‘ol poorly-wrapped gift.

Obviously, my relationship with the first person precipitates a daily working-out with God the miscellany of offenses I have collected in the last 24 hours. Sometimes I think He relishes the myriad of chances I offer Him to grow my character.

After all, He knows the roots of my sin concerning this relationship and points me directly to why I’m offended. The kicker? It’s really not about the other person at all; it’s about my flaws and my responses to him/her.

Imagine that—I’m responsible for my frustration—not the other guy!

The second relationship would seem to require very little spiritual working out on my part because I don’t have to deal with that conflict very often, just once a year, which appeases family and maintains holiday largesse.

If only it were that easy.

I know my God too well to know that he is OK with that kind of passive resistance. He’s all about unity. (See John 17 for exhaustive proof of that assertion.)

Let me be clear that other than having clashing personalities and a history of conflict with the family, there is no reason to avoid this person, e.g., no physical abuse, etc.

But for years, “out of sight, out of mind,” has been my motto concerning this relative.

Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t look at our sins past and present and say, “Oh well, out of sight, out of mind—I’ll just focus on this stellar spirit over here and ignore the problem child.”

So I’ve come to believe that it’s not acceptable to merely engage this person once a year to say, “Pass the cranberry sauce.” I'm pretty sure that exchange doesn't qualify as a relationship.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the Godly thing to do is to move toward this person instead of away.

In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul addresses the way believers should respond to one who has wronged them: “I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.”

Sometimes forgiveness and love involve actively seeking to reconcile when it’s the last thing we want to do naturally.

In that same passage, Paul explains that when he has forgiven others, he has done so “that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”

I am not unaware of them, either. And in my case, complacency and avoidance just might be major components in the Devil’s scheme to separate my relative and me.

So it looks like it’s time to make a phone call, just to catch up and reconnect—move toward restoring relationship. And no matter how my call is received, I will know that I am attempting to follow Ephesians 5:1-2: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

The Holy Spirit always moves us to reconciliation and living a life of grace-filled love.

For reflection:

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:12-13).


1. Are you able to see conflict as a scheme of the Devil whose goal is to thwart Jesus’ prayer in John 17?
2. What is the most challenging part of forgiving someone?
3. What are the results of holding grudges, keeping score and avoiding someone on our spiritual and physical selves?
4. What results are possible if we move toward reconciliation even if the other person is not receptive?

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Anonymous Stacy said...

But what if this person can't be trusted anymore. I know that at some point I am going to have to forgive but if they are continuing in their offense I shouldn't have to subject myself to them and their bitterness, should I?

Just for clarification it's not abuse.

August 4, 2009 at 7:03 AM  
Blogger Beth in NC said...

I can relate to your post. I've been there and done that. Forgiveness is the only healthy way.


August 4, 2009 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger 2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Stacy, for my particular situation, I have decided to love him where he is without worrying about how it will affect me. I probably will get hurt or upset again, but I plan to shrug it off and not keep record. He's not walking with God, so he is doing the best that he can do on his own. I keep reminding myself of 1 Peter 4:8 which says love covers a multitude of sins, so I have to keep forgiving, keep loving, even though he is often unlovable and untrustworthy (with my emotions) in my eyes. The only way to restore the relationship is to reach out and establish some sort of connection, even if it's only a brief one so that he knows "She thought of me." That may be as deep as he'll want to go, but that's all right. Baby steps.

August 4, 2009 at 9:04 AM  
Blogger LynnMarie said...

The person in my life that I try to connect with doesn't want to connect with me so I am at that stage where I have done what I can and have to find peace in that. As much as depends on in peace with each other. I'm there!

August 4, 2009 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Woman on a Mission said...

This is so powerfully true. It's not easy for the flesh to take on this kind of accountability to God, but God certainly challenges us to do so. We all have pain that we're working with. Someone has offended us or hurt us and we're angry or indifferent and its certainly difficult to be around those whose values and ethics stray so far from our own. But I believe when Jesus told us to love our neighbor, it didn't come with an out clause. It didn't say love your neighbor except the ones you don't want to love. It meant love everyone, even when its hard and uncomfortable. Thank you for your words of encouragement and for the important reminder.

August 4, 2009 at 9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article inspired me so much in my walk with God. I need a daily reminder that I am placed in a position in life to demonstrate forgiveness each and every time I have contact with the person God placed in my life who needs "extra" grace. (in the words of Rick Warren)Its so challenging to find the heart to reach out to this person when I know I will walk away bruised, and so therefore my natural tendency is to do all I can to avoid them. Its the "Pass the Cranberry Sauce" response. Thank you so much for inspiring me to pick up the phone right now and do what God intends me to do.

August 4, 2009 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Tabitha@ichoosebliss said...

I am at this juncture at the moment. There are two people in my life who test my walk daily. I needed this reminder. Thank you!

August 4, 2009 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Pttyann said...

What a wonderful post,buddy this sure gives me a lot to think about.For it's true some family members seem to push all the wrong buttons,but what a wonderful reminder here,that it is not them but me who causes some of the problems lol.This is certainly a tuffy but God is able to help me love and draw closer to certain family members.Thanks for sharing and stirring our thoughts.
Love ya Linda

August 4, 2009 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Linda, a good word.

My experience is that forgiveness is for my heart not for the offenders... It releases my heart from captivity. It puts the person who has offended me on God's hook, not mine. When I forgive, I am free, no matter what the other person does or does not do... I am free. It's God's to call into account, not mine. He asks me to forgive..because I've experienced His forgiveness. Not easy to do sometimes, but very necessary for my freedom.

Loved what you wrote..

August 4, 2009 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Kathryn Magendie said...

Very nicely done. . . so glad I stopped by to read.

August 4, 2009 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

Very powerful, bless you.

August 4, 2009 at 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree whole heartedly, but there is a point. The Bible tells us how to deal with people and of course reconciliation is to be strived for at all costs. However Timothy, Thessalonians and several other places tell us that in some instances it IS best to stay away from situations and people that are stiff necked or sit around gossiping and inventing every kind of evil, or enjoy maliciousness. We are not to stop praying for them or ourselves in regards to them, but there are many places in the scriptures that tell how to deal with this kind of thing and it may be a surprise to a lot of Christians, first and foremost we are to try to stay in reconciliation and have that kind of heart. Also we are to live in peace with our neighbors as much as is possible.

August 4, 2009 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

August 5, 2009 at 10:02 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

Powerful post! A sweet friend told me to get myself here and read! Worth the trip over in the heat!!!

It has given me much to chew on---in the work place is where I am tested with this the most. MUCH to chew!

August 5, 2009 at 10:06 PM  
Blogger "Rachel" said...

Lid, this gave me a lot to think about with my own difficult relationship in my life. Thanks for this, and for all the comments as well.

August 6, 2009 at 4:43 PM  

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