"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.
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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