Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

This blog is eighth in a series on relationship rescue.  What are the ten most important biblical principles for healthy friendship?  Which principles would you include?  This is Pastor Tim’s list.

When people talk about a Hollywood Ending, we typically think of two people who overcome all their relationship problems and then ride off into a red and gold sunset together… forever.  In real life, that’s not how it works in Hollywood, is it?  To the contrary, lasting marriages in Tinseltown are as rare as the Hope Diamond.  Kim Kardashian dumped Kris after about two months.  Love goddess Liz Taylor ended eight different marriages in divorce!  Rock bands almost always split up, in spite of all the megabucks they could make by staying together, simply because they can’t get along.  Members of Credence Clearwater Revival still refuse to reunite with lead singer John Fogerty, despite twenty years of holding a grudge.  Sadly, Hollywood Endings are most commonly about crashing on the rocks after one year of bliss followed by two years of being unpleasant.

Ex-con Rodney King was living just outside Hollywood when he posed this idealistic Q: “Why can’t we all just get along?”  A: It’s easier to be proud and hold grudges!

Commandment #7: Thou shalt forgive others as God hath forgiven thee.

In Colossians 1:13, Paul directs us, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  We all know how that happens because it happens all the time.  We spit in the Father’s face.  Guilt and circumstances eventually catch up with us.  We repent and ask for forgiveness.  And as Scripture indicates, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.  This principle is so important that Jesus even warns us that forgiveness will be extended to us only as we are willing to offer grace and reconciliation to other people who offend us.

So why do followers of Christ have so much trouble writing happy endings in 2012?  One reason is that we are too proud to forgive people who have hurt us because they are undeserving.  Of course, that’s the only people who are qualified for forgiveness, isn’t it?  If people have never hurt you, they don’t require any grace.  All offenders are undeserving of forgiveness.  We don’t offer it because of the other person’s resume.  We forgive because we realize that we mess up all the time and the only reason we have any self respect at all is because God is so willing to get over it.  So when you have trouble forgiving, it’s not really about the quality of the other person’s character.  It’s really about your character, your faith and- yes- your deceitful heart.

Here’s an ironic fact: Forgiveness and reconciliation can actually build stronger, healthier friendships.  Jesus forgave Peter and reinstated him as a leader.  Peter forgave Paul and described Paul’s letters as inspired by God.  Christ forgave the people who crucified him and some became lifetime followers.  Some of my closest and most trustworthy friends are people with whom I have bumped heads in the past; but with whom I have shared grace and reconciliation.  I love these guys!

Some people don’t forgive; they just paper over the trouble and move on.  We call these people “enablers.”  They aren’t honest.  They typically don’t think they deserve friends so they settle for fiends instead.  Ignoring bad behavior and pretending everything is hunky-dory is not really spiritual:  it’s deceitful.  Real friends know how to speak the truth in love and be transparent.  Otherwise, they eventually get the Hollywood Ending they’ve been trying to avoid- the real kind, not the movie kind.

So be intentional about forgiving offenders when they repent- even when they repeat.  All your friends are sinners; that’s why they feel so at home with you.  Practice grace.

And lift up the cross!

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