A couple of weeks ago a friend called me feeling down and angry; he and his wife are recovering from leaving a church where they had served, a church where my friend was an elder. Internal conflict had gotten to the place where it was probably best that they leave since resolution did not appear likely. They’ve been gone a few months and have not heard from one person, including those they considered friends. This is the norm in church life, whether it is a member, a staff member, or a pastor – generally when people leave the door is closed. Yes, there are wonderful exceptions, but the norm is “out of sight out of mind”; or perhaps it should be “out of heart”.
I suggested my friend renew his acquaintance with Paul’s second letter to Corinth; suffering plays a role in our lives, how we respond to suffering is the question; we all have hurt, how do we allow God to use hurt for His glory and the blessing of others?
It is a mystery to me how we can hurt one another and not have any sense of what we’re doing. It is a mystery that we can be so blind to others when we are called to love one another as Jesus Christ loves us. I know I’ve hurt people and I’m afraid I’ll hurt people again – how can these things be?
I’m reminded of this passage in Genesis 37: So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic in the blood; and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, “We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not.” The brothers must have been convincing, perhaps convincing to the point of half-believing what they were saying themselves. We found this – oh please. And yet how often have I in effect said to my heavenly Father regarding others, “I found this. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know where my brother went, what my brother needs, why I’m no longer in relationship with him,” when all the time I either did something to my brother or I failed to do something for my brother. I wonder how many bloody tunics are lying at our Father’s feet? I wonder how many I’ve put there?
I want, by the grace of God, to endeavor to be faithful today to my brothers and sisters. I don’t want to be the source of any more bloody tunics. If I find a bloody tunic then I want to seek the brother or sister who it belongs to and bind up their wounds, pouring in oil and wine (Luke 10:33-34).
What will it be? Shall we be sources of pain in the lives of others, or fountains of healing and peace? By the grace of God I desire to never again be the reason for a bloody tunic.