Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Am I a Record Keeper?

The congregation I serve is little more than halfway through the first year of a three-year contract with Navigators aimed at helping us establish a disciple-making culture. The emphasis is on empowering us to live out our faith in every aspect of our lives. The first year focuses on coaching the pastoral staff.

In preparation for my next meeting with the Navigators coach, I'm going through a short Bible study with reflective questions. Several of the questions have been challenging, but one really smacked me and I'm still not sure what my answer to it is. It's a two-parter that asks: "Have you been keeping a record of wrongs? What are they?"

The trigger for this challenging question is a portion of Saint Paul's description of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. Paul is giving a portrait of love here and says at one point, "Love...keeps no record of wrongs."

Now, two things are true in considering this passage.

First, the only being in the universe to live this kind of love is God (definitively revealed in God-in-human-flesh, Jesus Christ). Without the power of God for living that is given to those who repent and believe in Jesus, this brand of love will never be exhibited in a human being and then, only imperfectly, inconsistently, until we die and are raised again with Christ. We must ask daily for an infusion of God's love because love that forgiving and committed is foreign to our natures. At least it is to mine.

God's love is such that when He forgives, He also forgets, something that's impossible for me to do.

Second, not keeping a record of wrongs, does not mean that you leave yourself open to further abuse by people who are violent or hurtful, who have a track record of such abusive behavior.

To me, not keeping a "record of wrongs" means not storing up grievances, nursing them, pulling them out for frequent inspection in order to feel morally superior to someone else, or harming myself or my well-being through bitterness. Keeping a record of others' wrongs toward us is keeping grudges to gain the false assurance of our own righteousness and virtue and stake out our virtuous victimization.

I'm not conscious of holding any grudges. But the question has made me consider whether I am, in far more subtle, and therefore hellish, ways than I realize. I'm still considering it. It seems worthwhile for me to do so. I don't want unconfessed or unacknowledged sin to stand as a wall between God and me or between others and me.

More than that, I want my love to be authentic and of God.

But what is love, really?

I like a definition embodied in a quote from Patrick Lencioni found in the same book that posed the two-part thought-provoking question:
...true love is less about feelings and more about actions and decisions. That's not to say feelings don't have a role in love [isn't that good to know?], but feelings are certainly not the most important or prevalent element. 
I don't change my son's diaper because I feel like it, or because I find him cute; I do it because it's what's best for him, and I'm committed to him... 
Those who wait for their feelings to inspire them to love certainly will find themselves in temporary and fleeting relationships with friends, spouses, and children.
Feelings emphatically do matter. That "in love" feeling (notice I didn't say that in lust feeling) can be a great clue to two people that if they marry, they will be rowing in the same direction through their lives. And anyone who has been married to an uncommitted spouse (read that, unmarried spouse) knows how love (and commitment) can be destroyed, effectively ending the relationship even if "the marriage" continues. But Lencioni's words seem true to me.

In the end, love is what we do. And it doesn't keep records.

God, give me the strength to confront those with whom I disagree or who have hurt me, not from a sense of superiority, but from a desire to do Your will. If I'm keeping a record of perceived wrongs done to me, holding grudges, show this to me. Help me to leave my records of others' wrongs at the foot of Jesus' cross, never to be seen again.  In the name of Jesus.

No comments: