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Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore (Ps 133).
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Pet 1:22-2:3).
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14).
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Rom 12:18).
This article was sparked by a discussion in church last night. My thanks to Pastor Dan Morrison for having the discussion.
It’s Christmas time, and most of you will be with your family. For some of you, this may be awkward.
My own family did not get along well until recently. Our relationship has gotten a lot better over the past decade, but we’ve always been very loose-knit. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I was wanted when I was a teenager, so I got away from home as soon as possible.
Some of you have family members who have abused you. For many, family means more pain than anything.
So how can you manage this time?
First, I would say that you have a responsibility toward reconciliation. This does not mean that you must make it happen, because reconciliation requires more than just you. But you must be willing to reconcile. The Bible talks over and over about forgiveness and reconciliation, so I won’t go much into that.
In short, unforgiveness is not an option.
This does not, however, mean that you need to make yourself—or anyone else, for that matter—available as a victim. If someone has molested you, forgiving them doesn’t mean giving them the opportunity to do that again. You can forgive them without that. And, realistically, even if they are completely rehabilitated from whatever drove them to do that, don’t tempt them by making such a thing available. It’s just better such a situation is avoided.
I find the twin texts of Heb 12:14 and Rom 12:18 a very helpful guide: live at peace with everyone so much as you are able.
There are some people—thankfully none in my close family—around whom I simply cannot be. We clash. So, because I love them and I don’t want to conflict with them, I spend as little time around them as possible. That is how we maintain peace.
I’m not advocating doing this with everyone with whom you conflict. And honestly, it’s not always practicable. But there are some people around whom, for the sake of peace, you need to spend little time. And that’s okay. It’s not the ideal—not at all! But it is, in some cases, a necessary reality.
It doesn’t make you a bad person.
It’s a fairly extreme situation, but it happens. It certainly shouldn’t be your go-to solution (which it seems many people seem to be advocating now: “ditch that relationship because it’s unhealthy,” never mind making it healthy again), but again, it happens.
And bear in mind that, ideally, it is only for a time. Again, you must be open to reconciliation. Pray for the person, that you might be reconciled together and come to love one another, even to become close!
Have healthy boundaries. If someone is abusive, it’s fine to say, “I forgive you, but we won’t spend time together until you learn how to control yourself.” Again, forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to make yourself someone’s punching bag.
Christmas is a family time. It’s a time when we draw near to each other to remember and to honor the God who draws near to us. Be open. Be forgiving. Be as innocent as doves and wise as serpents. Love your family!
And don’t forget to take the occasional walk or drive. Take time for yourself. Closeness is great, but too much closeness can breed conflict. And everyone needs time alone.