What do you do when your brothers and sisters hurt you?
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
1 Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. 2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him."
~ Luke 17:1-4
Here, Jesus is talking about more than merely forgiving others. He is dealing with how we choose to respond to the imperfections of our brothers and sisters. The deeper issue here is whether or not we will let the personal flaws of our brethren hamper our relationships with them. Yes, relationships can be extremely exciting, fulfilling, and rewarding. But they can be painful too. In fact, the most painful human experiences are inflicted via our closest relationships. These pains, more emotional than physical, usually stem from the behavior of your brothers and sisters toward you:
- Hurtful words
- Betrayal of trust and confidence
- False accusations
- Insults and humiliation
These can create excruciating emotional pains. And Jesus is dealing with how we choose to respond to these relationship pains.
For most of us, our natural reflex is to withdraw our affections from our brethren, and severe our connections with them. I refer to this as the ‘snail syndrome’. When you touch a snail, it retreats into it’s shell. We respond in this manner so as to shield ourselves from further pains. Like the snail, we withdraw into our shells and refuse to crawl out anymore. This ‘shell solution’, however, is really not a solution at all. On the contrary, it is actually more problematic.
- The shell is too small for you. God created an entire universe all for you; why would you shrink into a ridiculous shell?
- The shell is a prison. People who retreat into a shell discover that they are now in bondage.
- It does not remove the pain; it redistributes it to other parts of your life.
- It effectively hinders progress. As long as you are in the shell, it is impossible to make progress.
- It exposes you to elemental forces. The shell creates a false sense of safety. People think they are safe in their shells. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in the shell, you are just another sitting duck for jungle preys.
- Most importantly, it is ungodly. God did not design you to have a shell. The shell is a satanic contraption to stifle your love-capacity and weaken your dominion.
- In the end, what you think is a cover is actually a disease – spiritual and emotional paralysis.
Let the shells be shattered in Jesus name!
It takes guts to remain in love
There are those other people who, in spite of the hurts and relationship pains, stay open, connected, and affectionate to others to their brothers and sisters. As a result, they end up being hurt again, and again, and again. To the fearful and selfish this may seem foolish and ignorant – or even crazy. In reality, however, it takes tremendous strength and bravery to stay connected with someone and affectionate towards them after they’ve severely wounded you.
Anybody can fall in love; but it takes solid guts to remain in it. Those who stay open, connected, and affectionate even after being hurt, are not necessarily stupid. They are rather manifesting extraordinary strength and bravery. They are the true heroes in life. It is easy, when hurt, to scamper into your shell. Any wimp can do that. And that is what most of us do. But to stay out of that shell, to stay connected and engaged even after being wounded again and again, that takes a lot of guts.
The ones that remain open and vulnerable after several wounds, who stay engaged and connected, may not even know it, but they are practicing something called love. It takes guts to love; tons and tons of it. Only the brave can truly love others. When Jesus commanded us to love one another as He loved us, it was a challenge to be bold and brave in our responses to the wounds of relationships.
Furthermore, love is not reactionary; it is a lot more than merely responding to what others do. Love is a deliberate decision to act in a divinely-prescribed manner towards your brethren, independent of how they may choose to behave or respond.
Loving will leave scars
Love is more than giving things to others. It is more than spending time with them. It is more than praying for them and saying nice things to them. Love is allowing yourself to be wounded and killed by the flaws of your brethren. God did not demonstrate His love for us by giving us ‘things’. He did it by giving Himself. He loved us by allowing our ‘thrash’ to kill Him. It was those wounds, however, that brought our healing. By letting us wound and kill Him, He ultimately healed us. When we let the imperfections of our brethren wound, and even kill us, we ultimately bring healing to them.
To love one another means that we open up ourselves to one another’s imperfections, insecurities, fears, bitterness, and wounds. This is not easy at all. Loving others will unavoidably leave scars on us. Loving others means that you choose to be connected to their transgressions, and their iniquities. This means that you will be pierced, crushed, punished, and wounded by their intended and unintended acts.
Who hasn’t been deeply wounded by a loved one?
In fact, as we can see from Jesus, the call to love is a call to death. It is only by taking up our cross, and dying daily in obedience to God’s word towards our brethren, that we can walk in pure love for one another.
This is different from weakly having to endure abusive treatments from others because you think you have no other choices. Absolutely not! I’m not suggesting that you become a victim of abuse. I’m referring rather to a situation where you function out of choice, from a place of strength. Think of it this way: the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus were not on their crosses by choice. Jesus, however, was. If those thieves had any powers to do so, they would have evaded capture and escaped their crosses. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, had the power to evade capture; it was well within His capabilities to step down from that cross. Instead, he made the personal, and voluntary decision, borne out of His love for us, to bear it all.
It is not easy. It is painful. However, it is eternally rewarding in ways that the normal human mind may never be able to comprehend. The ultimate value of love is not just in what it does to the other person – it heals them. But also in who we become as a result; because, it is only by loving others that we can die to ourselves and experience real life. When we love, we are dying to self and simultaneously freeing up our higher lives to find full expression in eternity.
11 After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
~ Isaiah 53:11,12
Loving requires the help of the Holy Spirit
Love is who we are. God’s love has been poured into us. It is in our very spiritual DNA. God is love, and as His temple, we are the temple of love and, hence, full of love. However, being filled with love is one thing; loving others is another. One is a nature; the other involves consciously and deliberately choosing to act in love at all times. Although we are filled with love, actually loving others in this wicked and selfish world, plus the fact that we are encumbered with human weaknesses, is impossible without the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
~ Ephesians 3:14-18