Be honest…do you poke the sea anemones when you see them in tide pools at the beach? It’s sort of hard to resist. They’re so exotic and tropical, and their recoiling feature always makes me want to stick a shell in to their soft center so I can watch them curl up in a tight, protective ball. It’s probably against the rules to poke the sea anemones, but their sticky, retracting tentacles are pretty compelling.
Sometimes you and I share a commonality with sea anemones. We recoil and shut down when we’re threatened or touched. It’s not a bad thing; it’s actually a safeguard. It only becomes problematic when it’s time to open ourselves up again and we’re still crouched in a closed, defensive posture.
Sometimes we need to take the risk to open up again.
The natural response to hurt, misunderstanding, or wounding is to put up our guard and minimize our vulnerabilities; however, if we want to heal we will eventually need to open back up. We will need to release our hurts to the Lord, make peace with our past, forgive our offenders, and courageously stretch out again.
None of this is easy to do, but true love is never easy. It is always a selfless endeavor that stretches and challenges us, while pulling the greatness out of us.
Don’t let yesterday’s hurts keep you from today’s opportunities to receive, give, bless, and love. You will get hurt again, and you’ll retract like those pretty sea anemones. But after regrouping for a while make sure you bounce back and reach out one more time.
Hurts happen. And following Jesus does not provide insurance against the pain, angst, and heartache of relational breakdowns, disappointments, and ugliness. What the Bible does provide is comfort when things fall apart, and a clear set of instructions on how to attempt restoration.
Here are the basics. When we experience a relational breakdown and are seeking conflict resolution and repair, we must:
Resolve it worshipfully. Jesus ranked conflict resolution as high in significance as He did our corporate worship expressions.
Resolve it quickly. Things sour and burn when they simmer too long.
Resolve it personally. Jesus said GO to your brother or sister—He didn’t say post a comment on Facebook, or send a well-crafted text or email.
Resolve it privately. One-on-one and face-to-face conversations are the starting points for biblical conflict resolutions.
Resolve it truthfully. Truthful communication is clear communication that focuses on truth—what are the facts? What is the context? What is the heart motivation? Avoid suspicion, emotion, or unfair character assassinations.
Resolve it lovingly. A true friend says, “I love you enough to not let this go. I love you enough to talk to you instead of becoming offended by you. And I love you enough to forgive you and attempt reconciliation.”
Resolve it thoroughly. Satan, the “accuser of the brethren” operates his spiritual warfare through hurtful or confusing communication patterns—we must communicate in ways that shut his operation down.
Scripture references: Matthew 5:23-25; 18:15-16; Ephesians 4:15; Revelation 12:10
Is the Christian God a God of judgment or a God of love?
Sometimes people struggle with the judging aspect of God’s nature, and they can’t seem to reconcile His judgment with His love. They reason that a God of love would not judge, but rather would exclusively show love.
I think the point is widely missed in this sentiment, however, and I would argue that God’s judgment is proof of His love. When we think of the vicious atrocities that are imposed upon innocent people every day in our world, our hearts cry out for judgment. When we consider assault, child abuse, genocide, kidnapping, human kidnapping, and all of the other horrors in our world, it’s easy to see that the only loving response to such evil is judgment.
How could we trust the love of a God who failed to ultimately punish such injustices?
I love the ancient words from the prophet Amos who was angered by a lawless culture. He said on God’s behalf, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
I’m grateful that He is a God of judgment. And I’m grateful that in His judging He shows that He is also a God of love.