Healthy relationships are really important. Jesus said so when He answered the question ‘’Which of the commandments is the greatest: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Luke 10:27). So, for us, the church, this is non-negotiable. In order to fulfill these commandments to love, we have to learn how (and want to) be part of healthy relationships. How can we have healthy faith communities if we don’t have healthy relationships? The Apostle Paul reminds us in many places that we are the body of Christ, and if one part of the body is honoured, the whole body rejoices, but if one part suffers, so does everyone (1 Cor. 12: 25-26).
I’m starting a sermon series on this topic, and as I was reading, reflecting and praying, I found this story. It’s a true story but I don’t have the original source – I found it on a posting by Pastor Ray Ellis. Here it is:
Many years ago (after 1841) a Christian professor John Stuart Blackie of the University of Edinburgh had to make a humble apology. He was listening to his students as they presented oral readings. When one young man rose to begin a recitation, he held his book in the wrong hand. The professor thundered, “Take your book in your right hand, and be seated!” At this harsh rebuke, the student held up his right arm. He didn’t have a right hand! The other students shifted uneasily in their chairs.
For a moment the professor hesitated. Then he made his way to the student, put his arm around him, and with tears streaming from his eyes, said, “I never knew about it. Please, will you forgive me?” His humble apology made a lasting impact on that young man.
This story was told some time later in a large gathering of believers. At the close of the meeting a man came forward, turned to the crowd, and raised his right arm. It ended at the wrist. He said, “I was that student. Professor Blackie led me to Christ. But he never could have done it if he had not made the wrong right.”
My research revealed that Professor Blackie was a true, patriotic Scotsman and rather gruff around the edges! Yet he was a Christ follower and in that moment of conviction by the Holy Spirit, he overcame his pride and his critical nature, humbled himself and asked for forgiveness. What a witness to that class. And since we have more to the story, we know his humility was the beginning of a healthy, life changing, eternity changing for that young student.
Many of us know of another story, closer to home. Bishop Cliff forwarded an email from Rusty Crozier on July 30 and in that note, Rusty shared of the beauty and impact of faith community gathering around he and Sandy, as well as many, including Rusty and Sandy, taking those opportunities to both generously give forgiveness and receive forgiveness to heal broken relationships. Another witness to all of us that relationships matter. Thanks, Rusty and Sandy, on behalf of all of us.
God has given us many tools to use and apply in our lives so that we can live in love and in healthy relationship with one another. It’s not always easy….but it’s always worth it. I remain convinced that two of those tools are confession and forgiveness. Yet those aren’t the only tools in the toolbox. What else do you think is needed for us to be in healthy relationships?
Rev. Kim Henderson | Caistor Centre FMC