After reading last week’s ‘Love In Confession’ article a friend sent me a truly heart-warming and encouraging speech by Pope Francis.
Below is an excerpt.
“There is no perfect family. We do not have perfect parents, we are not perfect, we do not marry a perfect person or have perfect children. We have complaints from each other. We disappoint each other. So, there is no healthy marriage or healthy family without the exercise of forgiveness. Forgiveness is vital to our emotional health and spiritual survival. Without forgiveness, the family becomes an arena of conflict and a stronghold of hurt….”
As I read this speech I couldn’t help feeling an ever so acute sadness about the current state of marriages. I myself am a divorcee and confess to holding on to resentment and anger for a number of years.
For me the pope’s speech sums up why the institution of ‘marriage’ is in so much trouble at present.
Where do I start?
Let’s begin with Forgiveness.
Forgiveness isn’t an option or a ‘Would like to do’, but an actual command. Indeed, God asks us how we can possibly expect forgiveness from him if we can’t forgive those that have wronged us.
It can be one of the hardest things to do, and yet also one of the easiest.
Because it’s a decision. One can either decide to forgive, or choose to hold on to anger, hate, and resentment. No matter what the world tells you it really is that simple.
Many of us struggle to forgive because the world / media tells us otherwise -make the person suffer, get pay-back, forgive but not forget etc. But God tells us He no longer remembers our sins – because of what Jesus did for us; and it is this kind of Unconditional and Forgiving love that God wants husbands and wives to have for one-another.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8 vs 12
As I’ve pointed out many times before, this ‘Light’ that Jesus is referring to is ‘LOVE’ – not commandments, or even righteousness, but pure unadulterated LOVE.
In other words when we focus our hearts on God’s Unconditional Love for us, not only are we set free, but our eyes are wide open as to the things that matter most.
A few verses later, Jesus went on to say to the Pharisees, “You judge by human standards…”
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus tells us that when we judge things according to the world’s /human standards we are more or less living in darkness?!
Here’s a question – how many of us have held on to unforgiveness, resentment, and hate, and felt good about it?
Indeed, rather than feeling good we feel a constant weight on our shoulders, hearts, and even our heads – leading to all manner of ill health.
Furthermore we not only don’t forgive, but in the case of marriages, allow the relationship to completely break down, believing there are better options out there; only to later realise that we not only had it pretty good but that there are in-fact very few better options out there.
What am I saying?
Simple – our unwillingness to forgive usually leads to a complete breakdown of relationships / marriages.
As the pope very correctly points out, there is nobody on this planet that’s perfect. We all not only make mistakes but will continue to do so.
Allow me to explain how this phenomenon of a problem is presently being exacerbated.
In my view Nigeria possesses some of the most loving and kind-hearted pastors in the world. However, since the turn of this year I’ve been emphasising my concerns about the perception of ‘perfection’ that’s currently being sold in our churches – particularly the Pentecostal ones.
It’s now so grave that one rarely meets real people in churches anymore. Rather, what we come across are people that speak the right language, walk the right walk, and wear the right uniform. In other words, we’re fast becoming a nation of clones.
To make matters worse the message we hear every Sunday isn’t one of Love and Forgiveness but one of Prosperity and Success. When you add the perception of perfection to the notion /message of prosperity and success, what do you get?
Answer – a hard hearted, judgemental, unforgiving people who have consigned Love to the very back of the queue. It’s a very natural consequence. Ask most young people what they want in a marriage / relationship these days and you invariably hear the proverbial list of ‘Fear of God’, ‘Values’, and ‘Potential’ amongst others; love and friendship are usually no-where near their stratosphere. In such instances is it at all surprising that when the s… hits the fan they have no ‘Friendship’ or ‘Love’ to fall back on??
Potential, Values, God-fearing are all key facets of any good relationship, but nobody should be under any illusion as to the importance of Love, Friendship, Fun, and Laughter. For with Love, there is a better chance of fostering a Jesus -like ‘Unconditional Love’. Friendship is always a reliable reality to fall back on when things are tough, and Laughter and Fun are necessary components for happy and healthy living.
Whilst at a friend’s 40th a few years ago I asked her mum what she believed the most important ingredients of a good relationship are. She replied, “Laughter, Friendship, and Great Sex”.
I’m sure many Christians would deem her answer to be verging on paganistic. But in truth her answer is both practical and totally on-point.
The world we live in today aggressively pushes the notion of ‘self’ – self-glory, independence, self-power, self-success, self-perfection, perception of self, and so many other ‘selfs’ that one often wonders whether it’s all going to end in tears sometime soon.
In this world of ‘self’ that we all subconsciously promote and gravitate to on a daily basis, perception has become so dominant that Tolerance, Love, and Forgiveness have fast disappeared. The irony is that social media could actually be one of the most powerful catalysts for Love and Forgiveness to thrive.
Nobody is perfect. Everybody has flaws. That man / woman you’re so in-love with will make mistakes. When he/ she does, and you’re struggling to forgive, remember how much God has, and continues to forgive you for. And remember that His Love does not fail.
Here’s an idea – maybe churches should actually spend more time letting their congregation know that we’re all flawed, and all fall way short of the glory of God. Maybe that way people can enter relationships /marriages with eyes wide open to the realities of life.
It’s time for us to go back to basics. Throw away those formulas and go back to the basics of Love and Friendship. Only out of Love can a Jesus-type Unconditional Love develop within; and only out of an Unconditional Love will you be able to forgive.
Finally, if you’re in a relationship in which love and friendship existed at some stage but are presently going through the mire, so long as there’s no physical abuse, hang on tight. Ask God to help the both of you to Forgive. The grass on the other side is nowhere near as green as you think it is.