Christmastime is an amazing time of the year. But it is also a time where many are reminded of broken relationships – family and friends who have been lost to hurt feelings and lost trust. Do you have a broken relationship in your life?
Most of us do. Even in the world at large, hate continues to spawn hate, and the reaction to terror and war being more hate. Only sacrificial love can conquer hate – but it is hard when you realize God is asking us to do the sacrificing.
This morning I wrote a devotional for Isaiah 19. There were some verses I had not noticed before – verses 18-25. These verses speak of Egypt and Assyria and Israel – three nations that were at war with each other and did not trust each other – someday all following the Lord, living in peace, and trusting each other. They were reconciled through the Messiah. These are great verses of hope, but something radical has to happen in the human heart before true peace can happen.
Below is the devotion I wrote this morning that speaks more of this radical miracle. I hope this miracle would be possible in many hearts this Christmastime.
The people of Egypt were going to be conquered by the Assyrians. This served as a warning in Isaiah’s day for the Judeans not to make an alliance with the Egyptians (see 2 Kings 18:21). The Egyptians would be invaded by the Assyrians and punished for their sins. Yet a day will come when they will leave their idols and call on the Lord. He will send them a Savior, and they will be called the people of God – along with the Assyrians and Israelites. These three nations that, in Isaiah’s time, hated each other, will someday live in peace, trust each other, and follow the way of the Lord together.
Radical work needs to be done in a human heart for true reconciliation to happen. It is hard to forget history and how we have been hurt. It is hard to trust again. We need to have boundaries and not continue to allow people to hurt us unless they have truly changed – but we also need to constantly be praying and hoping that they will change. We can make the choice to forgive and not carry the grudge against someone; we can always pray and hope for reconciliation (though it may not always happen) where we can have a restored relationship with the ones we have hurt, and who have hurt us.
I definitely know how to hold a grudge. Part of the confrontation style of my family when I was growing up was to bring up the past – using it as ammunition for the fight. With my friends I would remember what they had done wrong, and was ready to use it if necessary. When I became a Christian, God made it clear to me – what I had done to Christ through my selfishness was worse than anything anyone had done to me. My heart was slowly changed, and my lists against other people started to fade. I eventually made a choice to live at peace with everyone, and not to have enemies (but to have boundaries and be wise). I am still hurt by people, and there are those who still speak badly or gossip about me, and I have times where I have to pour out my frustrations to the Lord. I don’t want the bitterness in my heart; I don’t want to avoid people because I am hurt; I want to be FREE in Christ.
Radical work needs to be done in our hearts to be truly free and forgive our enemies. The wonder of the cross and resurrection is that radical change is possible through the Holy Spirit. Lay down your grudges and be free.