“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and having one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2, ESV) During lockdown I had the great privilege of reconciling with a brother in the Lord that I had been estranged from for about two years. It had been quite some time since I had felt so … light. Unburdened? There are lots of words to describe it, but this month the theme in these emails is theoretically abiding in joy, so the word I will choose to describe this is joyful. Paul continues the above passage by saying to do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. In the early days after the above relationship was severed I found myself doing “ministry” with the barely conscious motivation of proving myself “right,” hoping to provoke some sort of guilt or shame or something in the other person. Sounds to me like I was doing things out of rivalry. There was a good run of ministry for a season but it all felt predictably hollow and empty because of the bitterness I was carrying, confirming something I learned a while back - that God works what He will work through us, and we can enjoy it or be miserable in the midst of it, but the same work gets done. My surliness can’t short circuit God’s plan for the people I interact with, but it can short circuit my joy in the midst of it. I still haven’t worked out why it took lockdown to realize that my joy was incomplete because I wasn’t of the same mind as a dear brother, because there was discord instead of full accord, but I’m surely glad my eyes were opened to it. Abiding in joy, for me, has been intricately woven together with keeping short accounts and living out the ministry of reconciliation within the family of God. I still have a few relationships that need a dose of this sort of thinking, but for the first time in two years I think I might genuinely be on the right path. In Christ, Fred Swartz
“And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:34-35, NKJV)
How have broken relationships made your joy incomplete?
Which of your relationships will most benefit from your obedience in living out the ministry of reconciliation?