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My complete, imperfect family

by Pauline Wong | 3 November 2017, 3:58 PM

My Kindergarten teacher often encouraged us to draw portraits of our families.

With squiggly lines and less-than-perfect circles, I produced masterpiece after masterpiece to the best of my 6-year-old ability. I don’t remember most of my illustrations, but I do recall one vividly.

It was a picture of my parents, my sister and I. We were on rollerskates, holding hands and looking happy. In the background, I’d placed a Christmas tree.

I have lost that piece of drawing since then, but something transferred from paper to mind and etched itself deeply in my heart.

A complete family is a happy family.

My family is a complete family.

While some of my peers were born into less than desirable circumstances, I grew up with both of my parents present. I never knew what people meant when they said, “I don’t have a dad/mum”, much less the pain and hurt that separation inflicts.

Overtime, “complete” became synonymous with “perfect”. Of course my family wasn’t without flaws – we had our fights and disputes. But we were what you would call pretty normal. Average. Okay. And as I looked at the broken world as a child, okay became good enough a standard. I had both a dad and a mum, and a sister to boot. Okay was perfect.

Until I came to know Christ. That was when I began to understand how love should truly look like.

I can’t adequately put it into words but it was as though I could finally see. Everything became crystal clear yet, at the same time, everything lost its lustre, too. Kinda like putting on a new pair of glasses – you suddenly see everything with fresh clarity, but that also means suddenly seeing every imperfection that was always there.

I recall now hugging my younger sister tightly as we recoiled in fear, angry voices punctuated by threats of divorce reverberating from the next room.

When I came to know Christ, everything became crystal clear yet, at the same time, everything lost its lustre, too. I suddenly saw everything with fresh clarity, but that also meant suddenly seeing every imperfection that was always there.

As we got older, my mom started to rake up the past whenever she got angry. She would throw in snide remarks about how my dad was unpunctual to their wedding whenever we’re running late for something.

Instead of fighting back, my dad would tune out of arguments, block out complaints, and zone out of confrontations. Taking his cue, my sister and I also detached ourselves whenever we felt a storm brewing.

I had stopped communicating with my dad years ago due to a misunderstanding that I thought had caused him to stop loving me. It didn’t help that he was a man of a few words. Our conversations never lasted for more than 10 seconds, and never deeper than a “What do you want to eat?” He was physically present in my life, but never emotionally.

My family had also stopped eating together for years as it was almost impossible to comply with everyone’s schedule. The four of us ate at different times, at different locations.

From the outside, my family seemed okay – perfect. The issues we face weren’t major enough to threaten our family structure, so we simply brushed them aside.

But when God came into my life, His love illuminated the concealed hurts and frustration that undergirded the way we related to each other.

Yes, my family was intact and worry-free.

But it was far from perfect.

I’m not unappreciative of what I have; my family loved each other in the best way we knew how. I know that I’m blessed to have grown up in a relatively functional family, and I’m thankful for that. It’s just that functional isn’t the end point for God. His is a higher standard of love.

It says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.”

A holy discontentment started to grow in my heart. And while it’s easy to settle for what’s convenient and familiar, I decided that I had to do something, rather than hand down the imperfect love we received, learnt and passed on from generation to generation.

Changing family culture that has been set in stone for decades wasn’t easy. I had to be intentional in striking up conversations with my dad, intentional in planning family outings, intentional in speaking truth and life. All while being consistent.

I remember my parents got into a huge argument once, and my dad moved out of their room to sleep in the living room for weeks. Seeing that my dad was giving her the cold treatment, my mum began to vent her frustrations on me.

Functional isn’t the end point for God. His is a higher standard of love.

I resented it. I hated how my mom tried to use me as a pawn to get back at my dad. I hated how they just threw the burden of being a responsible parent to me, when it was not my job to begin with. I hated how I was suffering the brunt of their conflict even though I was just an innocent victim.

I refused to do anything about the situation, refused to be embroiled into their conflict. It’s their fight, not mine, I reasoned. Why should I have to do the dirty work? But I eventually caved because I knew it was the right thing to do.

I remember approaching my dad in the balcony. I asked him if he remembered his marital vows to my mum.

“Papa, you promised to take care of Mummy. I know how naggy Mummy can be, but when J (my sister) and I eventually move out, the primary responsibility lies with you to care for her.”

My dad didn’t say much – simply grunted. But he moved back into the bedroom that night, and their relationship gradually improved.

My family has come a long way since then. Nowadays, we try to be more involved in each other’s lives. We celebrate birthdays and special occasions. We still aren’t perfect, but out of love, we try.

I think back to the picture I drew as a kid – my family in the foreground, and a Christmas tree in the background.

Very much like the circles my little hand had drawn, we were complete, functional, but undeniably imperfect. I’d like to think, however, that God would have received my masterpiece with joy and stuck it on His fridge.

Without allowing Him into every area of my life and placing my family into His hands, I wouldn’t have known what true love is; wouldn’t know how to truly love.

For He is love’s definition through and through.

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The Modern Sabbath: Separating fact from fiction

by | 22 November 2017, 12:07 PM

One of today’s marks of a good Christian is one’s attendance of Church on Sunday morning.

Stay with me on that one. Why is attendance on Sunday even a benchmark of faith? Well, because of the fourth Commandment: Honour the Sabbath and keep it holy (Deuteronomy 5:12).

That means we have to go to Church on Sundays to sing songs, listen to someone talk for a while and throw some loose change into the bag before real life resumes around lunchtime. Penance paid, duties completed. Hey, maybe God will bless me with a bonus or good grades if I keep this up.

If you’re nodding your head – I hope it’s because you like sarcasm.

But seriously speaking, to properly understand the biblical concept of the Sabbath, it’ll be helpful to first consider some of the church’s misconceptions and disagreements over it for the past two millennia.

SABBATH ≠ “WORSHIP DAY”

In Mosaic Law, the Sabbath, or shabbat, was introduced to the Israelites as a holy day on which no work was to be performed following six days of work (Deuteronomy 5, Exodus 16, 31, 35, Nehemiah 13, Jeremiah 17).

In our terms, it actually falls on a Saturday, and till this day it begins on Friday night and ends after nightfall on Saturday. Their “first day” of the week is what we know as Sunday.

There are certain instructions given for a “holy convocation” or gathering to occur on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23), with special rites being performed (Numbers 28). The Sabbath was kept as a sign of God’s sanctification of the Israelites as they journeyed in a foreign land (Exodus 31:13).

However, in this post-captive Israelite community, worship was continually performed by the tribe of Levi, who continually made sacrifices on behalf of the wider community of Israelites. This worship wasn’t just on the Sabbath.

So while the Sabbath could well be an aspect of Jewish worship, they were not entirely the same thing.

For Gentile believers, we do not live by the same covenant. In the New Testament, Christians were recorded meeting in synagogues, not to worship, but to evangelise to the Jews who were gathered there, just as Paul did in Acts 18:4.

Early Christians met often – some every day – to study the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Unlike the Jews who met on the Sabbath, the Bible tells us these Christians met on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2, Acts 20:7), and were not bound to worship on the Sabbath day.

But even though the early Christians didn’t officially keep the Sabbath, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should follow suit. Discernment is key.

SO WHAT’S UP WITH SUNDAY SERVICE?

The Sunday worship tradition practiced by most churches today honours Christ’s resurrection, which took place on the day after the Sabbath (Matthew 28:1) – remember, the Sabbath falls on our Saturday – and was sealed in tradition by the authority of the Church over centuries.

There’s also a theory that examines the politics of the Roman Empire – some 300 years after Christ. In those days, Egyptian Mithraists set aside Sundays for their worship of the sun-god.

Sunday. Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?

As Christianity grew and became secularised by politics, Church leaders wanted to attract some of these pagans into their ranks, and incorporated some pagan customs into Christian church ceremonies.

To differentiate themselves from Jews and win pagans over, they decided to appropriate the pagan festival of Sunday and turn it into an official Christian and civil holiday.

As Christians, we honour Christ’s resurrection by baptism – not Sunday-keeping.

Over time, the Catholic church assimilated this practice into their official doctrine, and subsequent generations of believers simply took their word for it.

“The Lord’s Day” soon replaced the concept of Sabbath entirely, reducing it to a kind of personal discipline similar to tithing or fasting. 

So traditions have nothing to do with the biblical concept of the Sabbath. Neither Christ’s death and resurrection, nor the Catholic Church’s convenient strategy should’ve made a difference to God’s original blessing (Mark 2:27).

As Christians, we honour Christ’s resurrection by baptism – not Sunday-keeping (Romans 6:3-6).

So, since I’m not Jewish, should I even bother about the Sabbath? Hold that thought – but prepare it for the gallows.

THE SABBATH IS NOT JUST A JEWISH THING

The concept of Sabbath actually predates Judaism entirely. Meaning “rest” in Hebrew, Sabbath follows a period of work, as seen from the account of Genesis.

Clues of its origins can be found in various languages worldwide, most of which are unrelated to Hebrew.

In over 100 diverse languages throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa, many unrelated to ancient Hebrew, “Sabbath” refers to Saturday, which was a designated day of rest. For example, in Ancient Babylon – which existed centuries before Abraham and the Hebrew race – the seventh day of the week was called “sa-ba-tu”.

Jesus – the Lord of the Sabbath himself – kept the Sabbath throughout his life. If His likeness is your life’s pursuit, the Sabbath is for you.

Despite the evolution of language over time, the original word for “rest” is still fairly recognisable in modern variants of these tongues.

And if you’re tempted to believe you can read the New Testament without the Old, here’s food for thought: Jesus – the Lord of the Sabbath himself (Luke 6:5) – kept the Sabbath throughout his life. 

Jesus understood the importance of the Sabbath when He customarily read Scripture in the synagogue (Luke 4:16). He even honoured the Sabbath in the grave.

If Jesus is your Lord, and His likeness is your life’s pursuit – the Sabbath is for you.

THE SABBATH IS NOT SIMPLY “ANY DAY”

In the creation story, God rested after six days of work.

Now wait a minute. Why does God even need to rest? Does that imply a certain lack of strength or ability on God’s part? Of course not – that would go against His omnipotent nature.

After seeing that His work was good (Genesis 1:31), God set aside a full day (literal or allegorical) for the purpose of rest, blessing it and calling it holy. On Day Seven, God simply basked in the enjoyment of His creation.

And He still invites us to be a part of that practice.

 The Sabbath is a gift from God for our enjoyment and welfare – not a yardstick of our personal holiness.

This seventh-day Sabbath is what the Jews were called to obey in Scripture as part of their Mosaic covenant. The Bible says it carries the special blessing of God.

Remember the hundred over ancient languages we talked about earlier? Among all the languages which used the word “Sabbath”, none of them designated a rest day apart from the seventh.

Perhaps seventh day rest extends far beyond the timeframe and locality of Jewish culture, given the plethora of cultures which point to the seventh day for rest.

THE SABBATH IS NOT AN OUTDATED RULE

In Mark 2:27, after being rebuked by Pharisees for letting his disciples “break” the Sabbath law, Jesus speaks of how their great king David was no different.

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

The Pharisees had missed the point. The Sabbath is a gift from God for our enjoyment and welfare – not a yardstick of our personal holiness.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.”
(Leviticus 19:9-10)

It precisely because of this law that Jesus’ disciples were able to be fed physically. If our practice of the Sabbath prevents us from exercising kindness and compassion, then we also have missed the point.

The Sabbath is intended for our ultimate redemption in the new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 66:22-23). It is part of God’s blueprint for a joyful, fulfilling and meaningful existence.

When you find yourself running on empty, losing the joy of living, or simply going through the motions of a bleak and meaningless existence – slow down.

Take a deep breath. You could use an injection of some Sabbath essence in your life.

THE SABBATH IS NOT “DOING NOTHING”

Practising the true Sabbath imbues in us a profound sense of responsibility towards ourselves, our fellow humans and the entire world we live in.

It’s more than a day each week – it’s every dayIt’s more than a Jewish thing – it’s for everybodyIt’s not an outdated way of living – it’s past, present, and future reconciled God’s way.

And it’s actually more than making God happy. It’s about trust, gratitude, and true rest expressed through the unforced rhythms of grace.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

/ kenneth@thir.st

Kenneth is best understood through his impassioned Instagram posts, composed in the deep of night when the tumultuous world finally lies silent. He probably prefers dogs to cats.

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A tender but strong heart

by Weiren David Ong | 22 November 2017, 11:07 AM

“Be tender-hearted, and be strong-hearted..”

Those were about the last words my mentor gave me before our season ended, and one of the deepest lessons I am still learning in life.

I find that the more we move on in age, the more we seem to face the reality that people are not forever – change is the pinnacle of constancy for us as we all traverse through the dimension of time.

And as people change, usually the ones that hurt us are the ones that walk out of our lives, and I am certain there is almost no stranger to such a grief.

Often, this never happens in an instant, it usually is a gradual numbing, until one side of a relationship just becomes a ghost of who they used to be, a faint outline dotted with memories, the sort that one needs to struggle to ascertain if they were even real.

And before you realise it, someone whom you thought would be there for life, closes the door on you.

Hurt does things to people: We shut off our world to others, we build our walls higher, we dig motes around ourselves. Yeah, we still have friends, but now everyone is suspect.

Hurt jams the mind into overdrive: What did I do wrong? Am I not good enough? Do my friends love me for real, or is this just a huge sick joke being played on me? Who is next to hurt me?

I think it is perfectly natural to feel those things, no one has the right to fault you – the hurt is real. But I would dare contest to say that wouldn’t be the best way to live life from there on out, an emotional hermit crab.

No one has the right to fault you because, honestly, no one can force you to love – or not love – someone else. They don’t live in your skin.

Likewise for the person who hurt you – this is a choice they have made on their own, and nothing you do could’ve prevented that. The wound they left deserves time to be healed, but at no point in time was it because you were not good enough. Of course, make sure you did no wrong or harm to them either.

As for you, one person’s choice to stop loving you should not implicate your choice to love others.

That is being tender-hearted: To understand that the power to love lies in your hands, and hopefully you find it within you to see that people need love.

And being strong-hearted is this: To fully accept that people change, and should they walk out on us, we remember that love is their choice, and it is ours as well – being strong means having the fortitude to continue loving others well.

“One day it’s here and then it’s gone… how are you still holding on?”
(“One Day”, Kodaline)

It is so easy to be jaded with life and relationships, but I hope that never taints the way you see people.

Dedicated to some of my dear friends who are hurting – I know your hurt, but be tender-hearted, and be strong-hearted. To love others is your choice; make the most of it.❤️


This article was first published on Weiren’s blog and was republished with permission.

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Where is God in my heartbreak?

by Charis Tan | 20 November 2017, 4:50 PM

You have to believe you’re going to make it, God said to me.

There are probably as many forms of escapism in the world as there are people. I’m quick to recognise it only because it is one of the major flaws I’m working on, and I see it most lucidly in myself.

Recently I went through some heartbreak. Turns out it’s possible to relate to a very good past in a very bad way. I didn’t want to think about certain things, because the hurt would consume me. I asked God, crying, “What am I going to think about now?” He said, Me.

So daily I’ve been practicing filling every void with Him. Christians preach that God is the only all-satisfying one, but I haven’t always lived it like I believed it. Either I never believed it enough, or I never believed it at all.

We face empty spaces in life every day. Occasional loneliness. Boredom in the office. The loss of a loved one. A future yet unknown. Lack of security, lack of validation, uncertainty, doubts. How often is turning to God in that moment, and asking Him to give us what we need, our default response? How often is it social media? How often is it ministry? Drugs? Food? Sleep?

In a world at war within itself, where the tragedy never stops and every enjoyable thing expires, worshiping God is the safest activity.

God asks us to worship Him because adoring perfection will never let us down. We will never run out of things to wonder at. In a world at war within itself, where the tragedy never stops and every enjoyable thing expires, worshiping God is the safest activity.

The prophet Isaiah says of God, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You.” (Isaiah 26:3) There will never be a safer place to be found here. God is so big that we could think about Him for a lifetime and only scrape the surface of what eternity after would allow.

What goes on in the world is nauseating. Exposure to it makes one anxious. Once, after doing some research on the Rohingya crisis, I lay on my bed and cried. I asked God what to do. He said, worship Me.

I cried even more because I wish He had said something else, something that sounded less lame, something that I could see the direct impact of right here and now. I didn’t challenge Him, because that would’ve been rude. But He didn’t need me to – He knew my questions.

Before you get anything done, you first have to know I am good. You have to remember and be convinced of My goodness.

Worship centres us. We fixate upon constant love and so are stabilised. I think God wants all of us to go through a time of realignment with Him, and the things that matter most to Him. Just like how when the Corinthian church got all excited about the spectrum of spiritual gifts, Apostle Paul reminded them of their fundamental purpose: To love one another (1 Corinthians 14).

God is the beginning, the happy ending, and the one I cling to all moments in between.

Obedience is enough to love a person. But there is more: Being willing to enter God’s heart. We can love someone because He asks us to, or we can love them because we have dared to step into His heart. And the returns of loving a person should always come from Him. When we know that voids in affirmation and recognition are all filled by Him, we become unstoppable lovers.

It all seems so straightforward to me right now. When your life is centred on God then it really doesn’t matter what happens. Or happened. Abandonment, or heartbreak, being forgotten, being neglected. Why not try asking Him to fill the void where it’s most needed, right there and then? Why not reset the defaults of where we run to when we hit an empty space?

You have to believe you’re going to make it, were His words to me in my recent struggle.

I have always taken a lot of comfort in the fact that He knows my journey. Sees what no one else sees, understands when others don’t. But recently, I had an epiphany. He not only knows my journey, He is my journey. He is the beginning, the happy ending, and the one I cling to all moments in between.

Jesus has been right in the thick of death and loss, of changes in seasons and new life. When I feel like my story isn’t going anywhere or has somehow been ruined, I remember that His story is mine just as much as mine is His. I am going to make it, because He did.

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I couldn’t move on after my break-up

by Arielle Ong | 14 November 2017, 4:19 PM

One month after the passing of my mother in April 2011, I ended a year-long relationship with my boyfriend.

The relationship had already been on the rocks for months. It was adding to the existing stress I had to deal with after my mum had a cancer relapse. I couldn’t cope.

That meant that within a span of two months, I had lost two persons I loved deeply.

I didn’t know how else to move on other than diving straight back into work. That year, I started travelling alone and embarking on short-term missions.

All this was fulfilling – yet I couldn’t deny how empty I felt, deep inside. For a good six months, I didn’t smile or talk much. I used to be known for my cheeriness, but I was in a terrible state.

Those in emotional distress are often labelled as “weak”, “thinking too much”, “emotional”. Such statements invalidate people’s feelings, and can add to their distress.

Things did eventually get better and I started to get my sunshine back. But what I didn’t know was just how much of an impact the break-up had had on me. I came to view relationships more like a burden than something beautiful to be embraced.

Whenever I met someone, and told my friends about him, they made me realise that I just kept talking about my ex. It was time to move on, they gently reminded me.

Though I had no more feelings for my ex, the memories from our relationship were still haunting me and hindering me from forging new and healthy relationships. I struggled to move on.

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL

I couldn’t quite understand why, until I started to read up on the field of traumatology. The term has its roots in the Greek word “trauma” which means “injury or wound”. When we hear words like “trauma”, “injury” or “wound”, we often think of physical trauma.

Because physical wounds are obvious and visible to the eyes, they are more readily acknowledged and more appropriately treated, compared to emotional wounds. But research has shown how traumatic experiences during childhood or adulthood could cause emotional scarring and even changes in the brain, increasing your degree of vulnerability in the face of future stressors.

Trauma alters how one’s brain stores and remembers traumatic events. All this means that unless a traumatic event is properly processed, it can be very difficult to move on.

Those who have gone through traumatic experiences often continue to “live out” the memories in the present, instead of storing them away as mere historical information in the memory banks.

In the case of the ending of my relationship, I realised the whole process had been traumatic to me – enough for me to avoid being in one for years.

THE PAIN IS REAL

Many people label those who are in emotional distress as “weak”, “thinking too much”, “emotional”, etc. Usually there is no malice in these statements, and they are delivered with good intentions by loved ones in an attempt to comfort. Nonetheless, such statements invalidate people’s feelings, and can add to the distress.

Everybody is made different. We have different personalities and were raised in different circumstances, and as such possess different levels of tenacity in face of stress.

A common phrase we often hear in counselling is a client saying: “You are not me, you’ll never understand.” There is much truth in that phrase. What is a mere memory to one could be traumatic experience for another. Therefore, don’t discount the feelings of anyone articulating their emotional pain.

God knows our pain, sees every second we suffer. And He gives us what we need to move on. The strength, the support.

This is not to say that individuals should go too far down the road of victimisation, expecting people to empathise all the time. If you’re in this position, understanding the nature of emotional pain should be for the sake of helping you and your loved ones to understand your struggles in order to help you heal. It’s not meant to let you indulge in self-pity.

From my own professional experience, people start to heal and move on when they feel their deepest emotional pains are being acknowledged.

OUR GOD IS REAL

Emotional wounds – though not visible to the naked eyes – are real, just like physical wounds. If we do not denigrate people who have physical wounds or ailments and label them as weak, why do we often do it to people with emotional wounds or mental health conditions, attaching all sorts of negative connotations to their condition?

When people are unwell, they need tender, loving, care and not judgement. After all, God’s ministry is one of love and not ostracism. In the words of Mother Teresa: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

I think about the experience of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. Fresh from a comprehensive victory over the priests of Baal the chapter before, the prophet has no time to rest, because Queen Jezebel is out for his blood.

He ran for his life, coming to a stop under a bush in the wilderness, where he utters a cry of resignation that depressed people will find familiar.

“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life.” (1 Kings 19:4)

Enough, God. This is too much for me.

Elijah was facing some physical trauma – he was hungry and tired – but his deep trauma was to his emotionally exhausted soul.

God met him in both places. First He gave the poor prophet food and water – enough to travel 40 days and nights on. That was some meal.

The point of the meal: To bring Elijah to Horeb, the mountain of God. The meaning of Horeb? “Dry place”. God knew Elijah’s sagging spirit was at a dry place.

And He gave him help and encouragement. Jehu to fight for him, Elisha to succeed him, and 7,000 others who were in the fight with him, refusing to bow their knees to Baal. (1 Kings 19:17-18)

God knows our pain, sees every second we suffer. And He gives us what we need to move on. The strength, the support.

For me, I’m glad that my loved ones finally understand the extent of my struggles. I’m still fighting the feelings, but I look forward to the day where I will no longer be living out my past traumatic memories of my past relationship, so I can find myself in a healthy relationship in the present.

I’m gonna heal, so that I can heal others.

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My friend left Church because of me

by Constance G | 8 November 2017, 7:13 PM

All names have been changed for confidentiality.


“I need a break from church and from y’all to think about what happened,” a good friend wrote in a text message to me one day. And with that one message, Jasmine never returned to my Church again.

It all started during a sleepover three of us had at Jasmine’s place. Jasmine, Alexis and I were talking late into the night and I made an insensitive joke about Jasmine — one which I can no longer remember. Alexis laughed and the both of us thought nothing about it after that.

But that one “innocent” remark had severely affected Jasmine. Extremely offended, she stopped talking to us and distanced herself from us after that episode.

Confused, we sent her text messages and even visited her at her house with a cake to make it up to her. But nothing worked. Our confusion turned to frustration when she started ignoring our other friends who weren’t even involved in the conflict.

That’s when Alexis and I decided to get together with another good friend, Adrienne, to assess the situation. But instead of trying to understand how Jasmine saw things, we ended up saying unloving things about Jasmine and judging her harshly. We even thought about how to craft the most strongly worded, passive-aggressive text message to her.

Eventually, Alexis and I received a sobering text message from her one evening.

When someone leaves the Church because of a conflict, it’s easy to sweep the entire thing under the carpet and pretend nothing ever happened.

Jasmine was so hurt by what we said that she had decided to leave our Church. Although we never intended for this to happen, I have to admit that even then we were half-relieved that we didn’t have to face her and the awkward situation again.

Looking back, I know we had sinned.

When someone leaves the Church because of a conflict, it’s easy to sweep the entire thing under the carpet and pretend nothing ever happened. After all, who wants to humble themselves to admit they were wrong and apologise?

However, God repeatedly refers to the Church as the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 4:12) and gives us these instructions when it comes to relating with one another:

1. As the Body of Christ, we are called to unite

The Church is the Body of Christ and each one of us is a member who plays a specific role in the family of God. In Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul urges us to live a life worthy of our calling by being humble, gentle, and patient. Unity starts from ourselves.

This means learning to value others’ interests above our own (Philippians 2:3-4) and not being harsh when a fellow brother or sister has done wrong. We are to show them kindness, patience and grace instead – pointing them to God’s way.

Ultimately, it is about recognising the other party as a brother or sister in Christ and doing our part in ministry so that we can grow together in maturity (Ephesians 4:13).

2. As the Body of Christ, we are called to love

The apostle Paul tells us that love undergirds all (Ephesians 4:2). Even though I did not harbour any malicious intent towards Jasmine when I made that comment, my lack of sensitivity towards her revealed my lack of love. And the issue escalated because my friends and I did not consider her feelings and were unloving towards her.

Through this episode, I learned that loving others is not simply a fuzzy feeling but a commandment and a conscious choice we have to make. If we profess to love God, we have to love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:31) — no matter how difficult or unlovable the person is.

When it comes to those who I find difficult to love, I remind myself that God chose to love me even though I’m not lovable myself.

And if God can choose to love someone like me, then I too can choose to love my friend and channel the same undeserving love I have received to my friend (1 John 4:19). I must.

3. As the Body of Christ, we are called to forgive

God showed His love for us by dying on the cross for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). When we truly understand the extent of God’s love for us, we will want and see the need to forgive others.

Forgiveness is a deliberate act on our part. It is not something that is easy, but because Christ has forgiven us, we can forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32). We are called to forgive each other not just once or twice, but seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:21-22). We are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), to seek reconciliation.

In my case, we didn’t do this until our youth mentor forced us all – Jasmine included – to sit down and talk things out. He reminded us that when we are gathered, God is with us (Matthew 18:20).

So as we took turns to explain why we were upset with each other, God worked in my heart so I was able to both apologise to and forgive Jasmine. The session helped us to understand the situation from each other’s perspectives and forgive each other.

Although Jasmine has left my Church, I’m thankful that all of us have forgiven each other and are reconciled. Today, she goes to another Church but we still hang out together regularly!

Through this episode, I have come to realise that harmony and unity in the church is difficult to build when we are all so different and sinful. Our relationships will never be perfect and at certain points, we are likely to end up offending or hurting others.

But God used this episode to teach me ultimately that harmony in the church is something all of us have to work on. We cannot take unity for granted.

Reconciliation and humility require supernatural strength and effort, which we can only achieve through God’s strength. However, if we act from the belief that God’s love binds all of us together, then we can be the Body of Christ God longs to see.


This article was first published on YMI.today. It is republished here with permission.

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