“Let your life be a stepping stone to Christ and not a stumbling block.” 1 Cor. 8:13 & 10:31
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify God who is in heaven." Matt. 5:16
By Dr. Rick Warren
In real fellowship – a friendship or relationship in which mutual support is extended – people experience mercy. Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes are not rubbed in with constant reminders, but rubbed out and forgiven. Fellowship happens when mercy wins over justice.
Everyone needs mercy, because we all stumble and fall, and usually require help getting back on track. Because of this, we need to be willing to offer mercy to each other – and be equally willing to receive it from one another.
You cannot have fellowship, whether in the workplace, a community organization or a family, without forgiveness because bitterness and resentment always destroy fellowship. Sometimes we hurt each other intentionally and sometimes unintentionally; either way, it takes massive amounts of mercy and grace to create and maintain fellowship.
The Bible offers this wise admonition: “You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:13).
The mercy God shows to us should serve as the motivation for us to show mercy to others, regardless of the circumstances. Whenever you find yourself being hurt by someone else, you have a choice to make:
Will I use my energy and emotions for retaliation – or for resolution? You cannot do both.
Many people are reluctant to show mercy because they fail to understand the difference between trust and forgiveness.
Forgiveness is letting go of the past. Trust, however, has to do with future behavior.
Forgiveness must be immediate, regardless of whether a person asks for it. Trustmust be earned and rebuilt over time.
Trust requires a track record. If someone hurts you repeatedly, you are commanded by God to forgive them instantly, for your own benefit as well as the other person. Lack of forgiveness can become an emotional cancer, a lingering, lethal source of bitterness.
However, you are not expected to immediately trust the person that has hurt you – and you are not expected to continue allowing them to hurt you. When people inflict pain in your life, they must prove to have changed over time before they can regain your trust. One of the best places for restoring trust is within the supportive context of a small group that can provide both encouragement and accountability.
But while you are giving people time to make positive changes, your first step should be to extend forgiveness, independent of whatever remedial action they choose to take.
Consider this insight from the Scriptures: “When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won’t give up in despair” (2 Corinthians 2:7).