In the last several posts I’ve been taking about a consultation with the leadership of a church that was struggling with moral failure in a recovery ministry. Over the hours that this team sweated large and small stuff related to the recovery ministry woes they faced, they had to face a hard truth: relationships are conditional. Yes, yes, love is unconditional. But healthy relationships have conditions. This doesn’t sit well with our desires to be merciful and gracious. Mainly I think because we have failed to fully develop our own deep and wide understanding of the concepts of grace and mercy. But also because — let’s face it — love is yummy. Limits are sometimes challenging to accept. One afternoon we looked at two passages of scripture that dealt with banishment: 2 Samuel 14:14 and Deuteronomy 30:4. We also hopped over to Jeremiah 29 and considered what God asked the Israelites to do while living as slaves in Babylon. (Lest we forget, they were experiencing a GIANT timeout/banishment as a result of their own stubborn resistance to God.) Here’s what we noticed:
- No wonder Paul was ragging on the Corinthians! They were proud of the expulsion but missing the point. God is ALWAYS finding ways for banished people to find their way back home. Banishment isn’t intended to be punishment so much as it is a tool for restoration.
- Banishment is sometimes necessary. In their situation, they had to at least determine (see how they are progressing through the stages of change?!?) if it was the tool they needed to use in their particular situation.
- Even in the midst of suffering, God’s people are given a way to move through the suffering. They accomplish this by keeping a rigorous eye on thriving. Thriving is described in Jeremiah 29 as suffering AND continuing the work of building community.
Part of our contemplation as a working team involved calming down and remembering our core values. Next, we made a conscious choice to live by them. This required us to practice making amends. The guy who muttered the “too much estrogen” comment had to make amends not only to the female he insulted, but he had to deal with the larger issue of gender bias. The team then had to identify how their core values would change the way they were processing. This took FOREVER! They worked for several meetings just on how to have crucial conversations without decreasing safety in the room. They had to learn about active listening. Look, it’s possible to get really old and never acquire these skills. But this team was willing and ready to learn. This posture of humility helped them when the time came to analyze the failure of the staff person that caused all this mess to begin with. Having had their own shortcomings exposed at times during this process, they were a gentler, kinder crew when they got back to tackling the original issue.
Are there skills that you lack that you need to go acquire before you can expect to see the fruits of your transformational labors?