In the book of Ezekiel, God sends the all familiar message to his people; change, turn from your sins or you will be punished. It’s not that God wants to punish his people; he simply wants them to live up to his expectations. Ezekiel 18:23 “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” Declares the Lord God.” Rather than that he should turn from his ways and live.”
God created His people, saved them from slavery, rescued them in wars, guided them in peace, and they repaid Him by their turning to other gods. Ezekiel 20:32 “And what comes into your mind will not come about when you say: “We will be like the other nations, like the tribes of the lands, serving wood and stone.” The Old Testament is full of stories of God rescuing his people, and their thankfulness, followed by their turning away to idols. God continued and continues to care for his people with long patience. But what about us? Can we show that patience in our lives? Matthew 18:21-22 “Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Jesus spoke often on our need to forgive each other and on our need to love one another. Who are we to love? God gives us a family; parents, brothers and sisters. In this small group of people we learn how to get along with others. Our family members may be difficult, moody, stubborn, or delightful. All of them are a part of us. If we marry we have to learn to love our spouse and his family. Now we have more people in our circle to accept, with all their flaws and imperfections. Our church family is an even larger circle and within this group there are many personality types. Some personalities are easier to get along with than others. We are attracted to certain people, and they may become our closest friends. There are others that we may instantly dislike, or that have a rough and difficult personality. Perhaps we have a history of problems with a brother and that carries over into our church relationships. Perhaps we were mistreated by another, and now he is a part of our church family. For people that have grown up in the same town, and are part of a church family full of relatives and old school mates, it’s very likely that the presence of a previous bully or unfriendly person could trigger hurt feelings and bad memories. We have to let those go. I have heard one Christian say about another, “That person is not welcome in my house.” How sad. “Love covers a multitude of sins,” 1 Peter 8.
John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” How do we love someone, especially someone that can be difficult? One way is to think more of him than of ourselves. If I want what is good for other people, how can I hate them? If I pray for another person, how can I dislike them anymore? I believe God gave us the people in our lives to train us, to help us grow and to stretch our abilities to love and forgive. God was patient with Israel; can we not be patient with each other? We all have flaws, none of us is perfect, but we are all walking in the same direction, and we all need each other. If we can show love to all people, then also we are showing the world that we are Jesus’ disciples. When we loose patience with weaker brothers, we need to remember Gods patience with us. How sad it is to see a Christian fall, but it is even sadder to see his brothers turn away from him when he does. 1Cor. 12:26, “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”