I was reading Ray Ortlund's recent article: Job, Broken Friendships and Reconciliation. Below is me basically thinking out loud about the article and sharing a few cool things I learned along the way. This is all about getting us back to a gospel culture (that has been damaged) that glorifies God.
Job's friends thought the problem was somehow with Job. SOMEHOW Job screwed things up. They were desperate for the WHY behind what was happening. They needed to understand because bad things happening to good people was threatening. They thought they had God and life understood, controlled, managed. They wanted a god who responded to their "If/then" lifestyle, which was really a god of their own making: If I do good, then God will bless me. At one point I remember them saying to Job, in essence: "just repent of the sin you might not even know of, and God will turn things around for you."
But Job maintained: "I didn't sin here guys, but God chose to body-slam me anyway." Job didn't understand why but his transformation came in that he eventually stopped seeking God for the WHY. See Chapter 42.
Ray Ortlund says:
"He stops hoping for an explanation from God. He reproaches himself even for expecting it. He says a profound “Yes” to this: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). So God accomplishes a work of renewal in Job’s heart. But God does not say to him, “Job, you know very well why I did all this. You sinned here, and here, and here. Remember?” God never joins with Job’s accusers. God is not the Spanish Inquisition."
I recall Francis Chan saying of the scripture phrase "His ways are above our ways" as better understood as "His ways are foreign to our ways." No doubt Job and his friends would agree here. Often we enter storms and circumstances and pain and suffering that we just don't understand and won't understand no matter how much we want to. Just think of cancer found in someone who you think just doesn't deserve it. Perhaps even in yourself, at a young age. The question though is not WHY CANCER but WHO IS OVER THE CANCER. And the cool thing is we are invited to write our own chapter 42 transformation narrative, and join Job in saying Yes to the God who loves us and gave himself for us.
The startling thing I learned here about Job's story was that the problem was really never with Job but with his friends and their view of God. They do what many of our well-intentioned friends try to do: arrogantly set themselves up as gods, saying as Ray writes: "Job, we represent God. He is like us. So if you satisfy us, you will satisfy God.”
Broken friendships can so easily lead to broken thinking. Dangerous thinking, in fact. Job could have given in, but he didn't. He maintained his integrity and God used him. Ray says "By holding onto his integrity, Job was ready to serve them when everything in their relationship with God was on the line." The Lord ended up accepting Job's prayer for them and then amazingly restoring his fortunes.
The Startling Way of Reconciliation
Ray then makes the link between Job Chapter 42 and the path of restoration the Lord gave us in Luke 17:3, which I found very interesting:
(1) a brother sins against us,
(2) we rebuke him in a careful, restrained way,
(3) he repents and owns up and makes it right, and
(4) we forgive him — restoring the friendship and bringing great glory to God.
And here is the Stott quote Ray mentioned that had me in deep thought:
"Forgive if he repents..." The way forgiveness is based on condition of repentance has me thinking. Why? Because elsewhere I recall Jesus seemingly showing the reverse order to the woman caught in adultery: forgiveness first and then "go and sin no more."
Deep vs Shallow Love
Does deep love forgive first or wait for repentance first? The answer is both, right? Forgiveness must include repentance for any chance of reconciliation to happen. Forgiveness works on one who knows they need rebuked, who knows they are sick, sinful and broken inside. The rebuke must have effect (take root) for there to be an authentic restoration to take place. Some of us know all too well the sadness of seeing a careful rebuke lead only to a hardening of the heart.
Our God has so forgiven us, so we should so forgive others. Extend grace to the one who sins against you (which comes in the form of rebuke), but be prayerful/hopeful of God to do a work in them that leads to repentance. It might not come quickly, and you might have to rebuke more than once, but a cheapening of forgiveness can result from short circuiting the process and not waiting for the repentance. It shows you don't really care for that person's soul and their sin isn't as big a deal as you say.
Think fast: your friend's life just imploded, what do you do?
Hopefully we don't set ourself up as god.
Hopefully rash judgments won't be made.
Hopefully we'll seek reconciliation the way our Lord has shown us.
Hopefully we'll see a restored gospel culture in our families and in our churches.