One thing you can know for sure, pastor, is that in the course of your ministry you will be sinned against. You’ll be misunderstood, falsely accused, and unfairly judged. Often this will happen in your relationships with those with whom you are ministering. When that happens you can choose to carry a list. You can give way to the temptation to punish the other person. You can choose for disappointment to become distance, for affection to become dislike, and for a ministry partnership to morph into a search for an escape. You can taste the sad harvest of relational détente that so many church staffs live in, or you can plant better seeds and celebrate a much better harvest. The harvest of forgiveness, rooted in God’s forgiveness of you, is the kind of ministry relationship everyone wants.
Forgiveness stimulates appreciation and affection. When daily we forgive the people we live and minister with, we do not look at them through the lens of their worst failures and biggest weaknesses. As we talk honestly, weep and pray, and repent and reconcile, our appreciation for each other grows and our affection deepens. We quit looking at the other person as the enemy. We stop protecting ourselves from those who work and live nearest to us and begin to work together to build walls of defense against the many threats to ministry relationships that exist in this fallen world.
Forgiveness produces patience. As we respond to God’s way in a daily lifestyle of confession and forgiveness, we begin to experience things we never thought we would see in our relationships. We begin to see bad patterns break, we begin to see one another change, and we begin to see love that had grown cold becomes new and vibrant again. When we experience hard moments and God gives us the grace not to give way to powerful emotions and desires that would take us in the wrong direction, we experience the practical help and rescue his wisdom gives us again and again. All this means that we no longer panic when a wrong happens between us and those with whom or to whom we minister. We no longer take matters into our own hands in the panic of hurt and retribution. We no longer try to be the other’s conscience or judge. No, we are much more relaxed in the face of failure and willing to patiently follow God’s commit-confront-confess-forgive plan. The hardships of ministry relationships have helped us practically see that his grace is bigger than any difficulty we will ever face in our relationships. So we are able to rest and wait, knowing that God is at work, even when ministry relationships have left us exhausted and discouraged, and that he will not quit working until his work in us and our relationships are complete.
Forgiveness is the fertile soil in which unity in relationships grows. When as a pastor you are living every day in the confession and forgiveness pattern of the gospel, you are forsaking your way for a better way. Your relationships are no longer a daily competition for who has power and who is going to get his way. You no longer see the other person as a threat, wondering just when he will once again get in the way of your ministry desires or goals. You are not obsessed with your comfort, pleasure, and ease and with the fear of how or when the people near you will interrupt them. No, forgiveness puts you on the same page with each other. You have both submitted your desires to the desires of Another. You no longer try to build your own little ministry kingdoms. You now work together for God’s kingdom. You now live with the same set of expectations and rules. You now have the same way of thinking about and addressing problems. And together you celebrate what God has given you, together being aware that you could never have done it yourselves. You now experience unity like never before, because forgiving grace has liberated you for a higher purpose and a better daily plan.
Remember, God put people in our lives not just to help us expedite our ministry plans, but to show us the better way of his grace. So we learn to make war, but no longer with one another. Together we battle the one Enemy who is after us and our ministries. As we do this, we all become thankful that grace has freed us from the war with one another that we used to be so good at making.