Special photo: Susan Bennett
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Opposites attract?” I really think it’s true. And I always wonder why there has to be one of EACH in every marriage or friendship.
One person is an extrovert –– loves to be out among ‘em, high-energy, talking and socializing –– and the other is quieter, more of an introvert, whose idea of a great evening is to stay home and read or watch TV.
One person’s idea of a great vacation is to go to a nice hotel, eat at restaurants, and see the sights –– and the other one loves nothing more than roughing it in a tent and getting lots of dirt under his or her fingernails. One person is ultra-organized, papers filed, socks neatly folded and arranged by color, and the other has stuff everywhere and can never find the keys.
AND –– one person always turns the lights off, and the other person leaves them on. See?
I think there’s a very simple reason why opposites attract. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses, and we tend to marry or build relationships with people who are strong where we’re not. We’re probably not aware this is what we’re doing, but we are.
Weaknesses aren’t necessarily sin; we’re just stronger in some areas than in others. So we need help. And we can help the other person where they’re weak. It’s a GOOD thing. But then, however, we fight about it!
Churches are the same way. Jesus says, “If two of you agree together about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” Quite a promise! But Jesus could make that promise with confidence. Getting two Christians to agree about anything is almost impossible!
We have a hard time finding a way to disagree and still stay together. In fact, whole new denominations have been formed because of ONE area of disagreement or another. If the world will know we’re Christians by the love we have for each other, it’s hard to imagine what folks think when they see us fighting as much as we do.
It seems to be difficult for us to accept others as they are. Instead of being thankful that they’re weak where we’re strong, and we can help them, we criticize them. We can’t forgive others when WE feel criticized. We hold grudges, and that leads to bitterness.
I John 1:6 calls this “walking in darkness.” And John says clearly that walking in darkness will affect not only our relationships with each other, but also with God. And if we say that everything’s all right, when it really isn’t, well then, we’re liars, and the truth is not in us.
This is serious business.
John makes a strong contrast between walking in the light and walking in darkness. God is light; in God, there’s no darkness at all. If our relationships are broken, if our heart is dark, we can’t be walking with God. God is perfect light, and our sin is darkness. But this is where John offers such beautiful hope and truth.
According to John, if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If you’ve ever undergone radiation, you know that before the treatments start, the doctor will mark the exact place that’s cancerous, sometimes with a magic marker, so the technician will know exactly where to send the radiation. That’s what it’s like when we confess our sins. We’re coming to God in humility and honesty to say, “Here’s my sin. And here’s what it is. I’m angry and hurt and there’s hatred in my heart and I need your help.”
This is the beginning! We’re opening the door so that God’s pure and perfect light can get in, bringing healing, warmth, and comfort. We get so ashamed of our sin that, sometimes, we can’t stand to open the door, expecting to be shamed and scolded. But we have an advocate –– Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He’s perfect light, and perfect compassion. We’re the blessed recipients of all that grace and love.
All that’s asked of us is honesty. When we’re walking in darkness, we have to be willing to open the door and show God the truth, and talk to him about it. In a word … confess. When we let God in, he brings light and healing –– NEVER condemnation. If we truly believe in God’s grace through Jesus, we can receive his forgiveness and light.
This restores our relationship with God, and also our relationships with others. My prayer is that the day will come when the world will look at the church and see God’s love through the grace and forgiveness we offer to each other, as we leave the darkness and come into the light.
Rev. Susan Bennett is pastor of Stockbridge Presbyterian Church. She and her husband live in Stockbridge with two giant Rottweilers and a 15-pound rescue dog who is the boss of everybody.