Sometimes Kingdom ministry makes all the effort you put into serving and trying to do some good worth every bit of it. Yesterday in the afternoon after our gathering, I had the opportunity to sit around a table at a local eatery with two brothers who were taking the chance to overcome some hurts between them. Hurst which had broken their relationship.
Two weeks prior, I'd sat with one of them and we talked of how I'd hurt him and he'd hurt me. Jesus engineered the opportunity by bringing us together at a funeral of someone we both knew. Later, at a coffee place in town, we talked of failure and missed opportunity. The hurting was not premeditated on either of our parts. As we headed into the dialogue, there were nerves present, sure; a year ago our attempts to work out things had gone badly; the relationship was in effect deceased. But at that table two weeks prior, there was a desire in both of us to listen and reconnect. It was strong. We'd shared all sorts of life together before, and because of what happened between us, lost a year until finally being able to sit down, and try to make things right, which is the way we're supposed to live in the Kingdom together. All of us know "supposed to's" aren't necessarily always "will do's."
We did work it out and recognized there was a second conversation needing to be had with another brother we were both in relationship with. His was pretty much severed with this brother; mine was not.
So yesterday afternoon, we braved the cold wind, trudged up Main Street, and sat down over coffee at a different coffee place. I was not on the receiving or giving end of this discussion. I was there to listen, and pray, and help if things began to run aground. I supported both these men because they are my brothers.
For much of the next two hours they talked over what had happened. Both men were humble, willing to hear, and open to reconciling. The younger man did more talking than the older, but both were very engaged. Pain was shared and sometimes with tears not far away. No rancor nor defensiveness was present, only trying to understand and forgive ... genuinely forgive. I saw much grace and wisdom in how they talked with one another. The tone of their words and willingness to reconnect built a bridge over which they could cross toward the others side. There were times when we all laughed heartily, and there were other times sprinkled in the conversation where listening well and opening to the other's point of view was fully present.
As an interesting side note, there were folks sitting near us and could hear our conversations. The same was true when I had the dialogue with this young brother earlier. In each instance, people looked at us and heard us talk of tough things, yet remain gentle and willing to change. They knew we were Christians involved in church together. It was obvious by the words we used and the issues we worked through. I have to say, what they heard would in no way have disgraced our witness to the fact we are Christ-followers. I think they heard something different, very real, but full of grace from both sides of the table...the way the Kingdom does and should work when we actually live it.
I don't know if the others guys felt it, I didn't ask, but I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in both conversations. There was a palpable peace, openness, and order, instead of offense, and vitriol, or rigid defensiveness. In the title of this blog, I used the word sweetness. I mean it in the sense of a masculine gentleness and kind forbearance with one another; working well to keep the bonds of filial peace and love; being malleable in relationship to the truth, even that which convicts; and showing forth the heart of God toward one another, realizing all of us were once blind sinners far from God, and needed a cross to make the relationship with him (and one another) right. The Scripture also says where the Spirit is there is freedom. There is a sweetness in being free to forgive, make real peace, and be willing to restore brotherhood in Christ. It's not being weak or nice or feckless. This sweetness is inhabited by the Presence of Christ; it's a fierce love which overcomes our blinded brokenness, and frees us to be human as he lived what true masculine humanity looked like.
If you've read this blog regularly you know I've mentioned before that the Kingdom works when its values, truths and principles are actually applied to real life. More often than we'd like to admit, they're not applied very well, especially when the going is consistently uncomfortable, frustrating, costly or tough. Two weeks ago, and yesterday I saw them applied in two very human brothers, and it left me with quiet joy.