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When It's Time to Say Good-bye

A lady made a difficult decision to come and talk with me recently. She wanted to tell me her family was moving on to another church. It was not an easy conversation for either of us. She had served faithfully at Living Streams for several years. I never like people to leave our church, especially those who love God and help with ministry.

As we talked, I learned she had been frustrated with one of my leadership decisions. She also said her husband was responding better to the teaching in the church they started attending. Though I make some poor decisions, I didn’t apologize. I made this decision after consulting our leaders, and seeking God with fasting and prayer. I thanked her for having the courage to come and say good-bye, and for her honesty. I was sorry I hadn’t reached her husband.

I was raised in a home where our parents, and the eight children, had lots of conflicts, but we loved each other. I remember my dad pointing and saying, “If anyone wants to run away, there’s the door.” None of us ever ran away. As we grew older, if we weren’t coming home for dinner, or we were spending the night with a friend, we would let our parents know our plans. I always thought that was common courtesy. Yet in churches, where we are called to build our lives together in love, people often leave without saying good-bye.

Jesus said, “This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:17). The Apostle Peter said, “Above all, love each other deeply” (I Peter 4:8). Our love for each other is the Lord’s priority for us. It is impossible to love one another and not grieve when our relationships are broken. Occasionally when someone moves to Phoenix and joins our church, they tell me they miss their friends back home. I consider that a sign they built meaningful relationships. It is healthy to miss people they love. It takes time to establish depth with new friends.

When people move from one city to the next, they usually sell their home, and always take their bank accounts, stocks, and financial assets with them. Yet many people move without counting the cost to their relationships, and often fail to maintain them. Most people say they value relationships more than money, but few people act like they do.

One of these days, I will write my last newsletter, preach my last sermon, and kiss my wife for the last time. I hope those days are a long way off, but it is inevitable for all things to end. Sooner or later, I will release my spirit to the Lord. In the meantime, I want to build the closest loving relationships I possibly can in the body of Christ. I want those relationships to cross racial, denominational, and national boundaries. I hope these relationships will be lifelong bonds of love, because God blesses those who love His children.

God builds His house as we join our lives together in Christ. As we are joined together like living stones, God inhabits our relationships with His presence and glory. I’ve had the benefit of a loving family and the blessing of God in our church. We all make poor decisions and offend those we love at times, yet love covers a multitude of sins. The sacrifices love requires are a small down payment for the grace we receive when we obey Christ’s commands. Jesus loved people deeply, and gave His life for His friends. He showed the best way for any of us to invest our lives.

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