Do You Have A Cold Shoulder?
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’”
Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)
Christ gives us everything. Everything that is worth having. And this is despite the fact that our behaviour is often rude or inconsiderate. He died for the vilest amongst us. Even after baptism we continue to sin and are unworthy of him. When on earth he was betrayed, he was deserted by his followers, he was mocked and much more besides. It has been speculated that when he was dying on the cross his facial expression must have been one of tremendous emotional hurt as well as deep love. After all, he died for us, we despised him and denied him: who wouldn’t feel hurt?
But he keeps on loving and forgiving, and he commands us to follow his example. This is hard, especially when someone hurts us, not just once but repeatedly. The most typical response is to withdraw from the one who hurts us. We reason “I’ve had enough of you, I really do not like the way you behave, and therefore from now on I’m going to have as little as possible to do with you.” In other words, we say because you’ve hurt me I’m going to avoid you as much as possible so that it can’t happen again. This is colloquially known as the cold shoulder. Thank God that Jesus doesn’t take that approach with us, but how saddened he must be when we do it to one another.
Cold shoulder treatment is a form of self protection. By withdrawing from the person who causes the hurt we avoid being hurt again. BUT, this isn’t what Christ commanded and it isn’t his example for us to follow. Instead he commanded us to love one another…which is just the opposite response to that of self protection.
How should this love work in practise? And how should we respond when we find ourselves on the wrong end of situations such as those we’ve been discussing? If we read the whole of the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians we get a good insight.
*Love is patient: when someone close to you does something annoying or obnoxious ‘yet again’—try not to react. It is tough to do so, but take it on the chin and continue to be friendly.
*Love is kind: continue to be friendly and pleasant despite the real, or perceived, character deficiencies and difficulties of the other person.
*Love is not rude: if we are impolite, ill mannered, off handed or just give someone the cold shoulder, then we are being rude. This is the opposite of love, whatever reasons or excuses we may have.
*Love is not easily angered: this is similar to being patient, but is singled out because human nature is so prone to being easily angered by the inconsiderate behaviour of someone else. Whenever you ‘flare up,’ remember this commandment.
Finally, whenever we struggle to obey these commandments remember what Jesus did for us. He will never withdraw from us, i.e. he will never give us the cold shoulder despite our difficult behaviour. Let’s follow his example.
Father in heaven, you set us the example of patience and love. Help us not to give others the cold shoulder, but to respond with forgiveness in Jesus’ name.
Study by Gary Nichols
Worldwide Church of God Cambridge
Comberton Village Hall
Saturday 2:00 pm
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