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Lent 2024: Week 2 – Restored Relationships

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Lent 2024

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Theresa Sese

Contributor: Theresa Sese

Theresa’s journey with world missions began with Pioneers Australia in Papua New Guinea, and by God’s grace it has gone on. Today, Theresa works with Tearfund’s partner Moorditj Keila, coordinating their Driver Education Program, which gives young Aboriginal people an opportunity to reset and connect with a community of support. Theresa and her husband work with Indigenous people for Churches of Christ in Western Australia.

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Genesis 50:15-21, Luke 23

When I think of a story about restoration of relationships in the Bible, I think of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis chapters 37 to 50. Joseph’s story is the story of glory through suffering, being exalted through humiliation at the mercy of his brothers and Potiphar – a pre-echo of Paul’s ‘Christ Hymn’ in Philippians 2:5-11. Despite the wrongdoing that Joseph experienced at the hands of others – being abused and sold into slavery, lied about, defamed and imprisoned – he did not take revenge or harden his heart against people. He restored relationships through setting an example of accountability, integrity, honesty, forgiveness and healing of old wounds.

We can learn a number of things from Joseph’s efforts in seeking to restore his relationships with his brothers. Reading through chapters 42-45 of Genesis, Joseph provides opportunities for his brothers to be accountable for their wrongdoing: to be trustworthy after their anger and jealousy which led them to selling Joseph to the Midianites (Gen 42:13 -16); to be men of their word, this time by bringing Benjamin to him (Gen 42:20); to be honest, telling him about Benjamin and Jacob his father (Gen 43); and to protect Benjamin and provide justice for him when the cup was found in his bag (Gen 44).

Even in the midst of his grief, Joseph offered forgiveness and kindness, making the way for the relationships to be restored. By revealing who he was (Gen 45) Joseph even helped to restore relationships for the rest of his family. Jacob’s old wounds and sorrows needed healing, and Joseph helped restore truth in place of the lies his brothers had made about him.

Sometimes we will be like Joseph, called to restore relationships by offering mercy and forgiveness to those who have wronged us.

Joseph’s restoration with his brothers points to a greater restoration to come – not only for the future generations of Joseph’s family, but for all of us, through Jesus. And through Joseph’s story, I believe God in His sovereign grace provides guidance for Christians on some aspects of restoration of relationships. It is also a confirmation of Romans chapter 8:28: that ‘all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purposes.’

Sometimes we will be in the position of Joseph’s brothers, in need of mercy and forgiveness. Sometimes we will be like Joseph, called to restore relationships by offering mercy and forgiveness to those who have wronged us. We are called to restore relationships following Christ’s life and example. It’s not always easy. It can be difficult when close family or friends are in the wrong do not see their fault, and do not want to be corrected or refuse to tell the truth in order to be restored in relationships or when old hurts are brought up in arguments. In these moments I have prayed and trusted God to work out ways to restore relationships, just as Joseph did: “Am I in the place of God?” he asked. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…” (Genesis 50:19-20).

We see Jesus entrusting restoration to the Father at his crucifixion, an even more significant example of Joseph's story. Like Joseph’s brothers, the Jewish leaders felt threatened by Jesus, and worked against him. Throughout his ministry Jesus was rejected, misunderstood and wrongfully accused. The crowds called for his crucifixion, Pilate failed to act with integrity and justice, and the soldiers made a mockery of him. Yet Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ (Luke 23:34).

Before he died, Jesus said "It is finished,” and I believe this victorious cry had every Christian's name beside it. Therefore, restoration of relationships belongs to Him and as Christians we are to obey and trust Him to continue His work through us.

Chenoa’s story

In 2017, Chenoa and her partner and their children moved to a new part of Western Australia in search of a fresh start.

“We had a lot of pressure on us, still being young and going out on our own trying to find a way as a family,” she says.

In the years that followed, they faced challenges in finding housing and employment, as well as relationship tensions.

“We didn’t have the tools to behave properly towards one another or to communicate the best,” explains Chenoa.

Regular counselling sessions, a parenting program and support to find work and housing all helped set them on a healthy path. Chenoa also attended a program run by Tearfund’s partner Moorditj Keila, an Aboriginal community organisation based in South Perth which runs a range of projects aimed at strengthening and supporting the local community. Tearfund partners with Moorditj Keila on its driver education program.

Chenoa
Chenoa and her partner and their children moved to a new part of Western Australia in search of a fresh start.

While doing the course she met Theresa Sese, who coordinates the driving program. Theresa says she’s found that Moorditj Keila provides a space in which people are able to share about what’s happening for them.

“In Moorditj Keila, God has provided a comfortable and accepting environment,” she says. “I have found that as people feel comfortable, they open up and share about their relationship issues, and I walk alongside them and support them to restore their relationship. I could be the only one walking with them in their journey of restoration of relationships or I could be one of the people in this process.”

That was certainly Chenoa’s experience. “I attended the program with Moorditj Keila for my driving lessons to make life a bit easier on our family,” she says. “And I’m grateful to have met Theresa, the lady that has always supported me and took time to understand the struggles I was going through at the time. She was such a blessing … and the love she showed drew me closer to have meaningful conversations about God.”

She says God has “given me all this courage, hope and humility to be able to carry on through whatever challenges I faced”.

“With school routines, I changed from my kids missing days to hardly ever missing a day and being late, to also asking for support in the school if I need it.”

“My kids have been excelling in school … I’ve just always been trying to improve my lifestyle and way of living,” she says. She and her partner have recently reconciled. “We both aim and strive to do better than our last story and make this chapter better and brighter for ourselves and our children,” she says. “Through every dark night there is a brighter day to be able to start over and try again.”

We both aim and strive to do better than our last story and make this chapter better and brighter for ourselves and our children. Through every dark night there is a brighter day to be able to start over and try again.

Chenoa

Peace Bridges, Cambodia

Tearfund’s partner Peace Bridges Organisation is working in Cambodia, a country that is still feeling the deep scars from a horrible history of violent genocide, and resulting intergenerational trauma. There is much that we, as followers of Jesus in Australia, can learn from this work about how relationships can be restored, even in very hard places.

Originally conceived to help pastors and churches provide mediation and conciliation services, Peace Bridges’ vision has deepened and expanded over several years and now they also provide long term training and support to over 100 community peace builders. This includes outreach work to do peace education in prisons, schools, churches, NGOs and other community organisations.

Lent 2024 week 2a 1
Tearfund’s CEO Matthew Maury (third from right) with Peace Bridges in Cambodia.

Peace Bridges staff tell of their goal to foster the vision and skills for non-violent communications with strategically placed peace builders who can spread the vision, values and skills throughout their circles of influence, starting with their families and close community relations, and spreading through wider circles of influence in their churches, communities and organisations.

Tearfund’s CEO Matthew Maury recently spent time with Peace Bridges in Cambodia. He says: “During my visit I was able to hear stories of the impact of their work – relationships being healed, forgiveness being made real, and fullness of life being experienced in new and deeper ways. Kingdom change breaking through. They are seeing a truly transformational impact that breaks the cycle of violence and hurt and provides hope for a new future trajectory.”

Reflect

Use these questions to guide your personal reflection or your discussion as a group.

  • Theresa reflects on Joseph’s story (Genesis 42-50) as an example of someone seeking restored relationships. What stands out to you most about Joseph’s example? Do you notice any parallels between Joseph’s experience and that of Jesus?

  • “Sometimes we will be in the position of Joseph’s brothers, in need of mercy and forgiveness. Sometimes we will be like Joseph, called to restore relationships by offering mercy and forgiveness to those who have wronged us.” Think of an example from your own life where you have been in one of these positions. What did it feel like? Have you experienced restoration in the relationships involved; if not, what is a step God is inviting you to take towards this?

  • Despite our best efforts to reconcile relationships, sometimes the other person/s do not demonstrate a shared desire for reconciliation. How does Jesus show us how to be people of restoration in such situations?

  • ‘Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.’ (Bryan Myers, Walking with the Poor). How do you think our broken relationships with others leads to the poverty we see in the world today?

  • Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. How does this passage shape our understanding of and approach to restored relationships?

Pray

Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy
Amen.

Pray with us

  • Give thanks for the individuals and organisations that inspire positive change. Pray for Theresa and other staff and volunteers of Moorditj Keila, and praise God for the safe and supportive space they create through the work they are doing.
  • Pray for people who are involved in the work of peace building, especially in places impacted by conflict and division. Ask God to bless and protect peacemakers, and give them pathways to share God’s love in meaningful ways at times of crisis. We’d love you to join us in praying for Tearfund’s partners in Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Myanmar and Afghanistan, as they face the unique challenges of working amidst conflict.
  • Pray for your local church, that it would be a place of restored relationships and harmony as people seek unity in Christ.

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