Yesterday I spoke at Gateway in Austin. You can watch or listen to the entire message here:
Here are some of the thoughts I shared:
“We live in a world where ‘friend’ means someone who can look at your pictures on Facebook, and with a click of a button we can just quickly be ‘unfriended.’ Many times we find ourselves being isolated in our individualized world.
We cannot control the world around us, but we can make changes in how we live our lives and how we treat others. Ask yourself this question: In my life, which do I do more often – create conflict or resolve it?
Often the biggest threat to finding healthy community is ourself. We don’t know what it looks like. We don’t know how it feels. We don’t know what to do or how to pull it off.
All of us experience conflict, the healthiest people know how to resolve conflict in a peaceful way.
Romans 12 reveals four principles that can help us experience and even create healthy relationships.
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:1-2
Once we follow Jesus, we are part of a new family that has a new way of relating to others. Paul is writing to say: “it doesn’t matter what your biological family did or how they related to each other: there is a new way to do things!”
Earlier in this letter to the Romans, Paul described the difference in the way he now saw things. He explained that the Gentiles were being grafted into the family of God. In a culture where the oldest male in the family was THE most important person, he mentioned the story of Jacob and Esau where the tables were turned. The younger brother received the blessing. He tricked his dad to get it, but Paul says God the father can choose who he will love, and He always loves beyond who we want Him to love. “I will have mercy on whoever I want – including the Gentiles.”
A new way of thinking means moving from excluding others for their differences to actually inviting them into this new family. Throughout the Scriptures we discover that those in this new family of God are to become “reconcilers” and “peacemakers” (See 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 & Matthew 5:9).
If you are a follower of Christ, can your family and those closest to you tell by the way you treat them? Is there a difference in your relationships? Or do you continue to operate the way the world does – complain about others behind their backs with gossip, slandering others, cutting them out of your life, defriending them, and so on?
2. Act with humility.
‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us…. Do not be conceited.- Romans 12:3-6, 16
Paul is reminding us that we are all important to each other’s lives. The moment we think we are better than another person is the moment we lose the opportunity to learn from them. Everyone has value. Everyone has unique strengths and talents. No one has failed a spiritual gifts test!
Can you see the unique ways God has crafted those around you? Do you help them maximize who they are or do you just look to see what you can get from them?
“So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” Romans 14:19
When we see others through God’s eyes, we begin to see that what we have in common is that we are all loved by God & need God.
We need to expect the best in others and avoid judging people at their worst moments.
3. Love sincerely.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. – Romans 12:9-13
If you find yourself stuck in a relationship, go back through this list and consider which area you are neglecting.
To ensure we live as peacemakers, Jesus says that the one offended should approach the one who did the offending (Matthew 18:15 – 17) and in another passage He instructs that the one who has hurt someone should approach the one he offended (Matthew 5:23 – 24).
If reconciliation has not taken place after carefully following this process, then we should treat the offending person as someone who does not yet know Jesus. The offending person may no longer have the same responsibilities with us, but if we are to treat him or her as a “pagan or tax collector,” then we are to keep on loving without conditions. Jesus spent his time and energy interacting with pagans and tax collectors, loving and serving them.
With whom do you need to have a conversation today? You’ve let bitterness grow in your heart. They may not even know you are hurt! Maybe you’ve assumed the worst – never giving them a chance to share what was actually happening.
Maybe there is someone in your life that you’ve hurt. You didn’t mean to do so, but you’ve refused to apologize because of you’re pride. If you have a broken relationship, what are you going to do about it?
Talk things through. So often we fight with people in our minds before we ever actually talk! Too often we get in trouble for something we didn’t know we did. We need to communicate expectations rather impose them.
4. Seek revenge sweetly = Respond kindly.
‘Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’. – Romans 9:14-21
Such a different way to relate to the world than our natural tendencies and our experiences with others!
Paul says if you follow Jesus, you are part of a new family that does things very differently. We are to live in harmony and do what is right in the eyes of everybody. Live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on you. There will be some people that do not want to reconcile, so then how will you treat them?
When conflict arises (and it will), bless those who persecute you. Do not take revenge but feed your hungry enemy, give drink to your enemy who thirsts, overcome evil with good.
Sweet revenge means to do the opposite of what you feel. Ironically the person that hates you hates that!
Some of us have a supportive community around us, but many of us do not. If you do, then create room for one more.”