Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘healthy relationships’

Don’t be a Diplomat

This blog is the sixth in a series on Relationship Rescue.  Have you ever tried to identify the 10 most important New Testament principles for healthy relationship?  Stay tuned as Pastor Tim tries his hand at the Ten Commandments of Healthy Relationship.

#5: Thou shalt not be a coward.  On many occasions, cowardice is spelled d-i-p-l-o-m-a-c-y.  You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?  A friend turns our conversation into a personal attack on a third party.  Maybe I actually realize the charges are untrue.  Or perhaps I simply realize the comments are unfair because the other person isn’t here to defend himself or share a contrasting viewpoint.  But I resolve to be “diplomatic.”  I don’t have to get involved in this sticky wicket.  I can simply sit quietly, pretend I know nothing, and eventually go on with my life.

In Galatians 2:11-14, Paul recalls an incident when Simon Peter somehow got caught up in criticism and hypocrisy.  Peter realized that God was calling Gentiles to become Christians.  As a result, he  used all kinds of social occasions to break bread with non-Jews, dine with them, and look for chances to share the Gospel with them.  But one day when he found himself with some highly respected Jews who were stern and legalistic, Peter decided to be a diplomat for a few days.  He pretended that he agreed with them that Jewish Christians should avoid Gentiles, and should demand that Gentiles must first become Jews before they could become Christians.  This was so phony and so destructive that Paul corrected him for being false and allowing new believers to be injured.

Peter not only knew the truth; he knew this harsh opinion was harmful and destructive to Gentiles who were coming into the Church.  But maybe he wanted to maintain his respectability in the eyes of this out-of-towners, or maybe he just figured he was too busy to get bogged down in this particular controversy.  But Paul wisely concluded that there is something more important than respectability.

Some practical guidelines for dealing with friends:

  • When a friend divulges information about another person that is harmful or destructive, I should reply, “I’m sorry.  Before we continue, let’s clarify: why are you telling me this?”  If there’s nothing I can reasonably do to correct the situation, this is just gossip- even if it happens to be true.
  • When a friend shares a problem he has with another person, I should reply, “Have you spoken to him about this?”  If his answer is no, this is not an effort an reconciliation.  It seems more like an attempt to create interesting conversation.
  • When a Christian friend shares information critical of another person and desires my opinion on how to respond, I should first ask, “Have you prayed about this?”  If the person hasn’t yet spoken to God about these issues, she certainly should not be creating prejudice and suspicion in my mind.  I don’t need to be harsh or rude; just be a Christian adult.

Don’t let people draw you into their sin.  Sometimes silence is golden.  Sometimes it’s just yellow.

Lift up the Cross!

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Love or Addiction?

This blog is the fifth in a series about the Relationship Rescue.  We’re searching for the ten most powerful New Testament principles about building healthy relationships.  What would your Ten Commandments of Relationship be?

#4: Thou shalt not encourage irresponsible behavior.  Have you ever heard a bad actor screaming at a loved one, “You made me do it?”  No doubt, they’re generally wrong in passing the blame, but sometimes those miserable men and women are half right!  Do you have a Bible handy?

What you read in Galatians 6:2-5 may seem contradictory on the surface.  In verse 2, Paul directs us to”bear one another’s burdens.”  Two verses later, he observes that each of us must carry his own load.  People in Bible Study groups often get bogged down in this text and wonder if one of those statements is a mistake.  But in the original Greek language, the two ideas fit precisely together.  When Paul directs us to bear one another’s burdens, the Greek term in question denotes a huge, ovewhelming, crushing weight.  It conjures images of an unexpected crisis that appears overwhelming.  By contrast, when Paul explains that each of us must carry his own load, the Greek word speaks of a backpack- the kind a soldier or hiker might carry.  A backpack is reserved for the routine, daily necessities of life.

On one hand, God desires that you and I be responsible.  Each of us is expected to develop healthy priorities, recognize the things we require for life and success, and plan to take care of those responsibilities.  We should teach our children to develop responsible behavior, and we should encourage the same among relatives, friends and co-workers.  On the other hand, we should recognize that life can occasionally send an unexpected tsunami that threatens to overwhelm somebody we love.  When someone finds himself at risk due to unanticipated and overwhelming circumstances, we should be glad to rush in and prevent the victim from being swept away.

Here’s the bottom line: If you want to help a spouse or a friend get sucked down the toilet bowl of irresponsible living, it’s really simple.  All you’ll need to do is regularly help that person carry his daily backpack of responsibility.  When he forgets it day after day, you rush home and retrieve it for him.  When he loses it through careless living, you neglect your own “To Do” List to search for his lost backpack.  When she wastes the essential resources of daily living on foolish decisions time and again, you put your own resources in the “victim’s” pack.  And before long, your spouse or friend will come to believe that being irresponsible, selfish, immature, careless, impulsive and foolish has no real cost or consequences because someone else will always come along to take care of any problems.

  • You see, that’s one reason careless people do stupid, impulsive things over and over again.  They have a “special friend” who will always come along to pick up the pieces or cover the losses.  When you are that “special friend,” we call you an Enabler. (And believe me, you’re not so special.)
  • An Enabler may rationalize this away and say, “I only do it because I love her.”  In fact, that’s not true.  Real love encourages responsibility and healthy living.  The reason I enable a loved one to continue pursuing a reckless life is because I enjoy that sense of  being needed.  This person really needs me!  And if I allow this person to continue this kind of life, I will probably always have this person around to make me feel “loved.” (Did you ever wonder why Michael Jackson’s inner circle failed him so miserably?  The answer begins with an “E.”)

So let’s be honest.  Encouraging bad behavior in other adults is not about compassion.  It’s about settling for the illusion of “power” in another adult’s life.  It’s about trying to ensure that I won’t eventually be all alone.  Of course, when that other person finally self-destructs or finds another “special friend” with more resources than you, you will lose your power and your companionship anyway.

So let’s be responsible.  Encourage responsibility.  Extend grace when others are threatened by unexpected catastrophes of life.  And learn to know the difference between a backpack and an overwhelming burden.

Lift up the Cross!

The Plastic Version

Gavin DeGraw’s new CD has a great song called “Candy” built around a refrain that’s almost biblical.  “We have our lives to bear/ Our bags to burden/ But we just buy and we wear/ The plastic version of/ Love, hope, understanding./But we can’t survive on candy.”  The more we center our relationships around social media and cell phone text messages, the more plastic our version of 21st Century love becomes.

It strikes me that our lonely, hook-up society is primed and ready for the kind of message the Church teaches best.  Our faith is built around the concept of unconditional love.  Our Bible is full of principles about loving other people above self, dealing tirelessly with failed human beings, cultivating genuine love in a wilderness of meaningless sex.  Our Lord enjoyed full, satisfying relationships without the benefit of marriage, sexual immorality, or kinky perversion.  And he has called us to enjoy the same kinds of relationships with other human beings.

But we have this nagging problem- our marriages and friendships don’t seem so much better than those our unbelieving friends are enduring.  In fact, sometimes our version of friendship is even more plastic and worthless than theirs because we think it’s spiritual to pretend we love people when, in fact, we can hardly countenance them.  We can sit in the same room and sing hymns, but don’t ask us to sit at the same table and share a friendly conversation.  We are Christians in principle, but in practice we are atheists.

During these Christmas holidays, I’m going to devote myself to the priniciples of Relationship Rescue!  If there were Ten Commandments that could guide us in satisfying human relationships like marriage and friendship, what would they be?  Over the last several months, many of my Christian friends have helped to prepare me for this moment.  As I have watched people of faith misunderstand each other, disrespect each other, discount the uniqueness of other human beings, and attribute evil motives to people they don’t know well, I have heard the Spirit calling out again and again.  There are some basic, core principles from God’s Word that we shatter on the rocks of cynicism week after week, month after month.

So think about this question for a few weeks: if you were asked to identify the 10 biblical principles which are most applicable to healthy relationships, what would they be?  I dare you to make a list.   I’ll begin to share mine next week and we can compare notes.  So put on your thinking cap.  Let’s find the wisdom of God which our lonely world is dying to hear.

Lift up the Cross!

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