Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘relationship rescue’

Friends Forever

This blog is tenth in a series on relationship rescue.  If you made a list of the ten most powerful New Testament principles for healthy relationships, what would they be?  Pastor Tim’s list is at number nine.

#9: Thou shalt build up thy friends in the faith, and encourage them to press toward the mark of God’s high calling in Christ.

The best gift you can give a good friend is to introduce him to Jesus Christ.  If your friend is already a believer, the most loving thing you can do for her is to encourage her to seek the Lord more intently and allow him to grow her in faith.  That’s what Paul has in mind in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.  “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

We have this quirky idea about relationships.  We tend to think relationships are all about getting something.  Buds share my good times.  Siblings give us honesty.  Parents give us guidance…and money!  Coworkers give us loyalty.  Husbands and wives give us intimacy.  Quite often, we think of ourselves as “The Beloved.”  I’m special and other people are supposed to revolve around me and my needs, right?

This week, try a different paradigm.  Envision yourself as God’s Special Agent.  Your job is to use your relationships to nudge as many people toward faith in Christ as possible.  If you friends and co-workers are believers, encourage them to talk about their faith with you.  If they’re unbelievers, encourage them to talk about their hopes and dreams… and then their fears and questions.  Then share your hopes and dreams with them.  Presumably, you’re dreaming of going to Heaven and taking as many people with you as possible.

Scripture reminds us that just like iron sharpening iron, one man or woman sharpens another.  When my friends spend time with me, I want their spiritual edges to be sharper; not soft and dull.  So I look for ways to motivate them toward the cross.

Some friends have no higher ambition than sharing an evening out, or a movie, or a good laugh.  Paul was all about sharing Christ, building bonds of faith, and growing the Christian community.  I’m with Paul.

Lift up the cross!

Don’t Write a Hollywood Ending

This blog is eighth in a series on relationship rescue.  What are the ten most important biblical principles for healthy friendship?  Which principles would you include?  This is Pastor Tim’s list.

When people talk about a Hollywood Ending, we typically think of two people who overcome all their relationship problems and then ride off into a red and gold sunset together… forever.  In real life, that’s not how it works in Hollywood, is it?  To the contrary, lasting marriages in Tinseltown are as rare as the Hope Diamond.  Kim Kardashian dumped Kris after about two months.  Love goddess Liz Taylor ended eight different marriages in divorce!  Rock bands almost always split up, in spite of all the megabucks they could make by staying together, simply because they can’t get along.  Members of Credence Clearwater Revival still refuse to reunite with lead singer John Fogerty, despite twenty years of holding a grudge.  Sadly, Hollywood Endings are most commonly about crashing on the rocks after one year of bliss followed by two years of being unpleasant.

Ex-con Rodney King was living just outside Hollywood when he posed this idealistic Q: “Why can’t we all just get along?”  A: It’s easier to be proud and hold grudges!

Commandment #7: Thou shalt forgive others as God hath forgiven thee.

In Colossians 1:13, Paul directs us, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  We all know how that happens because it happens all the time.  We spit in the Father’s face.  Guilt and circumstances eventually catch up with us.  We repent and ask for forgiveness.  And as Scripture indicates, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.  This principle is so important that Jesus even warns us that forgiveness will be extended to us only as we are willing to offer grace and reconciliation to other people who offend us.

So why do followers of Christ have so much trouble writing happy endings in 2012?  One reason is that we are too proud to forgive people who have hurt us because they are undeserving.  Of course, that’s the only people who are qualified for forgiveness, isn’t it?  If people have never hurt you, they don’t require any grace.  All offenders are undeserving of forgiveness.  We don’t offer it because of the other person’s resume.  We forgive because we realize that we mess up all the time and the only reason we have any self respect at all is because God is so willing to get over it.  So when you have trouble forgiving, it’s not really about the quality of the other person’s character.  It’s really about your character, your faith and- yes- your deceitful heart.

Here’s an ironic fact: Forgiveness and reconciliation can actually build stronger, healthier friendships.  Jesus forgave Peter and reinstated him as a leader.  Peter forgave Paul and described Paul’s letters as inspired by God.  Christ forgave the people who crucified him and some became lifetime followers.  Some of my closest and most trustworthy friends are people with whom I have bumped heads in the past; but with whom I have shared grace and reconciliation.  I love these guys!

Some people don’t forgive; they just paper over the trouble and move on.  We call these people “enablers.”  They aren’t honest.  They typically don’t think they deserve friends so they settle for fiends instead.  Ignoring bad behavior and pretending everything is hunky-dory is not really spiritual:  it’s deceitful.  Real friends know how to speak the truth in love and be transparent.  Otherwise, they eventually get the Hollywood Ending they’ve been trying to avoid- the real kind, not the movie kind.

So be intentional about forgiving offenders when they repent- even when they repeat.  All your friends are sinners; that’s why they feel so at home with you.  Practice grace.

And lift up the cross!

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!

Why Silence is Golden

This blog is the 4th in a series on Relationship Rescue.  What are the 10 most important New Testament principles for healthy relationships?

#3: Thou shalt cultivate the discipline of constructive silence.  One of my life verses is Proverbs 25:11.  “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”  There’s only one way to cultivate powerful, valuable words like that.  You have to edit your thoughts; refuse to say everything that comes into your head; and train yourself to say the right words at the right moment.  But in a world whose slogan is “If it feels good, do it,” many of us have come to believe that it’s important to always say what’s on your mind.  It felt good to Osama Bin Laden, too, until he heard the Navy Seals charging up the stairs!

Here are some deadly phrases to avoid if you want to build healthy, lasting friendships. Couples preparing for marriage or building a family should also steer clear of these words.  On the other hand, if you’d really rather be a bomb thrower, and you enjoy blasting other people out of your life, these phrases are better than C-4.  Toss em and run!

  • “I think it’s time we should clear the air!”  It’s strange how frequently people fall back on this tactic.  What we suppose we’re doing is laying all the puzzle pieces on the table so we can construct a solution.  But what this really means is that I’m tired of carrying toxic ideas in my head and I would rather relieve my stress than protect this relationship.
  • “You don’t want to hear this, but…” If someone doesn’t want to hear your opinion on some aspect of his life, why do you insist on sharing it- especially when you are most likely angry?  Parents sometimes have the right to impose their opinions and beliefs on their children.  But generally speaking, before you can do this to another adult, you need the other person’s permission.
  • “The problem with you is…”  Well, maybe it’s the other person’s problem.  Or maybe it’s just your insecurity.  Never bring up an error or deficiency in someone else’s life unless a) you’re certain you’re correct about this, and b) you have the other adult’s permission to talk about it.  Even then, don’t introduce it with this toxic expression.

Edit your thoughts.  And rely on Paul’s general rule of thumb for godly thoughts and conversations.  It’s found in Philippians 4:8- “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  If you’re tempted to talk about anything other than that with someone you love, let the Holy Spirit sift it carefully before you serve it.  When in doubt, just don’t say it.  Silence is money.

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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