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About this series
Relationships Under Pressure
Keeping it Together When the World's Falling Apart
In this series, Chip takes a biblical look at some of the many reasons why even our best and closest relationships suffer hard times. He addresses topics like why we fight with those we love, why we all struggle with anger, how to resolve inevitable conflict, that the only person I can genuinely control is me, and finally, that the art of speaking the truth in love is a gift - and goes a long way toward building great relationships that last. This series will help you understand the beauty of grace in the context of a world full of selfish, broken, petty people - including you! So, join Chip and get on the solution side of keeping it together when the world is falling apart.More from this series
When was the last time you lost sleep and what was the issue? Maybe this last week, last month.
Now, here’s the answer: Most of the time it will be a relationship issue. Most of the times that you lose sleep and I lose sleep there’s something wrong, there’s a problem, there’s a conflict, there’s something meshing not quite right between you and another person.
It might be a family member, it might be another Christian, it might be a boss, it might be an employee. But we lose sleep.
And yet Jesus says, for those of us that are in the body of Christ, “Live in harmony with one another.” Literally, the phrase there in Romans 12:16 is, “Be likeminded or think the same thoughts.” Be on the same wavelength. Be in agreement as believers.
I did a little research and, you know, it’s amazing. We use words all the time. Webster’s, I adapted it a little because he had about a half a page on this. Harmony is, “A state of agreement, the combining of differences in such a way that the unified blending of various parts produces a thing of beauty and impact.”
When people sing a cappella, it just really gets me. It’s really powerful. Because it’s all the different parts combined and blended in such a way where there is great beauty and impact. And here’s what we’re going to learn: God’s desire for the body of Christ, God’s desire for the Church, God’s desire for you and for me is that we take our differences, our personalities, our backgrounds, where we have been, our little different theologies and we blend them together to make something that is beautiful and has impact.
Now, you might say to yourself, “Oh yeah, unity, harmony, I know that’s important.” Wait a second. You have no idea. How important is harmony? Let me show you.
First of all, the very last night Jesus was on the earth, you know what He prayed about? He didn’t pray about strategic planning, He didn’t pray about provision for the disciples. The last time ever recorded when Jesus was alive, He is alone with the Father, He is at the Mount of Olives, the other three guys are asleep, this is what He prayed, “My prayer is not for them,” verse 20 of John 17, “I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message,” that’s us, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” Do you see what’s at stake?
Verse 22, “I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one.” Is that amazing? “I in them and You in Me, may they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.” How important is harmony? It’s the strongest prayer in the Bible.
According to Jesus, it was the last, most important thing He asked the Father for while He was here. But that’s not all of it. Not only Jesus prayed for it but Scripture commands it.
The New Testament is rippled with command after command after command about our relationships in unity and harmony with one another. Romans 12:16, “Live in harmony with one another,” it’s a command. And then it adds, “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” By the way, the problem with harmony is in that verse too. It’s usually our pride.
Romans 14:19, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 15:5 and 6, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus,” why? “so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort,” how does that sound? “Make every effort,” do whatever it takes to do – what? “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Philippians 1:27, “Whatever happens,” the apostle Paul writes, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, then whether I come to see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know.”
Here is a guy that is on death row and what is he asking, what is he pleading, what is he commanding? “That I may know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.”
In chapter 2 he writes, you know, “If,” and it’s in the clause in the original language it means, really, “since,” because he raises them up and says, these are so obvious. “If you have any encouragement” from being united with Christ, obviously the answer is we’ve got tons of it; “if any in comfort from His love,” if you ever get any comfort from God, oh you get tons of it; “if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then…”
In other words, if God has ever done anything for you, at any time, deeply in your heart or in your life, “Then make My joy complete by being,” here’s our word again, “likeminded, having the same love, being in one spirit and purpose.”
You getting the idea? I mean, this is strong. This is really strong. And there’s a lot at stake. How important is living in harmony? Number one, Jesus prayed for it. Number two, the Scripture commands it everywhere. Number three, the early Church practiced it. They heard these words and the early Church thought that what Jesus prayed and what they were told was not some sort of idealistic, “Well, no one can really get along at that level and God doesn’t really expect it to happen.”
You know what the early Church thought? The early Church thought, “God said it. We need to obey this.” The early disciples, His early followers said, “There is nothing more important on the heart of Christ than us getting along with one another, from the heart, authentically, sincerely, and genuinely.”
Notice what happens. The early Church in Acts 2:46. It says, “They continued to meet together in the temple courts, they broke bread in their homes, and they ate together with glad and sincere hearts,” very interesting word. It means it was legit. They weren’t going through the motions. They weren’t just being polite to one another. They met, they shared, they shared life.
In fact, as the favor continues throughout the early Church, it’s growing, expanding, it’s grown to eight or ten thousand members by chapter 4 at least. And in verse 32 of chapter 4 it says, “All the believers,” thousands of people now, “were one in heart and mind, no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.” Listen to this, verse 34, “There were no needy persons among them, for from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales, put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as they might have need.”
That’s taking it pretty radically, isn’t it? That group said, “Caring for one another, living in harmony, one mindedness, in agreement really matters.” And when they practiced that, the world was transformed.
Notice verse 47, after describing the unity of the early Church it says, “Praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And then the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” You see this pattern all through Acts, all through Acts, all through Acts, all through Acts. Even when there’s conflict, and they resolve the conflict, and then there’s unity again, there’s this little phrase, “And the Lord adds to their number daily.”
I want to tell you something, this isn’t one of those, “Let’s live in harmony, let’s join hands around the table and sing Kumbaya.” This is a passage that says, “At the deepest level, when your background and your background are totally opposed, when someone injures you, when someone wounds you, when someone treats you terribly,” Jesus said, “Unity in the body of Christ is a nonnegotiable.” You do whatever it takes, as far as it depends on you, to make it right. Why? Jesus prayed for it.
Secondly, Scripture commands it. Third, the early Church took it literally, radically, and practiced it. And as we see, their practice answered Jesus’ prayer, didn’t it? In order that the world may know that God sent the Son.
See? More than all the great reasoning, more than all the great books, more than all the great philosophy, the greatest apologetic on the face of the earth is believers loving one another in unity, authentically, in harmony, despite ethnic differences, socioeconomic differences, background differences, personality differences.
I mean, anybody can get along with people who are like them and agree on everything. There’s no testimony there. The power is when the world sees you and sees me interrelating at an authentic level that the only answer is, “God is doing something in those people.”
Now, I have read a number of passages, I tried to bring them hard and fast, and I hope you’re feeling a little bit emotionally like, whoo, like the wind has kind of, like we’re driving with the top down. Because we were! I wanted you to feel the force of Scripture, the force of, “Whoa, this isn’t, like, here and there.” No cute stories in that introduction. It’s just, whoo, whoo, this matters to God.
Now, what do we want to do? I mean, I’ve got all the same struggles you do. The problem isn’t understanding how important it is. What’s the problem? It’s practicing it.
So, let’s do a little research together and let’s find out what causes disharmony in the body of Christ. Now, obviously, there are lots of reasons but what I thought I would do is I would pick out about five reasons right out of Scripture. The early Church was not, like, these people tiptoeing through the tulips and, “Oh, Peter! John! Good to see you! Oh, it’s wonderful! How’s the wife? Kids? Oh, bless you, brother!”
Imagine trying to get along with a guy like Peter. They had personality conflicts, they had struggles, they had theological conflicts. Let me walk you through and give you a brief overview of what causes disharmony or conflict.
The first one is growth or change that leads to unmet needs. Whenever things change, even good change, it alters the equilibrium in relationships and it forces us to adjust to maintain harmony.
Acts chapter 6 verses 1 to 7. It’s our first example. The early Church is blowing and going, man, it’s a happening place. It gets so big, so big, so big, the early apostles took servanthood so literally that they were waiting on tables and they had so many hundreds of widows and needy people that all of a sudden, a division broke out in the Church. There were some widows who were from a Jewish background, other widows from a Hellenistic background.
Well, most of the early Church were Jews, and the Hellenistic widows were getting a little overlooked, so people were saying, “Hey, what’s the deal? We’re supposed to love one another, what about all those things Jesus said? Our widows are not getting fed like your widows.”
And the early apostles realized, “Why? Why?” Did this occur because anyone was bad? No. It occurred because the growth was so rapid that it created an equilibrium disorientation so the apostles couldn’t handle it under the present paradigm structure.
And so you have the first paradigm shift in the New Testament. And they assigned seven new people, get agreement from the people, and they take over the job of distribution of food, so the apostles can be committed to prayer and the Word. And then in verse 7 it says, “And the Lord added to their number.”
See, all I’m saying, when you grow personally it brings about change. That’ll cause conflict. That’s why moving, having a baby, starting a new job, getting a promotion, all of those things, they’re positive, aren’t they? They are growth, they will create unmet needs in structures, in relationships with people. It’ll cause conflict. It’s not bad but you need to know it’s going to come.
The second reason for conflict is theological differences. Honest differences about what is true cause disharmony and demand thoughtful research and dialogue. Acts chapter 15 verses 1 to 15, we have the first theological rhubarb in the Church. You have people from a Jewish background and you have the apostle Paul who has come to Christ, he is ministering to the Gentiles.
And he goes on the first missionary journey and he comes back and all these people are coming to Christ and God is doing miracles and things are really shaking and baking.
But there are some people from the Jewish background and they are called the Judaisers. Christians. And they are saying, “You know what? We don’t like the way this is going. You have to become a Jew first in order to get to heaven. Now, we all believe in Christ but they have to keep the Law, you have to be circumcised, you have to keep all the temple rites.”
And the apostle Paul comes home and says, “Hey, guys, get a life! That’s not what God told me!” And he says, “Beyond that, anybody who has ever kept the Law before Christ had come, raise your hand. We couldn’t do it, why should we make them try and do it?” He said, “It’s grace, baby! You can get straight to God through Christ. You don’t have to become a Jew.”
Well, man, they went at it. In Acts 15, you have the Jerusalem counsel and there’s research and there’s dialogue and Peter speaks and they reason from experience and from the Old Testament Scriptures and they come together and then there is unity.
There are going to be theological differences, historically in the Church, modes of baptism. What does the Lord’s Supper really mean? Charismatic versus non-Charismatic.
Godly people, differ on those things. Sometimes we need to understand, “What are the majors, what does the Scripture say?” And then on some of those things that aren’t as important, come to a position that, “We understand the Scripture says…” and treat people with tolerance and dignity in the body of Christ. Agree to disagree. Now, we don’t violate Scripture or doctrine but they worked that through and on the testimony of what God said, they went forward.
The third reason for conflict is philosophical differences. It’s like Acts 15 is the conflict resolution chapter of the Bible. And here you have two close, close, great friends. Even godly people, godly people can have differences about the best way to accomplish God’s will.
And that requires very hard, sometimes painful decisions to resolve the conflict. In this situation, you’ve got Paul and Barnabas. They had been on a missionary journey together and they took a young understudy, a guy by the name of Mark.
Mark started on the journey, he flaked out, they’re going to go on the next journey. Paul is the leader, he’s the apostle. He is task-driven, he is highly “get the task done” oriented. The mission is what matters.
Barnabas, what’s his middle name? Son of encouragement. So Barnabas says, “Hey, Paul, I’ve been talking to Mark and he is really going to do better this time. He’s a sweet guy, he just kind of had a bad trip. I’ve been discipling him on the side, doing a little mentoring, and he’s doing really good in Scripture memory now and we have been memorizing lots of verses on endurance.”
I’m kind of adding a little to the story. And Paul says, “Nope. He’s not going.” Barnabas says, “Paul, you don’t understand, we’ve been together, we’re friends, you’ve got to trust me on this one.” Paul, philosophical differe nce, “The mission cannot be put in jeopardy by someone that we know has already failed. God gave me the job to reach the Gentiles. That’s a baggage that we cannot afford to take. He’s not going.”
And then the Word says that Paul and Barnabas had such a schism, and we get our word for “division” or the word for “schizophrenic.” There’s such a parting and it was harsh. And they had to agree to disagree. Well, who was right and who was wrong?
Well, the Bible picks up Paul’s journeys and what he did, but it’s interesting, later in Paul’s life, he sends a letter back, part of the New Testament, and he says, “Send Mark because he is very useful to me. Tell him to bring the parchments.”
See, Barnabas was doing what God made him to do. There’s more than one way to accomplish God’s will, but you need to understand those differences. And when you understand them, sometimes you need to understand, “You know what? Even among the best of friends, maybe this isn’t the right ministry for me to team up with this person anymore. We’ve come to this level and maybe for the glory of God, we need to agree again to disagree.”
The fourth reason for disunity, disharmony in the New Testament is personality differences. Even godly people can rub one another the wrong way. These call for great patience and endurance when the amoral personality traits of another person drive you crazy.
It may even require counseling. It did here. Philippians 4:2 and 3. Two godly ladies, they both loved God, they both had been Paul’s right arm in the ministry and he asked the Church and he asked the leaders, “Will you do a little counseling? Will you help these two ladies to learn to get along?”
They are both godly, they are both used of God, but whatever it is, maybe it’s an introvert and an extrovert. Or maybe one of them chewed their ice, you know? I don’t know.
But for whatever reason, they are both godly people but you put them in the same room and the sparks started to fly. That can happen among godly people. You need to learn to endure, to care, to be forgiving, to put up with some stuff, to be forbearing. But it happens.
And, by the way, there’s nothing wrong too, sometimes in the body of Christ, everyone gets this idea that just because we’re in Christ’s body and we know we’re committed and we’re commanded to love one another, that doesn’t mean you’re going to like everybody the same. That doesn’t mean you’re going to always want to be around everyone the same.
We have had guys come through, great pastors, godly people, they have great wherewithal, God has used them in the past, and then we meet and talk and we’ll go to lunch and try and do something fun, and I’ll tell you what, if they don’t fit.
Hey, does it mean God won’t use them? Does it mean we’re right and they’re wrong? Absolutely not. But here’s what I’m going to tell you, we got a great team, and we’re going to get along with one another, and we’re not going to bring someone on who has a personality that rubs half the people the wrong way. They are going to be one of us. And you know what? I don’t think that’s ungodly. I think it’s wise. Because that personality, that fit, that background is going to be great for some church somewhere! But not here. Life is too short to spend our energy in this kind of conflict.
The final reason is probably the most basic. Carnality. Likely the most common of all sources of disunity and disharmony, plain, old-fashioned sin and selfishness are still the primary culprits in relational conflict. The answer always is repentance, confession, and forgiveness, and following God’s commands.
See, the fact is that the real reason, 1 Corinthians 1:10 to 13, the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 3, “I have heard among you, brethren, there are actually divisions among you,” Paul says, “and I believe it because some say, ‘I’m of Paul,’ some say, ‘I’m of Peter,’ some say… ”
And at the root of it was their carnality. Paul writes and says, “I’d like to talk to you as mature [believers] but I can’t. You are so small minded, you are so selfish, you are so into the politics of the Church, you’re so into your own agenda, you’re so using the Church of God for a platform for your own ego strokes.” He says, “We are not flat out putting up with that!”
In fact, one of the strongest words, powerful, strongest statements in all of the New Testament is 1 Corinthians 3 about verses 16 and 17. And it talks about the Church there, the “you” is plural, speaking of the Church plural, and basically it’s a warning that if you mess with, if I mess with unity in the Church of God, the very hand of God will come down on you.
See, this unity stuff is real big to God because a disunified Church communicates to the world that Jesus wasn’t sent by the Father, that the faith isn’t true, and that this is nothing other than a glorified Lion’s Club, Rotary Club, or Kiwanis Group. All wonderful groups, by the way, not all commissioned to save the world, not all commissioned with the life-saving message of Jesus, fully God, fully man, resurrected.
See, we are not a social club. We’re an army, we’re a family, and we’re people with a purpose. And part of that purpose is we must live in harmony with one another.
I came across a list of various personality traits that give us problems. There’s the critic, constantly complains and gives unwanted advice. These are really the carnal type personalities that we have all experienced. And I’ll do this to jog your memory because I have an application at the end that you might think, “Ooh, mm, I know that person I need to talk to.”
The martyr, forever the victim and wracked with self-pity. The wet blanket, pessimistic and automatically negative about everything, all the time. The steamroller, blindly insensitive and runs over people. The gossip, spreads rumors and leaks secrets. The control freak, unable to let go and let be, if it gets out of their hands, out of their control.
The back-stabber, the irrepressibly two-faced person; the cold shoulder, the person who disengages and avoids contact when there is conflict; the volcano, builds up steam and is ready to erupt, we just don’t know when or where; the sponge, constantly in need but never gives anything back.
The workhorse, always pushes and pushes, no matter what you do, they are never satisfied. And the chameleon, the person that is eager to please and always avoids conflict.
What am I saying? I’m saying that there are lots of legitimate reasons for conflict that godly people have. Our personalities, our sin, it’s not a good reason but it’s one, isn’t it? And until Jesus comes back or you go to Him, we’re going to struggle with that, I’m going to struggle with that, we’re going to have theological differences, we’re going have philosophical differences, and just change. Every time there is change, even good change, is going to bring conflict.
So, here’s the deal, if there are that many situations that cause disharmony, and we’re commanded to live in harmony with one another, here’s the question I want to spend the rest of our time on. How can we restore harmony in relationships? How can we restore what God commands, Jesus prayed for, the early Church practiced, and when they did, it was transforming? How do we do it?
First, refuse to tolerate disunity. As far as it depends on you, Romans 12:18 says that. “Be at peace with all men, as far as it depends on you.” Refuse to tolerate disunity. As far as your relational network goes, you know there is a problem with you or with someone else, just don’t let it happen. Address it. Don’t avoid it, it won’t go away; don’t procrastinate, don’t buy that lie. “Oh, it’ll get better, I’ll give it time.”
Yeah, like an infection. You know, “Just give it time.” What’s it do? You get gangrene! That’s what happens in the Church. “Oh, well, someone will tell them.” “Yeah, who is it bothering?” “Me.” “Then, you tell them.”
Third, don’t delegate it. That’s a coward’s way out. You know, we find someone, “Why don’t you go tell them about that problem over in our church? They are really messing up our Bible study group. You think you could tell them?” No, why don’t you tell them?
Fourth, don’t rationalize it. That’s denial. Unresolved conflict is not an option in the body of Christ. Unity is a nonnegotiable.
I came by a quote that is, I think, one of the saddest quotes in commentaries I have ever read, ever, in my life. When I think about America, when I think about what God longs to do, when I think of the power of the gospel, when I think that you have been sealed with the Spirit, that God wants to do a great work…
Lyle Schaller has been a guy around for about forty years consulting with churches, crisscrossing in all kind of denominations, para-church, churches, here is his observation as he has been around the country in the last forty years. “On any given day, three-fourths of all church’s ministry is significantly reduced because of non-productive and destructive conflict.”
He also said that conflict is so severe in one-fourth of those churches that the conflict has to be reduced before the church can solve or do anything.
Seventy-five percent of the churches in America are spending inordinate energy doing what? Fighting! Fighting! And a fourth of them can’t even get out of the blocs because they are so inwardly focused, at each other’s throats. Does that sound just like the opposite of what Jesus prayed?
I’ll tell you what, it takes hard work, it takes everyone involved, it takes a nonnegotiable, “we will take it to the limit,” attitude about disunity. But don’t tolerate it.
And, see, that’s an issue of the will. That’s where it starts. When there is disharmony in relationships, in the body of Christ, one of the options is not, “Let it go.”
Second, embrace conflict as normal and unavoidable. John 16:33, Jesus promised us, “In the world we will have tribulation.” Why? It’s a fallen world, there’s your flesh, there’s my flesh, we have multiple differences, and the enemy’s number one agenda is what? Divide and conquer.
Conflict is normal, learn to deal with it, embrace it, and grow from it. The fact of the matter is the times when I have grown the most have been the worst conflicts in my life. Why? You get desperate, don’t you? I don’t like to confront people, I don’t like to look at issues in my heart, I don’t want to deal with deep things that keep coming up and one, two, three, four people tell you the same thing over a period of years.
It’s that old adage: “Bob has a problem with Sue, Bob has a problem with Bill, Bob has a problem with Barbara, Bob has a problem with Sue again…” What’s the problem? Bob.
There are certain little things, just like a wheel in my life, that keep coming back. And I realized, you know what? The conflict has caused me to look at those.
Third, be the initiator in conflict resolution. Be the initiator. You say, “Well, it’s not my fault.” The Scripture says it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. Matthew 5:24 says, “When you come to the altar to worship God and there remember your brother has something against you, go to your brother, lay down your offering, go make it right.
Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother has offended you, if he has sinned against you,” what? “you go and if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” In a word, when it’s perceived to be your fault, take the initiative. When it is perceived to be their fault, take the initiative. If there is a problem, take the initiative. The body and the health of Christ’s Church is more important than who is right, who is wrong, and who ought to apologize first.
We’ve got people sitting at opposite ends of the churches all over America for ten, fifteen, fifty years waiting for that other person to come across the aisle and say, “It was really my fault.” That’s ludicrous. That’s carnality. And it’s sad. Take the first step, regardless of whose fault. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness.
Who took the first step with us and God? Who had the problem? Who brought on the problem? Us. Who took the initiative? God. Who left heaven? Jesus. Why? We had a problem. Conflict resolution. He came, dealt with the conflict, lived a perfect life, conflict resolution, made an offer, and whosoever would desire to come, you can come because He didn’t wait to figure out whose fault it was. He knew that. It was ours. Take the initiative.
Fourth, deal with you before you deal with them. Luke 6:41 is that classic passage about the speck in your eye and the log in your brother’s. What I mean by this is don’t be impulsive. Own your part even if it’s, quote, in your mind, “Five percent of this was me but ninety-five percent of it was them.” Okay? Tell you what, here’s what the Word of God says, “You own your five percent and you repent of your five percent and you go and tell them you are sorry for your five percent.”
Well, will they then own their ninety-five percent? I don’t know. That’s not your responsibility, is it? See, we don’t do what God says because we’re promised results, we do what God says because He says it. Get your perspective before you try and give it to someone else.
Finally, meet together ASAP and outline the issue. Alright? You’re not going to tolerate, right? You’re not going to let disunity, disharmony go. You’re going to embrace it and say, “God is going to do something good. This is going to be painful but I’m going to do it. I’m going to take the initiative.”
You’re going to deal with the “you” before you start to deal with the “them.” And then meet together as soon as possible.
Now, here’s what you do, you ready? You work on this.
At two o’clock in the morning, I’m struggling with an issue, and struggling with a very, very close friend and it was more, I saw some symptoms, and the week before I had talked to him and he is of the personality and giftedness that when you mention something casually it’s usually bang, bang, bang. I mean, the world happens.
And it was a week later and couldn’t quite figure it out and then I learned he was kind of frustrated with his job, and I was getting kind of frustrated with mine, and I was thinking, “What’s the deal here?”
And so, here’s what you do. First, the what. Calmly describe what you perceive the other person is doing to cause the problem. And so I did. I think there’s a problem and I told him, “This is what I think you’re doing to cause that problem.”
Second is the how. Tell them how it makes you feel. And I told him, “Man, I am frustrated. I’m really frustrated.” And then I learned that I think he was more frustrated than me.
Then next, the why. Tell why this is important to you.
And then the question. Notice, “What are we going to do to fix it?” See, I knew it wasn’t a “his” problem or just a “my” problem. We’ve been working together a long time. In fact, before the service I asked him, “Is it okay to share this?” He looked at me, he said, “Yeah!” There’s no emotional stuff here. We do this so often, so forthrightly all the time, there are people that come into a meeting that we’re in and look at us like, “Oooh, I think I’ll catch you guys later.” I mean, it’s just out there!
Why? Because he loves me. He always tells me the truth and I try hard to tell him the truth. He’s better at that than I am.
So, then I got to, “How are we going to fix this?” How are we going to fix this? And then we sat down and we talked, and he talked about what his job is doing to him, and I talked about what my job was doing to him, and what are his responsibilities, and mine, and how do we look at this? And what I think they ought to be, and what he thinks they ought to be, and then we came to, “Boy, yeah, we need to address that.”
And so then you encourage their response and feedback. Someone has said, “Fifty percent of the time when you go to a person, they didn’t even know there was a problem. Thirty percent of the time they are more than willing to work at it.” So, eighty percent of the time when you go and talk with someone, you’re going to get a great response. We think it’s just the opposite.
And then write down the desired action. This is a central step.
After I stayed up all night, then I went to my little donut shop and I read my Bible and I prayed and then I got a napkin, I wish they would get better napkins because it was very hard to write on, and I wrote down what I thought the issue was, I wrote down every single thing, and then I came up with a specific game plan of what I thought we needed to address this issue, for he and I to work in a way that would be productive for the kingdom of God and he have some sanity, and me have sanity as well. And so I wrote it down and I gave it to him.
Then, set a specific time to revisit. Patterns don’t happen overnight. Patterns aren’t broken overnight. And so what I realized – see, I could give you all the stuff on this – is that my first response to life when it’s not going well, this will surprise some of you, is anger.
Because I seem like a really nice guy up here and on good days I am. And that’s part of my personality that just loves to be with people. Underneath that real nice person that likes to be with people, I, on those tests, come out real high “D.” Make it happen, here’s the task, take the hill, what’s the problem, we agreed on this, there’s what we’re going to do, why aren’t we doing it?
Now, I have learned and I’m trying to say it and learn how to do that in very, very nice ways.
And so, some of the things are falling through the cracks. Well, my first reaction is I am angry. So, from two to three I’m angry. From three to four I’m figuring out why. By five I’m realizing, “You know what? You know who really has a problem?
I’m asking him to see a big picture and do things for other staff members and by five thirty, what I realized is, I’m asking him to do what I am not doing for him. Guess where the problem landed. Right back in the center of my desk. It wasn’t his problem. It was my problem. His lack of perspective, of getting sucked into things, who does he report to? He reports to me. What’s my job? My job is to make sure that he does only the most important strategic things. I dropped the ball. I blew it. I have to own it. But you set a time so that you can address it. So, Monday at eleven fifteen, he and I are going to get together. I’ve got a game plan, I’ve been thinking about it, and, man, we’re going to get together and we’re going to meet every Monday at eleven fifteen so that I keep my focus and he keeps his because I have not done a good job of giving him what he needs to minister effectively.
Finally, commitment by both sides to put the issue in the past once solved.
So, now, don’t turn the page yet, okay? I hear those papers rustling. Please don’t turn the page because I want to tell you something. We happen to get along really, really well and so there are parts of this that are a great example. The good part of this example I like because I actually did what you’re supposed to do. I was really happy about that.
Now, however, sometimes when it’s really messy and there’s not a lot of freedom and it’s hard to speak the truth in love, you get it resolved and then you don’t make this final commitment by both sides to put the issue in the past once solved.
What this means is you don’t bring it up to others. You don’t tell. I asked permission. And because it’s not a problem anymore, you don’t bring it up to people, “Well, you know, I had this problem and I was talking to her and, yeah, we talked and we met.” No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. It’s done. Shh. You just, shh. You don’t tell anybody else.
Secondly, don’t bring it up to this person again. If it’s solved, if it’s behind you, you may meet, you may work through it, but in the heat of another argument don’t pull out of your bag, “Well remember that time when you did…?” No, mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, mm. You’ve let loose of that, that’s gone, that’s foreign territory.
And finally, here’s the big one, don’t even bring it up in your own mind and your thinking and fantasizing. Don’t replay the tapes of what they did, when they did it, how. It’s resolved, isn’t it? Bang, it’s done. You have power over what goes in your mind, how you think, and how you don’t. Stop.
Hey, “Lord, thank You.” The enemy will come in and just stir that pot, stir that pot, stir that pot. So you meet together, you say – what? Calmly describe the problem, how it makes you feel, why this is important, and then the question, “How are we going to fix this?” You answer the question by encouraging their response, write down the desired action, what are you going to do? Set a specific time to follow up so you do it, and then make a commitment together, “This is in the past.” You got it?
Number six is, “If resolution does not occur, follow the biblical guidelines of Matthew 18.” And all I’m going to do is read them. There are four steps in Matthew 18. You go to them and you love them and you share your heart and you do it with a right attitude, you go to a brother, you go to a sister in Christ, and they basically stiff arm you and say, “Get out of my face,” in sort of a nice or an un-nice kind of way.
“If your brother sins against you,” step one, “go and show him his fault just between the two of you.” Step one is personal confrontation. “If he listens to you, you have won your brother,” it’s over. You’re done.
Step two is small group confrontation. “But if he will not listen, take one or two others so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
Someone they respect, someone they think is objective, someone that actually is objective would even be better. And you go back and say, “You know, we’ve got to get this resolved. Unity is nonnegotiable in the body of Christ. And so I want to bring so-and-so and so-and-so that they can get in on this so that the data and the fact and if it’s my perception or yours, whatever.”
Step three is you take it to the church. If they refuse to listen to them, the small group, tell it to the church. “And if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
That’s hard. That’s how important unity is. Psalm 133:1 says, “How good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.”
In your heart of hearts, as I close, will you agree, before God, tonight, to address the relationship issue that God has brought to your mind during this message? Think it through, do it this week. But commit to live in harmony with one another.