Broadcast

In Relational Conflict

From the series I Choose Peace

Is there a person in your relational world who's making you nuts? Would you like to learn how to get a perspective that’ll free you up and relieve the turmoil in your heart and mind? Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you.”  Very likely, when we pray, peace is often what we ask for - peace in the world, peace at home, and maybe most of all, peace in our relationships - but what did Jesus mean when He said His peace?  And how could that make a difference in our problem relationships today?  If you or someone you know is struggling with a difficult relationship, this message is for you.

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Message Transcript

Peace is a gift and it’s a choice. And you can have it if you have never had it, but here is what I can also tell you, as a follower of Jesus, I experience that peace and I have actually figured out ways to quench it so I don’t experience it.

I have learned how to worry, I have learned how to be uptight, I have learned how to focus on the future, I have learned to get in conflict with other Christians and other people including my wife where that peace just dissipates.

So, begin thinking: is there any relational conflict in your family? One of your kids, a roommate, at work, a neighbor? Because we are going to talk about how you can choose peace and literally experience restoration.

With that said, you’ll notice on your notes there are three approaches or what I would say, there are three sources of peace. And I mean this by sources – when I say what I am going to say, don’t think everything is terrible or wrong with a couple of these things. There are some great skills, but as a source.

In other words, one source in our day would be: peace is within you. You just need to discover it. It’s inward. Key words would be meditation, relaxation, you need to center. Okay? And that the peace is your harmony with the cosmos, but where you need to look for peace is within.

The second source we are told about peace is outward. Words like achieve, conquer, control, perform.

In other words, the peace is out there. You need to accomplish this, conquer that. You need to get into a good school, get great grades, find the right person, get a great job, live in a nice home, drive a nice car, achieve certain things, have a certain amount of money. And somehow, someday, as you do all those things and you achieve and conquer and perform then your desires and your circumstances will align and then someday you’ll have peace.

That’s the Western way, the American way. The first is more Eastern. Now, don’t get me wrong. Are there some good things we learn about maybe breathing to take away stress or stretching or are there goals that we learn from achieving and growing? But I’m talking about the source.

A movie came out and it told the story of the richest man in the world at the time: J. Paul Getty. And the story of the movie, I think it’s called – I didn’t get to watch it but I read the review – it’s called All the Money in the World. And in 1973, he was the richest person in the world.

He was bringing in about, the oil business alone, twenty million a day. dddAnd the story goes on of a man who is consumed with money. He had five divorces and it’s interesting, near the end of his life – if the outward could deliver, this guy has everything.

At the end of his life, they said, “Do you have any regrets?” He said, “I have two.” He was not on speaking terms with his children. “I would give all the money,” think of that, “all the money away tomorrow for one good marriage and personal peace in my heart.”

You can’t buy those, can you? But even as followers of Christ, you can not experience those.

The third is the upward. It’s words like trust, depend, abide; words like faith and love and obey. You see, the peace of God isn’t some ethereal something that you can discover with alignment. It’s not achieving things. Peace is actually a person. Jesus said, “My peace I give to you, not as the world gives, but My peace I give to you.”

In other words, when I turned – I didn’t know this happened – from my sin and I invited Christ to come into my life and forgive me, He takes up residence and He seals me by His Spirit and the person of Jesus in the person of the Holy Spirit lives in you and there is a control and a goodness and a calm.

In fact, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…for those who don’t know…love, joy, peace. So, as I am abiding, whether circumstances are up or down, relationships good or bad, the stock market goes north or south there is a supernatural peace, the Bible says, that transcends understanding, that He will keep you in perfect peace as your mind is stayed on Him because you trust Him.

That’s what we are talking about. When the world or the dictionary defines peace, it’s usually the absence of things. Notice, I put the definition in your notes. It’s the absence of disturbance and hostility; it’s free from internal and external strife.

In other words, we think peace is just, it’s calm. We are just getting along. There is no big thing out there or there is no big conflict within here.

The word peace and the kind of peace we are going to learn about and choose and enjoy is a peace that is not just the external or just the internal – it’s something that God adds. The Hebrew word is shalom. And we know it means peace. But the word shalom is way, way bigger.

There are four aspects of shalom. First, it’s the complete soundness or wholeness of health. It’s a peace of your mind, your body, and your emotions. Second, it’s harmony in relationships. You have shalom in your marriage, shalom with your neighbors, you have shalom at work, you have shalom with the body of Christ.

Third, it’s success or progress with your purpose. In other words, there’s great peace in: I was made to do this. I am in line with the Creator of what He made me to do and I have ups and downs, but I am doing it. And there’s a peace.

There are people that spend their whole life wondering, Should I be in this job? Should we really live here? Should I do that? There’s no peace. And there’s the FOMO. There’s always the fear of missing out so, Maybe I should be doing this. Oh, maybe I should be doing this. Oh! Maybe I should be doing this. And you have this acid going around.

Peace may be the greatest thing God could ever give you and if you’re a follower, you have it. It’s a choice. In fact, the shalom is victory over your enemies. It’s that God will protect you. Jesus’ last words on the last night, He said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you; I do not give as the world gives.”

And then what a great line for us, the world where it’s at, “Do not let your heart be troubled; don’t be afraid.”

“Let not your heart be troubled.” Could I – don’t look at anybody right now. But could I just ask you to ask yourself: Is your heart troubled? For real. Are you afraid? Do you find yourself watching the news or hearing information or worried about your job or convinced in your mind you’re never going to get married, or convinced that the marriage you have is never going to be any good, or – right?

You understand, you can live your whole life with a supernatural peace as a follower of Christ, available, and not choose it. And so, we are going to go through the five things that rob us of our peace in Philippians chapter 4. And the first one is conflict in a relationship.

There’s a question on the bottom of the page. See, this could end up a seminar. And you could be, “Oh, this is really interesting information and I took Psych201 and there are a lot of principles where and, oh, this is really good.” No, no, no, no, this isn’t a seminar.

Here’s the deal: who in your relational network are you at odds with? If you had to come up with a person – a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, one of your kids, a roommate, a neighbor, a fellow worker. If there is someone that you could just whisper, Oh God.

Because, some of them, they are so in the past and we push it down. It was a brother-in-law, it’s an ex-mate, there are issues. And what happens is you don’t deal with poison and hostility and lack of relationship health – bad stuff happens to your stomach and your migraines and your soul. And we are going to walk through a process that the Bible will give about how to get peace when you have relational conflict.

So, I want you to think about: who would you really like to have peace with? Who would you like to say, whoo – as far as it depends on you. I’m not saying that there’s reconciliation and everything is going to be wonderful. But as far as it depends on you.

Who? Because I want you to listen through the lens of that person. Now, for some of you, it’s your mate and they are not here. And your first thought is, Well, I wish they were here, because he really needs to hear this, or, She really needs to hear this.

Because, like me, ninety-five percent of all my relational problems are someone else’s fault. Right? Honest, that’s how we think. So many of our relationships, If my supervisor, if my boss, if one of my kids, if my mom, if my dad. If she or he would just straighten up and get with the program, we would have a great relationship. I am the person in the right and they are totally messed up.

Now, we never say it quite like that, we just feel it and we have emotions and anger and resentment.

What you have in Philippians chapter 4 in the context is this: there is a man in prison named the apostle Paul. There’s a church that he loves deeply. He has been in prison there, a church grew, there’s a deep connection, God did amazing things.

And now there are some struggles in the church. Some people at the end of chapter 3 are drifting away from the Lord. There is some conflict, we are going to find, with people within the church. And he loves them. He so loves them and he wanted to remind them there is hope and there is persecution – even in the midst of this world.

And he reminded them at the end of chapter 3 that, you know what? Jesus really is coming back. There is a heaven that is real.

There is a reality that the only sure hope in the world that we live in is laying hold of our citizenship really is in heaven. But we are to live out this life dramatically different on earth.

And so, he talked about that. And now he’s going to say it’s more than just your individual life walking faithfully with God. He says there is a relationship problem, there’s a relational conflict and he is going to address it.

In verse 1, what I want you to listen for is his heart. Ask yourself, Is he mad? Is he angry? Is this God saying, “Get with the program”? Verse 1, “Therefore, my brothers in whom I love and I long for, my joy and my crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends.”

Would you circle the word in your notes love, long for, joy, crown? And would you put a box around stand firm?

He is saying: we have this hope. We have this peace. God so loves us He wants us to walk this out together. So, I love you and I care for you and what I am about to say, I’m not down on anyone. But when you don’t experience, corporately or individually, the peace that God has already granted, it breaks my heart – is sort of the spirit.

And he says: the way you stand firm is you know where you’re going and you have this hope.

And now he’s going to have a request or, literally, a plea of two ladies that are not getting along. “I plead with you, Euodia, and plead with you, Syntyche, to agree with each other in the Lord.” Circle the word to agree. It’s a very interesting Greek word. It means to be of the same mind, to think the same thoughts.

What we know, we are going to learn, is both of these are really good women. This isn’t a good person and a bad person. What we know from this context, it’s not a moral issue, it’s not a doctrinal issue. But we have two powerhouse people in this local church who have been greatly used of God, and something has happened that they are not getting along.

And when key people in a small group, key people in a house called a mom or a dad, two roommates – whatever it is – when you don’t get along with someone, what does it do? It affects other people.

So, he has a plea in verse 3. He says, “Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women,” would you circle the word help? Sometimes in relational conflict, no matter what you do, it doesn’t get better. You need help.

And then, who are these woman? “These women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, and whose names are in the book of life.”
We learn two things about these women. One, they have contended. He is saying: my right hand; my left hand. These are women that prayed and fasted and gave and we were in the midst of persecution and that little church got birthed and, man, I love them both and they are great people. There is no bad person here.

In fact, I am absolutely certain their names are written in the book of life. So, but, they can’t get along. The phrase here: loyal yokefellows – actually, a proper name – Syzygos. But since no one can pronounce it, including me, many translators take the meaning of the name, which is a loyal yokefellow. And the word literally means someone that can take two oxen and have them be in harmony and walk together.

And what he is saying is: Hey, we’ve got a problem. We’ve got a problem in our small group, got a problem in our church, we’ve got a problem in our family. These people are at each other, they have resentment, they have hurt, it’s affecting the church. I am asking someone competent, can you sit down with them? Probably someone with the gift of exhortation and a wise counselor, and can you help them?

And then in verse 4, he gives a command concerning the relational focus. Because, when there is conflict, what do you do? Who do you think about all the time? You think about this person, right? You’re driving in your car and you have anger fantasies. She did that, she did that, you replay it in your mind, she said that, he did that, I can’t believe that. He thinks he’s a supervisor. He couldn’t code worth a…and then you say that bad about me? That’s unbelievable.

And, What is she thinking? Her in-laws, every time they come, she’s depressed for three weeks afterward. It’s not a good idea. And, Gosh, yeah right, okay. I bring up one more time, “We don’t have sex as often as I would like and she blows up and…” Have I hit enough people yet? Is this real stuff? This is real stuff. This is how life works.

And he says, and so what you do is you get fixated. You have – and you might have ninety percent of your relationship with this person is good but, man, this is…once you get fixated on this, then you know what? They go from being a disagreement to a bad person. You demonize them. “That supervisor? I remember ten years ago, he made another mistake. I think this whole company is in trouble because of that guy and he is my boss,” right? “She said that – she grew up that way – I remember…”

And all of a sudden, you take all the dots of your relational hurt and you rearrange them and they are the bad person and you’re like me: it’s five percent our fault, ninety-five percent their fault.

And then you harden your heart. And so, here’s the command – it’s a command, by the way. “Rejoice in the Lord; and again I’ll say, rejoice!” You know what he’s saying? Get vertical! Get off of them and the problem. He is saying this one not only to the two ladies, but to the whole church. Because when there’s a fight, what do we do? “I’m on Euodia’s side.” “I’m on Syntyche’s side.” In a family, even the kids, “Ooh, mom, dad, mom. Gosh, well, I guess…” Right? In a small group; at work.

Because the one thing we don’t do is we often don’t obey Scripture and we have a problem with a person, what we do is we find two or three people that usually agree with us.

Just go to a coffee shop sometime and act like you have your phones on. And just listen to everybody. Just listen to everybody. It’s really fun, to tell you the truth. And eighty percent of the conversations, “Well, I don’t know what he’s thinking. He plays golf three times a week and he expects me to take care of the kids? Blah, blah, blah.” “Well, my roommate, you know what? The refrigerator, this is my side and this is her side. And I paid for everything and this is what she did.” “And my supervisor, I think he’s on drugs and…” Right? You go to coffee, people are talking about someone else.

And what does it do? Gasoline on the fire. He says, “Get your focus upward.” And not only this, he says, hey, there’s something, are you ready, Christians? You ready small group? Ready family? There is something actually more important than: are you happy, and are you getting along, and is this person going to quickly come and apologize?

He says you have a personal responsibility, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” “The Lord is near” could mean He’s available. But in the context, “The Lord is near,” – “the Lord is near” as He is coming back. That’s what he just talked about. Life is short. You’re going to be judged; I am going to be judged.

So, he says, “Let your gentleness.” We don’t have a single English word to translate this. He is basically saying, okay, get your focus upward in the midst of this conflict – whole church and you too, ladies. Let your gentleness, let your forbearance, let your geniality, let your generosity – that’s the idea of this word. Let your consideration…

As one commentator said, “Let your sweet reasonableness” – the essence would be something that would go like this: be willing to accept less than you’re due in this relationship for the sake of the broader message of the reputation of Christ.

It’s sort of like saying, “You know what? I am not going to be proved right. I’m not going to own not just the five percent I think. I am going to go ahead and own fifty-one percent of this so we get the ball moving. And I am willing to humble myself because this relationship, being right is more important than me being right.” Do you get it? That’s the point. This takes huge humility.

So, how do you do it?

Each of these verses, I think, give us a very specific application about how to resolve or diffuse problem relationships. And you’ll learn in just a minute why I say, “I choose peace,” because what I’m going to ask you to do, in fact, it’s what God is asking you to do is to stop putting it off, stop rationalizing, stop saying it will get better in time, stop saying things like, “Well, I know how they’re going to respond, so why try?”

Relationships really matter to God. And if there’s someone in your family or someone in the body of Christ, especially. And so, number one, resolve to stop procrastinating. The word resolve. In other words, I am going to ask you, as God’s representative for this little, tiny moment, to make a commitment to address the problem relationship that came to your mind in the next seven days. Make a commitment.

It might be the beginning; it might be, “I’m going to talk with someone;” it might be, “Hey, I need to talk with a counselor;” it might be, “I’m going to schedule an appointment.”

If you don’t deal with it, are you ready? You are under stress. It’s impacting your body. A lot of times when we go to the refrigerator, or eat, or drink too much of something, or some of you that are wrestling with addictions – do you understand the problem is not the alcohol, it’s not the drug, it’s not the internet? When there is a lack of peace, when there is that unsettled, that soul, you will fill it with something that will give you a pseudo-peace short-term and then it will require a bigger shot of that something to keep that artificial peace for a while until you find yourself looking up in some ditch with tons of pain.

We have a command. We want to be Romans 12 Christians? Romans 12:17 says, “Respect what is right in the sight of all people. As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” All men. Christians, non-Christians, workers, supervisors, neighbors.

The word respect, literally, it means to consider. And the word is like an accounting term. And it’s a thoughtful, pondering stepping back. It’s consider.

It’s where you get out of: they wronged you and they did this and they did that and here’s all the reasons they should. And you just pause and have an out-of-body experience – I don’t mean this in a New Age way – and you actually look at the situation and you say, “From their perspective, how possibly could they see themselves as being right? Oh. Their gifts are more this way than mine. They come from this kind of a family. They were wounded in the past like that and, oh, well gosh, if I was trying to be objective, those two points were actually pretty true but they made me defensive.”
It’s: how can you consider, not that you agree, just consider what is right in their eyes. You do understand that people don’t wake up like, “I want to ruin every relationship and be a jerk! That’s my goal!” No one does that. When they are being a jerk and ruining their relationship, however they are acting makes sense to them.

So, what you want to find out is: how could this possibly make sense? Because understanding is the first step toward any kind of restitution or resolution or healing or forgiveness.

Second, reevaluate your expectations. Especially those of us that are followers of Jesus, we have this expectation: Christians should never argue. Christians should never have tension in a relationship. Christians should never have a falling out. So, if we do, there has got to be a bad person.

Can I ask you, in this text, is there a bad person? Is there? They both contended for the faith. They are going to be in heaven. Part of Paul is going, “Ladies, you’re going to have a long time. You might as well start getting along now.”

But we have this idea that if there is tension and if you share it – now, sometimes we don’t share it in the best way. But the expectation that everything is going to be Jesus meek and mild. Everything is wonderful.

Or to expect that: “He’s a Christian businessman.” Or, “She is a Christian mom! And she cut me off in the pickup line – we’re the Christian school! And then I don’t think she was pointing to where to go with that finger, actually. And she calls herself a Christian?” “He says he is a Christian leader and…” Right? You fill it in.

So, you’re a follower. All of us that happen to be followers of Christ – so, you have never done that, right? You have never said things that you would be ashamed of? You have never acted in ways…

I’m memorizing a verse right now, because God – some of us are I call rescuers and some of us are warriors. Rescuers want everything fixed. Now. We have to make this right. Everything has to be smooth. Warriors are justice warriors. They are, “You need to see what the issue is and own your stuff.”
Can anyone imagine which one I might be? I married a rescuer. “We can fix this.” Calm, quiet, lovely Theresa. I am like, “That’s wrong! Until they admit they are wrong, until they come clean…”

Here’s your expectation. It’s never going to come out the way you have pictured in your mind of them – in your anger fantasies, “Oh, I just want you to know that everything I said was wrong. I was a terrible person. I can’t believe what I said. You are wonderful and I am terrible. Could we be friends again?” We actually play those things out in our mind.

Conflict is real – New Testament. Barnabas and Paul. Paul is a murderer. No one believes he has really come to know Jesus except one guy, Barnabas. Barnabas says, “Hey, I’ll help you.” Introduces him to the apostles. He goes off; gets some training from the Lord. Years later he comes back and he and Barnabas are a part of launching this amazing church in Antioch where Gentiles, the first Christian church.

And in Acts 13 they are all praying and God says, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Paul,” not Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas is the leader. And his name is “the son of encouragement,” exhortation gifts, loving, very generous.

And he’s got this great intellect, communicator – and so they go on this missionary journey. And God does amazing, amazing things. So, then, they are ready to do another one. And they are discipling people so Paul has found Timothy and he says, “Why don’t you go?”
And Barnabas said, “John Mark, he’s a good, young guy.” And they go on the second journey and as they go on the second journey, John Mark flakes out. It got hard, it got difficult, we don’t have details. He quit and went back home.

Well, now they are ready for the next round. And Paul says, “We need to revisit the churches.” And Barnabas says, “Well, yeah, we’ll take John Mark because he didn’t do so well and I have been,” here’s the Chip Ingram; this is not in the Bible. Don’t look for this little part. Here’s Barnabas, “I have been, he is in my discipleship group and he has abandonment issues, he struggles with commitments and he needs another chance and he is going to make it. He is really going to make it. He needs to go on this trip.”
And Paul, driven, choleric, Type A, mission from God: “No!” “What do you mean, ‘No’?” “I said no!” “He can’t go?” “No.” “Why?” “He flaked. The mission is too important. We can’t put something in the hands of someone who is going to flake again.” Barnabas says to Paul, by the way, this is all Chip. Okay? Don’t be looking for Acts 13.

But it’s the heart of it. And Barnabas goes, “So, who were you? You were a murderer and I helped you out. Where would you be?” “Hey, that’s different. The mission is what counts.”

And, by the way, sometimes we read the Bible and if you have ever been in a Jewish culture and high-powered people, this was not Barnabas going, “Paul, I really think we should take him.” And Paul going, “Well, swell, Barney, but I just don’t really think it’s going to work.”

This went something like this, [makes indistinguishable garbling noises]. They are going nuts. And it was never the same.

Part of your expectation is sometimes, over non-doctrinal, non-moral issues, when you have different styles, different philosophies, some things happen and it’s never going to be the same. And there is not a bad person. And so, that’s how you talk about them, not as a bad person.

Third, get competent outside help, okay? If you are working on a relationship in your marriage, if you’re working on a relationship at work, if you’re working on a relationship with a friend, if it’s someone in the small group and you just keep rubbing each other the wrong way and God has put on your heart, I need to do something so that we restore this relationship so there is peace.

And every time you try, you just get more frustrated and it gets worse, it means you can’t do it. And there is no, it’s not bad. Get outside help.

I have told this and I’ll tell it again and again and again and again because especially for us men, when our wives say, “We need outside help, and we should go to a counselor,” our reaction is, “Well, you can go if you want to, but I don’t need that stuff.”

All the men are looking down. Because it’s true. “Hey, don’t give me that touchy-feely junk.” What we really say is, “Man, that’s an arena that is very, very threatening and I don’t want to look at stuff in my life.” And that’s where I was. I had been married nine months, I was in seminary to learn to preach the Word of God. And I can’t get along with my wife.

I am making a thousand dollars a month and the student discount rate is ninety or ninety-five dollars per session and I did twelve sessions with my wife.

And the only thing that kept me from going, I wouldn’t go for a couple weeks was my arrogant pride that I didn’t want to be seen as someone who was a “seminary student” who couldn’t even get along with his wife.

Humility is the channel through which grace flows. Five years later, we had another little bump. What we realized is we had all kinds of issues to work through, but it was amazing. Then we said, “Okay, well, this isn’t a big deal. Let’s go talk with someone, get it out objectively. We have been talking for hours, it’s not working, and get some help.” The help needs to be biblically wise, someone you respect, someone who is objective, not your friend or their friend, and someone that you can trust to say, “From a biblical perspective, here is how you two can bring some things to resolution.”

And both of you will hear some things you don’t want to hear. And both of you will walk away going, I have now decided to stop demanding the other person change for our marriage to be what it needs to be, because I can’t control that. But here’s what I have learned about me that I need to change and I am going to work on that with You, whether he or she responds or not.

Some of you, that’s your application. For others, it’s a business relationship and you need some outside help.

Fourth, refuse to allow one relationship to ruin your life. If you are a rescuer and it has to be fixed, until everyone sits down, until you feel ooey-gooey about everything and it’s just the way…

And it happens in churches. It’s just crazy stuff. Like you led the Bible study last year but then someone had a health issue and you had to be out of town and someone filled in for you and it’s coming around again and they are asking her to lead it instead of you: “Oh, why did they cut me out?” And you talk to your friends and now they’ve got this…

Or you, how about this one: “I work on the parking team and this was my corner and I love this corner and I’ve got cancer and I was out four months and I came back to the parking team and someone else had my corner. Can you believe it? He’s got my corner of the parking team!” You’re laughing but I have been doing this church stuff for thirty-five years – it’s worse than that!

They changed the colors! We put flowers up here! And we put them here after the funeral and someone put them off to the sides and those were for my husband.

And now they hate everybody.

Do you understand? Some of you are held captive.

I had a little gal, she was fourteen at the time, came up after the service and talked about: her dad left when she was fourteen. And she was in tears and distraught. And this was years later. And I told her, I said, “Are you going to give him the power? Are you going to forgive him?” No relationship since then.

Some of you have a relationship like that and it’s an ex or it’s one of your kids that doesn’t call and you have resentment. Now, I want to give you a tool about how to start a conversation so that in your zeal you don’t blow it up.

And I’ll do that at the very end. But you have to make a decision first. Don’t let one relationship – as far as it depends on you. When you take the step, I’m not even telling you they will respond well. They don’t have to respond well. But when you, as far as it depends on you, have done all that you can, you step back, you be at peace with them.

Because we all have this. But we rarely deal with it.

And part of it is we don’t know how, and the bigger part is that we have so reframed it in our mind: they are terrible and bad and it’s none of our fault.

The worst time I have had in my life was a little over ten years ago. And I felt like, and I’m certain that part of my perspective was really true, but I went through the biggest betrayal of my whole life. And it was the rawest deal. I was so angry, I couldn’t sleep. You talk about the digital alarm. 1:11, 2:04, 3:17. It just, every night like that.

When I had – driving in the car I had to put on music or something or my stomach would grind with pictures of people and what they said in different meetings and I was livid.

And I had a friend really help me and we sat down one day and he was really helping me get through all this and giving me, “Get vertical,” and it was really good. And I had been a pastor for a lot of years. I wasn’t stupid about what I needed to do, it was just hard to do it.

And he said, “Could you do me a favor?” “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, this really is, there certainly are some raw deals here.” “Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Jack, you’re right.” He said, “So, but I want you to do something for me.” “Yeah.” “I want to meet here,” I can tell you right where I was sitting, “next week, right here, same time. Okay?” “Yeah.” “And I want you to pray for seven days. And I want you to list all the mistakes that God reveals to you that you made in all your time and all the specific ways that you sinned against the people in question.”

And you’re my friend? He’s a godly guy. And I did. And I remember coming back and sitting at the same place, getting my Diet Coke, leaning forward, and in tears going, “Well, man, I can see I pushed their buttons. These were such stupid leadership mistakes. And the sin part was hard but I prayed; God showed me these seven things.” I wrote them down and gave them to him.

It’s amazing how much we say, Oh God, I want justice! But from You, I want mercy. And that was the turning point because I realized I couldn’t ask God to give me mercy for all of this and then give me justice for them. And was able to, are you ready? For some of you, just let it go. They are never going to see it that way. For some of you others, it’s not going to get fixed. There’s not a little bow. You’re not going to sing Kumbaya, you’re not going to go shopping together and have lunch again. But you can agree to disagree, you can forgive, and you can move forward as far as it depends on you.

The final point, and I want you to jot this one down, is: remember a right response is more important than being right. A right response is more important than being right. “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Life is too short.

And part of a right response, at least in my experience, is even in apologies – I had a situation recently where I, a conversation got really intense and then I looked at this guy’s face and realized, Oh my gosh. Man, I just poured cold water on him and his confidence, and went home, went to bed. And one of those where God just wakes you up. And, Lord, what am I going to do? That was…

And normal, I’m like you, your flesh will always want to defend yourself and, Well, there was this, this, this, and this. And God said, You know what? I’ll take care of this, this, this, and this. How about this on you? And I just, one of those where it was just so…

Own more than you need to own, if necessary. Because what I can tell you is whatever your perspective is, you are like me, you are more guilty and you are more messed up than you think. So if you think it’s twenty-five percent your fault, go for fifty or sixty.

And I remember just realizing the only thing I could do, as far as it depends on me, I just, “Dear so-and-so, I want to apologize for,” bap, bap, bap, bap, bap, bap. “I want to apologize for saying this,” bap, bap, bap, bap, bap. “I want to apologize for,” bap, bap, bap. “I want to apologize, actually, I said this. I was obviously defensive because it wasn’t even true.” And I was just able to say – this is such a godly man. And I just, I just needed to repent.

And he’s so godly, I saw him two days later, so supportive, so loving, “I got it. You’re forgiven.”

Can I tell you? That’s normal. If you want to accomplish something with your life? You want a great marriage, there are sparks. You want a great relationship with your adult kids, you bring up stuff that is uncomfortable. But you have to bring it up in a way that doesn’t throw gasoline on a fire, but brings truth covered in love.

Turn to the back page and this is all I want to ask you to do is I want you to ask yourself: on a scale of one to ten, what level of stress and concern are you having in terms of any relational problems? And then zip down to question four: is there anyone that, as you’re sitting here, God is saying you need to address this?

And then the question is: who could help you? And the one tool, it’s on the bottom.

It’s not a Christian book but it’s called Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High written by Patterson, Grenny, McMillian, Switzler. I don’t know anything about them. All I can tell you, three or four people told me – finally my son said, “Dad, you are in ministry and you haven’t read this book?” “No!” Well, I read it. And it is the most helpful pathway to love people and put hard things on the table that doesn’t threaten.

I want you to bow your head and I want you to ask the Lord, Lord, what do You want me to do? What do You want me to do? Can you imagine the healing that would occur in families, extended families, small groups, this church, neighborhoods if you, all of us, do what God is showing us?

Lord, we love You, we thank You, and we praise You. And I ask now that You give courage, supernatural courage and faith to every, single person in this room; every, single person that ever hears or watches this, Lord, that You would bring healing because what happens is You will grant peace. And we thank You.  

In Jesus’ name.
So, how do you do it? How to resolve or diffuse problem relationships.

And you’ll learn in just a minute why I say, “I choose peace,” because what I’m going to ask you to do, in fact, it’s what God is asking you to do is to stop putting it off, stop rationalizing, stop saying it will get better in time, stop saying things like, “Well, I know how they’re going to respond, so why try?”

Relationships really matter to God. And if there’s someone in your family or someone in the body of Christ, especially. And so, number one, resolve to stop procrastinating. The word resolve. In other words, I am going to ask you, as God’s representative for this little, tiny moment, to make a commitment to address the problem relationship that came to your mind in the next seven days. Make a commitment.

It might be the beginning; it might be, “I’m going to talk with someone;” it might be, “Hey, I need to talk with a counselor;” it might be, “I’m going to schedule an appointment.”

If you don’t deal with it, are you ready? You are under stress. It’s impacting your body. A lot of times when we go to the refrigerator, or eat, or drink too much of something, or some of you that are wrestling with addictions – do you understand the problem is not the alcohol, it’s not the drug, it’s not the internet? When there is a lack of peace, when there is that unsettled, that soul, you will fill it with something that will give you a pseudo-peace short-term and then it will require a bigger shot of that something to keep that artificial peace for a while until you find yourself looking up in some ditch with tons of pain.

We have a command. We want to be Romans 12 Christians? Romans 12:17 says, “Respect what is right in the sight of all people. As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” All men. Christians, non-Christians, workers, supervisors, neighbors.

The word respect, literally, it means to consider. And the word is like an accounting term. And it’s a thoughtful, pondering stepping back. It’s consider.

It’s where you get out of: they wronged you and they did this and they did that and here’s all the reasons they should. And you just pause and have an out-of-body experience – I don’t mean this in a New Age way – and you actually look at the situation and you say, “From their perspective, how possibly could they see themselves as being right? Oh. Their gifts are more this way than mine. They come from this kind of a family. They were wounded in the past like that and, oh, well gosh, if I was trying to be objective, those two points were actually pretty true but they made me defensive.”
It’s: how can you consider, not that you agree, just consider what is right in their eyes. You do understand that people don’t wake up like, “I want to ruin every relationship and be a jerk! That’s my goal!” No one does that. When they are being a jerk and ruining their relationship, however they are acting makes sense to them.

So, what you want to find out is: how could this possibly make sense? Because understanding is the first step toward any kind of restitution or resolution or healing or forgiveness.

Second, reevaluate your expectations. Especially those of us that are followers of Jesus, we have this expectation: Christians should never argue. Christians should never have tension in a relationship. Christians should never have a falling out. So, if we do, there has got to be a bad person.

Can I ask you, in this text, is there a bad person? Is there? They both contended for the faith. They are going to be in heaven. Part of Paul is going, “Ladies, you’re going to have a long time. You might as well start getting along now.”

But we have this idea that if there is tension and if you share it – now, sometimes we don’t share it in the best way. But the expectation that everything is going to be Jesus meek and mild. Everything is wonderful.

Or to expect that: “He’s a Christian businessman.” Or, “She is a Christian mom! And she cut me off in the pickup line – we’re the Christian school! And then I don’t think she was pointing to where to go with that finger, actually. And she calls herself a Christian?” “He says he is a Christian leader and…” Right? You fill it in.

So, you’re a follower. All of us that happen to be followers of Christ – so, you have never done that, right? You have never said things that you would be ashamed of? You have never acted in ways…

I’m memorizing a verse right now, because God – some of us are I call rescuers and some of us are warriors. Rescuers want everything fixed. Now. We have to make this right. Everything has to be smooth. Warriors are justice warriors. They are, “You need to see what the issue is and own your stuff.”
Can anyone imagine which one I might be? I married a rescuer. “We can fix this.” Calm, quiet, lovely Theresa. I am like, “That’s wrong! Until they admit they are wrong, until they come clean…”

Here’s your expectation. It’s never going to come out the way you have pictured in your mind of them – in your anger fantasies, “Oh, I just want you to know that everything I said was wrong. I was a terrible person. I can’t believe what I said. You are wonderful and I am terrible. Could we be friends again?” We actually play those things out in our mind.

Conflict is real – New Testament. Barnabas and Paul. Paul is a murderer. No one believes he has really come to know Jesus except one guy, Barnabas. Barnabas says, “Hey, I’ll help you.” Introduces him to the apostles. He goes off; gets some training from the Lord. Years later he comes back and he and Barnabas are a part of launching this amazing church in Antioch where Gentiles, the first Christian church.

And in Acts 13 they are all praying and God says, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Paul,” not Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas is the leader. And his name is “the son of encouragement,” exhortation gifts, loving, very generous.

And he’s got this great intellect, communicator – and so they go on this missionary journey. And God does amazing, amazing things. So, then, they are ready to do another one. And they are discipling people so Paul has found Timothy and he says, “Why don’t you go?”
And Barnabas said, “John Mark, he’s a good, young guy.” And they go on the second journey and as they go on the second journey, John Mark flakes out. It got hard, it got difficult, we don’t have details. He quit and went back home.

Well, now they are ready for the next round. And Paul says, “We need to revisit the churches.” And Barnabas says, “Well, yeah, we’ll take John Mark because he didn’t do so well and I have been,” here’s the Chip Ingram; this is not in the Bible. Don’t look for this little part. Here’s Barnabas, “I have been, he is in my discipleship group and he has abandonment issues, he struggles with commitments and he needs another chance and he is going to make it. He is really going to make it. He needs to go on this trip.”
And Paul, driven, choleric, Type A, mission from God: “No!” “What do you mean, ‘No’?” “I said no!” “He can’t go?” “No.” “Why?” “He flaked. The mission is too important. We can’t put something in the hands of someone who is going to flake again.” Barnabas says to Paul, by the way, this is all Chip. Okay? Don’t be looking for Acts 13.

But it’s the heart of it. And Barnabas goes, “So, who were you? You were a murderer and I helped you out. Where would you be?” “Hey, that’s different. The mission is what counts.”

And, by the way, sometimes we read the Bible and if you have ever been in a Jewish culture and high-powered people, this was not Barnabas going, “Paul, I really think we should take him.” And Paul going, “Well, swell, Barney, but I just don’t really think it’s going to work.”

This went something like this, [makes indistinguishable garbling noises]. They are going nuts. And it was never the same.

Part of your expectation is sometimes, over non-doctrinal, non-moral issues, when you have different styles, different philosophies, some things happen and it’s never going to be the same. And there is not a bad person. And so, that’s how you talk about them, not as a bad person.

Third, get competent outside help, okay? If you are working on a relationship in your marriage, if you’re working on a relationship at work, if you’re working on a relationship with a friend, if it’s someone in the small group and you just keep rubbing each other the wrong way and God has put on your heart, I need to do something so that we restore this relationship so there is peace.

And every time you try, you just get more frustrated and it gets worse, it means you can’t do it. And there is no, it’s not bad. Get outside help.

I have told this and I’ll tell it again and again and again and again because especially for us men, when our wives say, “We need outside help, and we should go to a counselor,” our reaction is, “Well, you can go if you want to, but I don’t need that stuff.”

All the men are looking down. Because it’s true. “Hey, don’t give me that touchy-feely junk.” What we really say is, “Man, that’s an arena that is very, very threatening and I don’t want to look at stuff in my life.” And that’s where I was. I had been married nine months, I was in seminary to learn to preach the Word of God. And I can’t get along with my wife.

I am making a thousand dollars a month and the student discount rate is ninety or ninety-five dollars per session and I did twelve sessions with my wife.

And the only thing that kept me from going, I wouldn’t go for a couple weeks was my arrogant pride that I didn’t want to be seen as someone who was a “seminary student” who couldn’t even get along with his wife.

Humility is the channel through which grace flows. Five years later, we had another little bump. What we realized is we had all kinds of issues to work through, but it was amazing. Then we said, “Okay, well, this isn’t a big deal. Let’s go talk with someone, get it out objectively. We have been talking for hours, it’s not working, and get some help.” The help needs to be biblically wise, someone you respect, someone who is objective, not your friend or their friend, and someone that you can trust to say, “From a biblical perspective, here is how you two can bring some things to resolution.”

And both of you will hear some things you don’t want to hear. And both of you will walk away going, I have now decided to stop demanding the other person change for our marriage to be what it needs to be, because I can’t control that. But here’s what I have learned about me that I need to change and I am going to work on that with You, whether he or she responds or not.

Some of you, that’s your application. For others, it’s a business relationship and you need some outside help.

Fourth, refuse to allow one relationship to ruin your life. If you are a rescuer and it has to be fixed, until everyone sits down, until you feel ooey-gooey about everything and it’s just the way…

And it happens in churches. It’s just crazy stuff. Like you led the Bible study last year but then someone had a health issue and you had to be out of town and someone filled in for you and it’s coming around again and they are asking her to lead it instead of you: “Oh, why did they cut me out?” And you talk to your friends and now they’ve got this…

Or you, how about this one: “I work on the parking team and this was my corner and I love this corner and I’ve got cancer and I was out four months and I came back to the parking team and someone else had my corner. Can you believe it? He’s got my corner of the parking team!” You’re laughing but I have been doing this church stuff for thirty-five years – it’s worse than that!

They changed the colors! We put flowers up here! And we put them here after the funeral and someone put them off to the sides and those were for my husband.

And now they hate everybody.

Do you understand? Some of you are held captive.

I had a little gal, she was fourteen at the time, came up after the service and talked about: her dad left when she was fourteen. And she was in tears and distraught. And this was years later. And I told her, I said, “Are you going to give him the power? Are you going to forgive him?” No relationship since then.

Some of you have a relationship like that and it’s an ex or it’s one of your kids that doesn’t call and you have resentment. Now, I want to give you a tool about how to start a conversation so that in your zeal you don’t blow it up.

And I’ll do that at the very end. But you have to make a decision first. Don’t let one relationship – as far as it depends on you. When you take the step, I’m not even telling you they will respond well. They don’t have to respond well. But when you, as far as it depends on you, have done all that you can, you step back, you be at peace with them.

Because we all have this. But we rarely deal with it.

And part of it is we don’t know how, and the bigger part is that we have so reframed it in our mind: they are terrible and bad and it’s none of our fault.

The worst time I have had in my life was a little over ten years ago. And I felt like, and I’m certain that part of my perspective was really true, but I went through the biggest betrayal of my whole life. And it was the rawest deal. I was so angry, I couldn’t sleep. You talk about the digital alarm. 1:11, 2:04, 3:17. It just, every night like that.

When I had – driving in the car I had to put on music or something or my stomach would grind with pictures of people and what they said in different meetings and I was livid.

And I had a friend really help me and we sat down one day and he was really helping me get through all this and giving me, “Get vertical,” and it was really good. And I had been a pastor for a lot of years. I wasn’t stupid about what I needed to do, it was just hard to do it.

And he said, “Could you do me a favor?” “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, this really is, there certainly are some raw deals here.” “Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Jack, you’re right.” He said, “So, but I want you to do something for me.” “Yeah.” “I want to meet here,” I can tell you right where I was sitting, “next week, right here, same time. Okay?” “Yeah.” “And I want you to pray for seven days. And I want you to list all the mistakes that God reveals to you that you made in all your time and all the specific ways that you sinned against the people in question.”

And you’re my friend? He’s a godly guy. And I did. And I remember coming back and sitting at the same place, getting my Diet Coke, leaning forward, and in tears going, “Well, man, I can see I pushed their buttons. These were such stupid leadership mistakes. And the sin part was hard but I prayed; God showed me these seven things.” I wrote them down and gave them to him.

It’s amazing how much we say, Oh God, I want justice! But from You, I want mercy. And that was the turning point because I realized I couldn’t ask God to give me mercy for all of this and then give me justice for them. And was able to, are you ready? For some of you, just let it go. They are never going to see it that way. For some of you others, it’s not going to get fixed. There’s not a little bow. You’re not going to sing Kumbaya, you’re not going to go shopping together and have lunch again. But you can agree to disagree, you can forgive, and you can move forward as far as it depends on you.

The final point, and I want you to jot this one down, is: remember a right response is more important than being right. A right response is more important than being right. “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Life is too short.

And part of a right response, at least in my experience, is even in apologies – I had a situation recently where I, a conversation got really intense and then I looked at this guy’s face and realized, Oh my gosh. Man, I just poured cold water on him and his confidence, and went home, went to bed. And one of those where God just wakes you up. And, Lord, what am I going to do? That was…

And normal, I’m like you, your flesh will always want to defend yourself and, Well, there was this, this, this, and this. And God said, You know what? I’ll take care of this, this, this, and this. How about this on you? And I just, one of those where it was just so…

Own more than you need to own, if necessary. Because what I can tell you is whatever your perspective is, you are like me, you are more guilty and you are more messed up than you think. So if you think it’s twenty-five percent your fault, go for fifty or sixty.

And I remember just realizing the only thing I could do, as far as it depends on me, I just, “Dear so-and-so, I want to apologize for,” bap, bap, bap, bap, bap, bap. “I want to apologize for saying this,” bap, bap, bap, bap, bap. “I want to apologize for,” bap, bap, bap. “I want to apologize, actually, I said this. I was obviously defensive because it wasn’t even true.” And I was just able to say – this is such a godly man. And I just, I just needed to repent.

And he’s so godly, I saw him two days later, so supportive, so loving, “I got it. You’re forgiven.”

Can I tell you? That’s normal. If you want to accomplish something with your life? You want a great marriage, there are sparks. You want a great relationship with your adult kids, you bring up stuff that is uncomfortable. But you have to bring it up in a way that doesn’t throw gasoline on a fire, but brings truth covered in love.

Turn to the back page and this is all I want to ask you to do is I want you to ask yourself: on a scale of one to ten, what level of stress and concern are you having in terms of any relational problems? And then zip down to question four: is there anyone that, as you’re sitting here, God is saying you need to address this?

And then the question is: who could help you? And the one tool, it’s on the bottom.

It’s not a Christian book but it’s called Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High written by Patterson, Grenny, McMillian, Switzler. I don’t know anything about them. All I can tell you, three or four people told me – finally my son said, “Dad, you are in ministry and you haven’t read this book?” “No!” Well, I read it. And it is the most helpful pathway to love people and put hard things on the table that doesn’t threaten.

I want you to bow your head and I want you to ask the Lord, Lord, what do You want me to do? What do You want me to do? Can you imagine the healing that would occur in families, extended families, small groups, this church, neighborhoods if you, all of us, do what God is showing us?

Lord, we love You, we thank You, and we praise You. And I ask now that You give courage, supernatural courage and faith to every, single person in this room; every, single person that ever hears or watches this, Lord, that You would bring healing because what happens is You will grant peace. And we thank You.  

In Jesus’ name.