In Relational Conflict, Part 2
From the series I Choose Peace
"Is there a person in your relational world who is absolutely 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? In this message, Chip shares some practical, biblical ways to find peace, even in our most problem relationships."
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About this series
I Choose Peace
How to Quiet Your Heart in the Chaos of Life
Why is it that as soon as we get that house, that job, that car, that, "you-fill-in-the-blank," the shine wears off so quickly - the horizon just keeps moving, and we never really experience peace? In this series, Chip unmasks a vicious opponent that's constantly poised to steal our peace and create an all-consuming discontent. If you’re ready for a spiritual journey of adventure and an intimacy with God like you’ve never known before, this series, from Philippians, Chapter 4, is the road map you're looking for.More from this series
So, how do you do it? 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.
Second, reevaluate your expectations. 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.”
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!
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.
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.