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About this series
God's Wisdom for Building Great Relationships
Relationships can be tough. Everyone has expectations of how relationships should work. Whether it's our behaviors, words, spending habits, how to raise children, or views of God - these factors affect how we interact with others. In this series, Chip explores eight essential life lessons that will help you build GREAT relationships that last!More from this series
The next word there, he says patience is just that, it’s a combination of makro – long – and something that heats up. And it’s the idea of just putting up with junk. It’s just you have, the word picture for me, not that the word means this, but the word picture for me is that you just have a really long fuse. That’s what patience is. That you know what? That person irritates me. And without patience, they irritate you once and you say, Mmm, I’m going to let that go. Irritates you twice, Mmm, you do that again…!
Patience is: you know what? Longsuffering. And in case you didn’t understand what he really meant and how specific he wanted to be, after the word patience he says, “bearing with one another.” And this is actually the faults and idiosyncrasies of people.
The fact of the matter is all those people have those idiosyncrasies that make you crazy. Can I let you in on a secret? You have those little idiosyncrasies that make them crazy, right? And then, and notice, honestly, then it’s not just that you keep them under wraps. He says, “Forgiving them.” The word means to release. It means to let go.
And you forgive them, notice the motivation. “Just as God has forgiven you.” I think forgiveness is the hardest thing to do in the Christian life. I could be wrong. When you really have been wounded, when it really is selfish, when it really is unjust, when someone has really done something bad to you – and what do you want? You want what I want. I want justice. I don’t think anything makes me more unfair – I want justice for my kids, I want justice for my wife, I want justice for Christians, I want justice for what is right and I want justice for me.
Except for when it comes to how I want God to deal with me. Right? She walked out on her husband, he walked out, he’s not paying his alimony, that’s an ungrateful kid, they took credit for that, they used our idea and then they copyrighted it before we could…that is wrong! We are, we are going to sue their pants off! We are going to, we are going to, justice, justice, justice.
And, yet, the fact of the matter is the command is: God wants me, relationally, to extend to others what has been extended to me. And I will tell you that the older I get, the more I see what is in my heart, the more I get so overwhelmed, God, I don’t want justice, please. God, if You give me justice, oh my. I see things in my heart and even I can look back and think maybe twenty years ago, I thought my motives were right but, boy, looking back now, man, that was – you were just one arrogant idiot. And, boy, I don’t want God to deal with me that way.
And it has been the most profound motivation in my life to say, Lord, I am willing to let go of my vengeance and lack of forgiveness and extend mercy because I certainly do not want You to treat me the way that I want them to be treated.
And notice here, it’s just whoever has a complaint against anyone. And then, if that’s not enough, I don’t know about you, but those are pretty strong words to justify the principle that right relationships are more important than being right.
And I will say, you have grown up in a world, by the way, American culture, your rights are what matter. You have a right to that! You deserve a break today! That’s your place in line. Don’t let anybody – you have been brainwashed to believe that you are so the center of the universe that you better defend your rights.
And so, our knee-jerk reaction to almost any relational conflict is to exert our personal rights. But you know what? If you’re really significant, so much so that you are chosen by God, and if you’re so accepted by Him that you are holy and without blame, and if you’re so dearly loved that you’re the object of His affection that you must be secure, you know something?
All that piddly stuff about who gets the parking spot and who goes through the light or whether they were there at four thirty or four thirty-five or door B or door A, or whether dinner was supposed to be at this time or that time or whether we agreed on spending money this way or that way – you need to talk all those things through, but most marriages that I have talked to and I have done tons of counseling, unfortunately, and lots of them that ended in divorce. When I try and say, “Now, what was this argument about? What was this really about?” It’s amazing. They can’t even remember. They can’t even remember: what was it that started it?
But I will tell you, what started it was a very small thing and where two fleshly like me and like you begin to exert their rights and then what do we do? We just, it’s like throwing a little grenade over the wall and there’s a little explosion and that hurts the person so they get hurt and they throw a little bit bigger grenade over the wall. And that hurts them so they get a bazooka out and they shoot the bazooka over the wall. And so, then you say, “Well, hey, bazookas?” You bring a tank. And then pretty soon there is damage everywhere because everyone has exerted their rights instead of saying, “You know something? Whether it was door A or door B, probably a great relationship with my kids will matter more long-term than what time I picked them.
And whether supper was at this time or that time, or you know what? It does bug me and I need to go through the right process, but whether that person in the company got credit for my idea or whether I get credit for it, God probably understands all that. And He will probably smile more on a great, loving, godly response and I’ll trust Him to promote me more than the office politics.
And what that does is it gives you an incredible perspective and a power to relate differently to people. And I think that’s what it means to be a real disciple, a Romans 12 Christian.
And then if you wonder, Well, gosh, how do you know when it’s resolved? How do you know if you’re in the right spot? Look at verse 15. It says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you were called into one body and be thankful.”
The word peace here, he says – why do we do all this? “Forgive just as we have been forgiven, beyond all these things, put on love which is” – what? “the perfect bond of unity.” What is the idea here? We belong to one another in the body of Christ. Loving each other and putting up with stuff so that we genuinely have right relationships is more important than my rights.
And then he goes on to say, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Literally, the word rule is: act as an umpire or an arbitrator. If you’re not sure, when you don’t have peace in a relationship with another person, it says, “Let the Holy Spirit,” that lack of peace say, You know something? Maybe you need to make something right with someone. And all you may need to do is forgive them. Or maybe you need to apologize. Or maybe you need to write them a note.
But he says, “Let the peace of Christ act as an arbitrator.” And then notice this little command, because it’s going to get repeated, “…and be thankful.” See, sometimes we go through this and we start becoming a martyr. I did the right thing, I’m not going to hang on to my rights. Boy, but I’ll tell you what, this situation sure stinks and…
We get this grumbling, complaining, whining attitude instead of, Thank You, Lord. And you say, “Well, why should I thank God?” Because conflict, as we’ll see in just a second, is not an exception in a fallen world. It’s predictable and it’s normal. And God has allowed conflict, sovereignly, to come into your life and my life to do one of two things: either help me learn something about me that I need to learn to grow and become more like Christ, or help me learn to love someone who is unlovable so I can become more like Christ and they can receive Christ’s love.
So, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and be thankful. And then where do you get the resources? How do you do this? How could anyone live out – these are supernatural-type attitudes. Well, “Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you,” and what is the basis, then, of how you relate to one another? “…with all wisdom,” that’s God giving you, doing relationships His way, “with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your,” again, “hearts to God.”
It’s about the right relationship matters more than my own, little turf and me getting my way. “Whatever you do,” just in case, just in case, Colossian Christians, you didn’t quite get the point, “whatever you do in word or in deed,” which covers just about life, doesn’t it? “…do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Well, what is the other option? All in the name of getting your rights. All in the name of justifying yourself. All in the name that people need to know the real story. All in the name of about me. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
And then notice the third repetition and, by the way, it’s a command, “Giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” I think this is one of the strongest relational passages in all the New Testament. And I think what it really says to us is: when I get violated and when I struggle and when life is unfair and when I am that person at the coffee shop or in the park or at the mall pouring out my side of the story I need to remember that right relationships on things that are not theological and things that aren’t moral are way more important than my rights.
I’m going to give you three practical ways to put this into practice. Number one is: refuse to see conflict as negative. Instead, embrace conflict as God’s tutor for learning and/or loving others. I think a lot of us would just, we have been engrained: conflict is bad. Conflict is wrong. Oh, we’ve got a problem! There’s conflict! What are we going to do? It’s terrible. It’s not terrible. If you think it’s terrible then life is going to be terrible.
You’re going to have conflict with your roommate, you’re going to have conflict with your mate, you’re going to going to have conflict if you have kids, you’re going to have conflict with your grandkids, you’re going to have conflict with your boss, you’re going to have conflict everywhere!
But if you unconsciously see conflict as bad and negative then, boy, you are set up for being a defensive person. Conflict is normal in a fallen world. So, choose instead of seeing conflict as negative, see it as God’s tutor.
Don’t you want – doesn’t everyone want a coach? Doesn’t everyone want someone to put their arm around them, help them be who – everyone, if I, when you came in the door, if I gave you a little card and said, “I want to be like Christ.” And there was a checkbox that said “yes” or “no.” I think most people would have checked “yes.” I mean, “No, I don’t want to be like Him.”
Well, if you said, “I want to be like Christ,” and on the checkbox it says “yes” and God said, Well, I have a tool, I have a tutor, I have a personal coach, I have a way that every day of your life, I am going to provide sovereignly ordained and allowed opportunities to help you learn to become more like Me and since it’s a body, I’m going to use you to help other people experience My love.
Because what does it mean to love someone? Love is giving another person what they need the most when they deserve it the least at great personal cost. I don’t want to do that, but that’s what Jesus did for me.
So, conflict, rather than saying is negative, it’s my tutor, it’s my coach, it’s my teacher. Now, I’ve got a conflict situation [gasps]. My first thought is, Oh, I’m threatened; I’m fearful. What is going to happen to me? About my security, what about my significance, and will I be accepted, will I be rejected? What if I’m on the outside after this happens? What if this person leaves me? What about, what about, what about?
I am chosen, I am holy, I am already dearly loved. There is not a job, a circumstance, or a person on the face of the earth that has the power to make or break my life or yours. No one has the power to ruin your life that you don’t let them. A mate can’t, a kid can’t, a grandparent can’t, an organization – no one can ruin your life. You are chosen, you are holy, and you are dearly loved. And you are on your way to heaven.
You can have a few bumps in the road but no one has the power to ruin your life that you don’t let. And so you say to yourself, Well, wow, I guess God is going to teach me through this conflict about seeing something in me that I guess I didn’t see before that He wants to change.
Because I don’t know about you, I don’t change, I don’t wake up and say, I don’t read my Bible in the morning and wake up and say, Oh wow! I see a major area in my life I just think I’m going to change. Everyone has seen it for twenty years and it’s a blind spot and I’ve never seen it but yippee! I see it today and I’m going to…
Every major change that has happened in my life has been that major change that needed to happen I ran head on to someone else’s major change that needed to happen and it was in that conflict I saw stuff in me that was, I didn’t want to see.
But I got to see it to the point where it was so undeniable, I came out of my denial and realized, God wants to deal with that, Chip. You need to come to Me; you need to repent.
And conflict is a tool in His hands to help you and to help me. And the other is conflict has been a tutor where there are times, I think, that I have actually given someone what they don’t deserve or had some gentleness and some humility and some compassion and some forgiveness that actually worked in someone’s life whose life wasn’t going very well and I can look back five or ten years later and say, “I got to be an instrument of grace.”
And I will tell you, I can list the people on my hand who, in conflict, have forgiven me and loved me and believed in me when I didn’t deserve it and they were an instrument of grace. So, practice number one is: refuse to see conflict as negative, instead embrace – notice I didn’t say, “tolerate.” Embrace conflict as God’s tutor for learning and for loving others.
The second practice is: be willing to own fifty percent more of any problem in a relationship than you think is fair. That sounds crazy but I literally, I have just, I’m big on this. I have had lots of conflicts and – that’s probably not a really good testimony but it’s true. I’ve had lots of conflicts and I have strong opinions and I have a strong personality, which none of you probably could attest to.
And when I have just, I never did this before, but I always wanted to get it, man, I think maybe I’ve got forty-nine point eight-seven percent of this but over fifty percent is this guy’s. And what I realized is I always have huge levels of denial. And everyone does.
And when I found out, I just thought, Okay, you know what? I’m going to assume over fifty percent of the problem. It doesn’t matter whether, okay? I just assume I was at door A instead of door B. “Kids, sorry, okay, from now on, is this going to be door B? Right. This is door B, right? Got it. Great. Get in the car. Let’s go home.”
Who cares? I can argue and have division over, “Now, did we say five thirty or six o’clock dinner? Now, did you say we were going to do this or do that? Did you say the budget was going to be ‘x’ dollars or ‘x’ dollars?” You can work out the details, but just assume fifty percent more of the blame than in your heart of hearts you think you deserve. And say, You know what? God is bigger than this.
And the more that I have learned to do that, because what we are afraid of is, at the heart of it, it’s an arrogance issue. We are so afraid that someone is going to think less of us, that our reputation is going to be decreased.
And what we are constantly trying to protect is our image and our reputation rather than saying, “You know what? If God knows the truth, I’m not sure of the truth, why not just step up and say, ‘I thought this much was my fault in my heart of hearts before God. I am going to go ahead and take another step. I am going to own this much. Will you forgive me for this and will you forgive me for this as well?”
I’m going to own mine. And you know what that does? It is amazing how that melts conflict. Because down deep, people have a pretty intuitive sense of probably what they own. And when someone is willing to take the step across the line to own more. And sometimes I probably think I’m owning more and probably I’m just right. It really is a good fifty percent. But I am hoping it’s only thirty-five percent and I’m giving about fifteen percent grace.
But when you do that, I am amazed that people can see and they will just basically say, “You know something? I’m not going to go there either.” And what happens is the right relationship gets to be the priority instead of who is right.
The final practice that has been very helpful over the years is: ask yourself, Why is it so important to be proven right or to get your way in this situation? I don’t like to ask that question but what I have found is, with my wife and my kids and issues, I just found out, what is it? What is this little energizer bunny in Chip Ingram? I’ve got to be right, I’ve got to be right, I’ve got to be right, I’ve got to be right, I’ve got to be right. At the heart of it is I must not believe I’m really chosen. I must not believe I’m already holy. And I must not believe I’m already dearly loved. Because I’ve got to be right to prove to me and to prove to all these people I’m really significant! I’m really secure! I’m really a somebody! I did all the work! I did the research! You’ve got to know this is right!
Well, what is behind all that? Just flesh. Just ego. Just pride. And what kills relationships? Flesh. Ego. Pride. When you don’t care about that, and I don’t mean you don’t care like you pretend it’s not there. You own it reasonably but if you back up and say, Well, You know something, Lord? You know what is right. And I am accepted by You. And you know what? This little phrase has been so helpful: I really want and desire people’s approval, but I don’t need people’s approval because I have God’s approval.