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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
We are in a little series on relationships and I would like to suggest that, I’m going to talk about a disease that I call “chronic-relatatitis.”
I made up this word myself. It’s “chronic-relatatitis.” This is the last principle about the life lessons that I have learned about relationships. And there are a lot of great things I have learned and I’ve been a Christian a little over thirty years and I didn’t learn much the first couple years, because I wasn’t in the Bible regularly and I didn’t do any of the things that all good Christians told me to do. And then I kept hitting the wall and decided, I think I’m going to get in the Scriptures and I think I’m going to join a small group. And I began to grow.
And so, for the last thirty-two out of the last thirty-four years, of all the things I have learned about relating to people, probably overcoming what I call “chronic-relatatitis.” And it's one of the most difficult things to deal with in any relationship when someone perpetually acts or treats you in a way that either causes inward concern or outward conflict.
Okay? That’s what I mean by “chronic relatatitis.” Someone, usually they are in your network. They can actually be a clerk, if they’re really a jerk. Or she is really a jerk and you happen to buy coffee at the same place and they treat you disrespectfully and are super negative every, single time.
It’s not like you have to deal with them too much, but I’m talking about those people in your relational network who act in a way or treat you in a way that either causes you constant concern for fear and concern about them or the impact, or it causes constant conflict. And let me give you – I just gave a few illustrations.
Okay? You’re married to a husband who is not spiritually sensitive, has no desire for God, no desire for the Bible, and no desire for church and he sits on the recliner Sunday morning with a Coors Light, watching NFL football as you get the kids and walk out the door to church and you are concerned about his soul and you’re concerned about his own life and you’re concerned about the impact on your kids.
And you have nagged and you have tried and you have left the Bible open and you have left the radio on the right station in the car and for the last ten years, no change. That’s what I call “chronic relatatitis.”
Or you’re the husband and you are married to a wife who is constantly critical, makes jokes, has these little put-downs in public, when you go out with people at a dinner or different times like this, it’s always in the form of joking and jabs, but she jabs about your looks, she jabs about your work, she jabs about your family, she jabs about your background and everyone thinks it’s funny, but you don’t. And you have talked to her about it. And you have told her about how it makes you feel. And for some reason, she doesn’t get it.
Or it’s the in-laws who are negative and critical with every visit, every letter, every phone call. When they visit, what you know is: anything that is not right in the house, anything that is not right with your parenting, anything that is not right with anything, you’re going to hear about it. And they do it in this syrupy, like, “We really care” attitude, that they really want to help you and you know underneath of it is the same old junk you have had for the last seventeen years.
And you get a letter from them or a phone call from them. And even when they – even when they remotely do things that are positive, there’s always this little inward barb on the inside that pokes about how: “You know what? If you were a better father, if you were a better mother, if you would watch your house better, you know what? You need to keep that clean because if you don’t keep that clean, you know what? This could happen. When was the last time you got your chimney cleaned out? Because the creosote down inside. Kids, I read something in the paper the other day that talked about kids that eat those kinds of vitamins. There’s artificial coloring in it,” and you just want to go: [makes wringing neck noise]. And it’s just chronic.
Or the child who is constantly disrespectful, even after multiple disciplines. You have grounded them. Earlier, when they were younger, you spanked them. You did – they just came out of the womb disrespectful, the seemed to be disrespectful, they are disrespectful, you think they will always be disrespectful. And you have multiple conversations with them, multiple conversations with your mate and you just feel like – it’s just chronic. What do you do?
Or the boss, employee, or fellow worker that constantly has a negative attitude, is sarcastic and cynical, and “nothing is ever right” perspective. It doesn’t matter if you just broke through the next goals, if you got a promotion, if everyone has worked as a team. This person has an attitude and a lens that no matter what happens is: life is bad, life – it stinks. They can take the most positive situation and they are spin masters. They can see the downside of everything.
And all you know is that every time you’re with them you have these little knots in your stomach or every time you’re around them, you just think thoughts like, Can’t they ever say or be positive? There is always just the sarcasm, the cynicism, even when something good happens they can figure a way to say, “Well, so-and-so’s motives probably weren’t right and it probably is not really true and, yeah, it’s better now, but it will probably be just like it always was three weeks from now.” And you live with these people.
And so, before we go on, I would like you, because your faces are telling me you’re beginning to really track with me, I would like you to think of: who is that person or persons in your life, in your relational network that you would say you are experiencing “chronic relatatitis?”
In other words, if there is one person that would come to your mind right now and you could say, Oh, God, give me a magic pill and when they look the other way, I could give them this magic pill and it would change…whatever it is, who would they be?
They would start being positive, they would start being sensitive, they would be open to God, they would begin to communicate, they would – whatever it is – who in your relational network: family, in-laws, fellow workers, neighbor is just someone that if they would change…
You have talked to them, you have prayed about it, you have had the heart-to-heart, or you have never had the heart-to-heart because one of the issues is they have anger management issues and they blow up and so you have decided: “You know what? I have tried that twice and I’m not going to go there again.”
But if that would change, who is that person that you would really like to see really change? And if they changed, I don’t think this is bad, but down deep in your heart you would say, That would be so nice for me. My world, my life, my family, my family, my work environment – it would be so much better if so-and-so would change either this behavior or this action or how they treat me or someone I love. If that would change, then my relational world would be a lot better. Have you got that person in your mind? It usually doesn’t take very long.
And now I want to give you principle number eight and like always, I’ll give you a principle, a passage, and a practice.
And the principle I have is: The only person I can change is me. The only person I can change is me. I can try nagging, I can try manipulation, I can try threats, I can try yelling, I can try the silent treatment, I can try passive-aggressively paybacking in very subtle, Christian-type ways to execute vengeance.
But when all of that doesn’t work, what I have learned is when I am in a relational situation that the reality of that relationship either causes me deep concern or ongoing conflict, the biggest lesson I have learned is the only person I can change is me.
And if you would open your Bibles to Luke chapter 6, I want to develop something out of a little bit of an obscure text, because you’re going to say to yourself, How does this passage have to do with that principle?
Luke chapter 6, it says, in fact, I put in the passage on your notes, it says, “Give, and it will be given unto you. They will pour it out in your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Give, and it will be given unto you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over. The idea is: as I give to other people, in the same measure – and the idea of a measure is like if I gave a cupful, I’d get a cupful back. If I gave a gallon-full, I’d get a gallon-full back. If I gave a fifty-five gallon away, I’d get a fifty-five gallon. Whatever measure I give out to others, He says it will come back to you.
And then He is using a farmer’s or agricultural metaphor here because if you want to get more grain and more something, the idea, it’s: shake down; running over. It’s the idea that if you shake something, you can keep making more room to put more in. So, it’s the idea of abundance.
Give to other people and you’ll get back good measure, not just – but shaken down, running over, in abundance, back into your lap.
The relational application I want to make is that whatever you most need in a relationship, the thing you most want from the relationship but are not receiving, give it away. This is so – this is the ultimate counter-intuitive, opposite way. We have a tit-for-tat mentality. “I’ll be kind to you if you’ll be kind to me and I’m waiting for you to be kind to me so I could be kind to you.” “I will respect you when you respect me.” “I will do for you, once you do for me.”
And what I’m saying is when you hit “chronic relatatitis,” and you have tried all the different ways to change this person and he is still on the recliner, and she is still dissing you in public, and that kid is still disrespectful, and that fellow employee or boss - whatever - is still making you nuts and nothing is changing – give them whatever you really want to receive from them.
I’ll give you a list and some practical ways of what I am talking about. If you are in a relationship where you want more time from the person, give them time. Give them time. If you want more attention from someone, maybe it’s in a marriage relationship, give them attention. If you need more affection in a relationship, ask yourself: What in this friendship, in this marriage, or in my relationship with my father or mother or one of my kids – what does affection look like to them? And if what it is is, My dad or mom has never said, “I love you.” My kids, whatever they are going through this stage and they are not very affectionate. My mate is not nearly as affectionate as I would like them to be – give it away. Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken over.
If you want someone to listen to you, you don’t feel like you’re really being heard, give that away. Start listening to them in new ways. Start asking the second and third and fourth penetrating question instead of saying, “You never listen to me. See? You interrupted me again. See? You…” Not that any of you have ever done that.
If you want to be understood, take a week and say, “I am going to be a student of this person and I want to understand them.” Instead of expecting one of them to understand me. If you want someone to be more sensitive, be more sensitive to them. If you want to be comforted by a person, comfort them. If you want them to be kinder, if you want them to be more thoughtful and give you gifts to indicate that, because that’s part of your love language and you feel like that happened in the early days when you were married or your parents used to be sensitive in some of those areas – then give them gifts.
In other words, whatever you need most in a relationship, give it away. Give and it will be given unto you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken, running over back into your lap.
Now, I can, your faces are looking at me – this is really wonderful. Your faces are looking at me like, You don’t get it. You obviously don’t know the person that came to my mind or you wouldn’t say something like this because that’s not fair! In fact, the real issue is when I look at who is giving in this relationship, this is a 90/10er. I’m already giving ninety percent and I get ten back. And I get ten back on not a good day, a good week. I get ten back on a good year. And so, that’s not fair.
And what I want to say is: you are right. It’s not fair; it’s supernatural. The other thing I want to do is ask you now in your Bibles to turn back and let me give you a little context. Where did this verse come from? Jesus, in the opening of Luke, has done two things that seem outrageous. He has violated the Sabbath two different times: eating one time, and then after that He heals a man.
And then after that, He goes up onto a mountain and He calls the disciples to Himself and then He descends down and He is going to give the Sermon on the Mount and He comes to a level place and there’s a great multitude and there are His disciples and all these people and He begins to teach and He begins to heal and He begins to do all the things to meet the needs of other people. And then He gives that classic beginning of that message that we know: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who hunger and thirst.”
And He gives those classic Beatitudes. But when He gets done with those, then picking it up at verse 27, He says, “But I say to you who hear,” notice, “I say to you who hear.” I am talking to those of you; I just gave a sermon. I gave it with My disciples here and all this multitude, “but I say to you who hear.” Translation: if you get it. If you really understand what I was trying to say.
“But I say to those of you who hear: Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you, bless those who persecute you, and pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek,” literally, the right cheek, “offer him the left. And whoever takes away your coat, don’t withhold your shirt from him as well. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. And just as you want men to treat you, treat them in the same way.”
And can you imagine? Those are great Jesus words, right? Those are – they put them on plaques in Christian bookstores and they sell like hotcakes. Can you imagine being in that crowd for the first time and having a good, developed sense of justice like we all have and hearing about how blessed you can be if you realize your need, if you hunger for God, if you long to be the man or woman, and you want to follow Him?
And then He says, “Now, by the way, if you understood what I just said about the supernatural life with Me, then bless those who persecute you, pray for those who mistreat you.” The picture isn’t just of pacifism.
Matthew 5, He talks about, “If someone hits you on the left cheek,” and most of us are right handed. And so, basically, this is, Vicki, be careful here. This is Vicki’s left – or – right cheek it says. And so, with my right hand, I have a hard time hitting her. So, really, this is more of I am using the back of my hand. I am disrespecting the person. I am really dissing them. And I am saying, “What you think and who you are…” And He is saying, “You know what? Don’t allow yourself to get pulled into…” instead of, so what do they do? You just turn and give them the other cheek.
This passage doesn’t teach that there’s never a time to defend yourself in light of all the rest of the Bible.
But what it is capturing is: giving the very opposite of what the person deserves. Isn’t that the thing that we can say from all of these? You give the very opposite of what the person deserves.
And this is Jesus’ relational model. But then, notice He goes on, because that part of us that is deep inside that says, This isn’t fair, He goes on to say, picking it up in verse 32, “And if you love those who love you, what credit is that? For even sinners love those who love them.” Verse 33, “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that? For even sinners do the same thing. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive credit, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.”
In other words, when you’re just dishing out what other people dish to you, or when you’re playing the tit-for-tat game, you’re just part of the human race. But that’s not a follower of Jesus. That’s not a supernatural response. That’s not how relationships work.
And then He goes on to say, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend and expect nothing in return,” and notice here is where, now, the faith kicks in. Your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, for He Himself is kind to” – whom? “to the ungrateful and evil men.”
We are never more like God and we are never more like His Son, Jesus, than when we give people what they don’t deserve. He says that phrase, “You’ll be sons of the Most High.” In other words, people will recognize. I’m with my kids and they act a certain way and, “Oh, you must be Ingram’s boy.” Or, they got all that blonde hair and they say, “Oh, this is one of Theresa’s kids.” Why? There is family resemblance.
You have family resemblance to God when you treat people in a way they don’t deserve.