Experiencing God radically transforming our hearts with the result being, loving others well, that’s the point of a relationship with God. Our relationship with Christ, when it’s real, always softens our hearts towards others. Here is why. When we see our need of God, we can connect with the needs of others. We don’t conclude we are better than others. We no longer have to compete with others. We don’t have to treat others like objects who are to serve us. We can love.
It’s so important, Paul said, if you can’t love, you have no value.
1 If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever. NLT 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
That’s why following Christ is so important. It’s a journey that leads us into spiritual maturity. That means we are willing to face things that we would normally avoid even if it means we are giving up control because we are leaving our agenda to get onto God’s agenda. If I were to put spiritual maturity into one word, it would be: faith. Think about that for a second. I will follow Christ. He will lead me to face things I would normally want to ignore. And as I do follow Christ, it will feel like I am giving up control. That’s faith.
Let’s make this practical. Real quickly, five areas that Christ will lead us into that we want to avoid. God askes us to spend time with Him and build a real relationship. Why? For so many reasons, one being, it is our act of surrendering our agenda to get on His agenda every day.
God asks us to forgive those who hurt us and love our enemies. Why? When we forgive and love, the hurts from others don’t control us.
God askes us to give 10% back to him. Why? Does God need our money? Is He really nervous that He can’t pay His bills? No. Giving is our act of worship that when we give we are declaring He is our provider, our trust is in Him.
God asks us to serve others. Why? When we serve, we connect with the pain of others and we see our value.
God asks that we submit to authority? Why? Because he placed our leaders over us and to honor our leaders is respecting God.
Now think about this. Don’t we want to naturally avoid these areas? Time with God in prayer. Forgiving. Giving. Serving. Submitting to authority. What does Christ do? He leads us into the areas we naturally want to avoid.
Also, as we walk into these areas, don’t we feel like we are losing control? That feeling like we are leaving what is normal for us to do something new. For example: If I spend time with God I will have less time to get things done. If I forgive, I am giving up control of making the other person feel bad. If I give, I lose financial control. If I serve, I will have less time for me. If I submit to my leader, how will they see things my way? All of these areas make us feel like we are losing control; it’s called faith.
Last question about this; what do most North American Christians do? We kinda do some of it, we kinda don’t. We are like non-practicing Christians. I say I believe in God but I struggle to actually live it out. We are comfortable going to church but not ready to have complete faith in God. So we kinda do the least possible.
Today we want to talk about Christ leading you to deal with conflict in relationships. Now there are several different kinds of conflict. There is conflict between siblings. I personally love it when I hear my kids mess with each other. We have to pull it in a little now and then but it is funny to hear them go at it. We aren’t talking about that conflict.
There is conflict in normal day to day marriages issues. Day to day relationship issues in families, churches and work. That’s what we are talking about.
The last kind of conflict is toxic. It’s the church split stuff. The intensity of a possible divorce. It’s the lawyers, lawsuits and drama conflict. We aren’t talking about that today.
Again, Christ wants to lead you to spiritual maturity. That means, in your relationships, He will lead you to address conflict that comes up, not avoid it. No one really wants to deal with it, we want to avoid it.
Jesus taught us in Matthew 5:9
You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. The Message Version
Same verse, different translation.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. The New International Version
I must ask you, what is normal in your relationships? With your co workers. With old high school friends. With your extended family. Maybe even with your spouse. Is it normal to be honest with each other even if it means some tension? Or is it normal, because it’s easier, to avoid the tension and stuff being honest?
Let’s make it more real. How many married men in this room would say, “I want to tell my wife how I feel but I don’t because I don’t want to deal with the tension that it would cause.” I challenge you; you probably aren’t allowing Christ to lead you into spiritual maturity. By the way, something that should be obvious but I must say, we do this in the context of healing the relationship not a battering ram to prove that you are right.
Traditionally, Christians have learned to be peacekeepers not peacemakers. We want live out the golden rule that says treat others the way you want to be treated. We try to be nice. We see that Jesus was healed people, fed people, was nice to people so we want to be nice to people. So we try to be nice. We believe this so much, we want to keep the peace so much, even if it means we stuff honesty under the carpet. We want to avoid stress and pain. Walking into conflict feels so scary because we have no idea what the result will be. That’s called being a peace keeper. I am willing to be fake in hopes that everything will stay ‘nice.’ Just to be clear, that’s not being a peace maker.
Here is what you must know about walking into relationship conflict. It is the only way to be truly reconciled and connected with the other person. Fake relationships that avoid truth and honesty will never be real. And, when you walk into conflict instead of avoiding it, it can be a huge spiritual transformation for you and them.
We need to understand that the fear that keeps us from addressing conflict isn’t our friend. That fear is ruining real relationships. It’s ruining your ability to live in freedom with others. It’s ruining your ability to have a spiritual transformation.
I want to read for you how Jesus dealt with people. Three different situations.
16 Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 17 Jesus said, “…If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.” 18 The man asked, “What in particular?” Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, 19 honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.” 20 The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?”
21 “If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.” 22 That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go. 23 As he watched him go… MSG Matthew 19:16-23
The young man engages Jesus. What is the standard to get into heaven? Jesus saw that the young man was hung up on being good and following all the rules and tells him to love others. For this young man it meant giving his money to love others. The man couldn’t do that and walks away. Notice what Jesus didn’t do. Jesus didn’t run after him. Jesus didn’t water down his previous message. He didn’t say, “Okay, maybe not everything, maybe just 50%.” Jesus shared the truth and allowed him to walk away.
Think about this; what if Jesus was your pastor and behaved like this? Was Jesus nice? Wouldn’t a good pastor run after the young man walking away? Wouldn’t a nice pastor try to have breakfast with him?
This is why I never chase people down who visit MRC and walk away.
3 The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery, and they made her stand before them all. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 In our Law Moses commanded that such a woman must be stoned to death. Now, what do you say?” 6 They said this to trap Jesus, so that they could accuse him. But he bent over and wrote on the ground with his finger. 7 As they stood there asking him questions, he straightened up and said to them, “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her.” 8 Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. GNT John 8:3-9
What do we see? Jesus loves and protects the wounded woman. But, how does he treat the hard hearted religious church people? He stood right up to them and embarrassed them in front of the crowd of people. He engaged the conflict.
Again, think about Jesus talking to the church people called Pharisees. Was Jesus nice? Did he sound a little edgy? Is this your idea of a good pastor?
This is why at MRC I feel comfortable standing up against religion. When we built MRC, we built it for people who are wounded in life and don’t go to church. They need love and protection from religion. So who do you think will have the biggest issue with that? Yes, religious people who think they know what church is supposed to look like. So, for fun, one complaint of people who I have had to address behind the scenes, and they no longer attend. We heard, “People are wearing pajama bottoms to church, you should say something.” In the years of building MRC, Sam and feel very passionate about loving and protecting the wounded and standing up to the religious. We protected that young family who was figuring out that God loved them, we didn’t ask them to change clothes.
Jesus talking to the Pharisees, the religious church people.
13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. 15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides!
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? NIV Matthew 23
Did you know this? Jesus was straight up gangster. He was tough. This is a side of Jesus that we don’t put into the kid’s story books. In this moment, a rainbow wasn’t behind him as doves landed on his shoulder and children rested on is lap. He wasn’t a people pleaser. He offended them. If Jesus was the Pastor at their church, they weren’t coming back the next Sunday. He straight up called them out. This wasn’t ‘nice’ talk was it?
Please hear me, walking into relationship conflict is the only way to be truly be reconciled and connected with the other person. Fake relationships that avoid truth and honesty will never be real. And again, it should be obvious, but I want to say this again, we do this in the context of healing the relationship not a battering ram to prove that you are right.
My quick points to address conflict.
First, understand that conflict is spiritual.
- Avoiding conflict leads to more damage, the relationship will never be real and you can’t give spiritual life to each other in a fake relationship.
- Jesus did not avoid conflict, He balanced loving the wounded with confronting religion.
- Jesus, for us to spiritually mature, will lead us to address conflict.
- Conflict, if we allow it, teaches us how to be lovingly honest and how to listen to others. It can lead to spiritual transformation.
- As painful and disorienting as conflict can feel, it can lead to us trusting in God more. The point is to overcome fear, engage conflict with God and a soft heart. No, we don’t know what will happen but in that process, we grow up.
Second, understand, it’s practical. Fight cleanly – more detail in our class next week.
- Research says, 96% of arguments begin in the first 3 minutes so enter kindly. So be nice for at least 180 seconds.
- Don’t fight dirty. How many people have experienced the silent treatment? Or complaining or blaming? Or immediate anger/rage? How about sarcasm? These are all well known ways that emotionally immature people try to avoid dealing with real issues.
- If emotions get the best of you, take a time out, come back when you get a chance to cool down.
- If you can’t come to an agreement, like emotional adults, get a mature Christian or councilor to help.
- If you personally can’t stay in a discussion, like an emotional adult, maybe you need to see someone.
My last point. Walking into relationship conflict is the only way to be truly be reconciled and connected with the other person. Fake relationships that avoid truth and honesty will never be real. It’s called being a peace maker.
Question to close: Who do you need to talk to?