Paul’s Keys to Healthy Relationships:
Yesterday, we looked at the first three keys the Apostle Paul gives us to having healthy relationships:
- Be Patient:
- Don’t be Controlled by Anger:
- Watch Your Words:
Today, we are going to wrap up our series on healthy relationships…
4. Choose to Forgive:
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
God gives us the antidote here to anger: choose to be kind and forgive. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. To forgive someone doesn’t mean you’re not hurt, and it doesn’t mean that what they did was right. What they did was wrong, and it hurt you, but by forgiving them, you are choosing to let it go and not hold it against them any longer. We are called to “Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13, nlt). The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of forgiveness:
- “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15, nlt).
- “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too” (Mark 11:25, nlt).
- “Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37, nlt).
As you can see, forgiveness is not a side issue in theKingdomofGod. It is an absolutely essential ingredient to healthy relationships.
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8). As human beings, we’re all going to make mistakes and do stupid things. But love can cover over all of those mistakes. Extend grace to people, and treat them the way you would want to be treated.
Remember the Duck:
This story illustrates the destructive power of unforgiveness in a person’s life:
A little boy visiting his grandparents was given his first slingshot. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit his target. As he came back to Grandma’s back yard, he spied her pet duck. On an impulse he took aim and let fly. The stone hit, and the duck fell dead. The boy panicked.
Desperately he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to look up and see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing. After lunch that day, Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today. Didn’t you, Johnny?” And she whispered to him, “Remember the duck!” So Johnny did the dishes.
Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing. Grandma said, “I’m sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper.” Sally smiled and said, “That’s all taken care of. Johnny wants to do it.” Again she whispered, “Remember the duck.” Johnny stayed while Sally went fishing. After several days of doing both his chores and Sally’s, finally he couldn’t stand it. He confessed to Grandma that he’d killed the duck. “I know, Johnny,” she said, giving him a hug. “I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.[i]
Unforgiveness makes a slave of you, and it is a harsh, bitter taskmaster. So choose to forgive.
Keys from Proverbs to Healthy Relationships:
- There is a lot of practical relationship wisdom in the Old Testament book of Proverbs.
- “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (Proverbs 16:28, nlt).
- “A gossip tells secrets, so don’t hang around with someone who talks too much.” (Proverbs 20:19, nlt).
- “Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” (Proverbs 26:20, nlt).
People who gossip are troublemakers who destroy friendships. God gives us the command: Do not hang around with people who gossip. Do you have a ‘friend’ who gossips to you about other people all the time? Beware. If someone will gossip to you, they will surely gossip about you. Guard your heart against gossips. Make a commitment to never say something negative about someone. If you stop gossip, quarrels will disappear.
Unity is so important to the health and success of any family, church, or group of people. Indeed, this is true for all our relationships:
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” (Psalm 133:1-3).
When we learn how to walk in unity, love and forgiveness towards one another, and become free from bitterness and unforgiveness, we will experience God’s blessing, His manifested presence (the anointing oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit), and a revived and refreshed life. We will receive the ability to do all that the Lord has called us to do. This is why we must contend for unity.
Jesus prayed a powerful prayer that emphasized the importance of unity: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21). Think of it. Jesus said if the church could become one in love, peace and unity with one another, the whole world would believe in Him!
Keys to Deal with Offenses:
We have clearly seen how important unity and forgiveness are to healthy relationships. Jesus said offenses are going to come, so how do we respond when someone does something that hurts us or makes us angry?
1. Talk to God about it in prayer.
In one of his Psalms, King David talked about the hurt that he felt because of a friend who had betrayed him. “It is not an enemy who taunts me – I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me – I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you – my equal, my companion and close friend.” (Psalm 55:12-13, nlt). How did David deal with this hurtful offense? “But I will call on God, and the LORD will rescue me.” (Psalm 55:16, nlt). He took it to the Lord in prayer. If you are hurt, pray for the Lord to heal your brokenness. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18, nlt).
2. Talk to the Person Following Jesus’ guidelines.
Please don’t continue on to this step until you feel in your heart that the Lord has released you to do so. The best thing you can do is to give your offense to the Lord and say, “Father God, this person has hurt me, but I leave this with you, so you can deal with it.” If after praying about it, you still feel that you need to say something to that person, Jesus tells us how to do that.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15).
Don’t gossip to your neighbor about it – that’s sin. Jesus doesn’t give you permission to talk to anyone about this situation, other than to the person who offended you. What if they don’t listen to you? “But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If that person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. If the church decides you are right, but the other person won’t accept it, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector” (Matthew 18:16-17, nlt).
If you’re upset and offended with someone, and they don’t know that they have done anything wrong, it might be better if you don’t say anything to them. Don’t tell them about your offense and say, “Oh brother so-and-so, last week I hated your stinking guts because you did this terrible thing to me, but now that I told you about it I feel much better!” The goal, if you’re going to share the offense with them, is gaining back your brother or sister. Unity. Reconciliation. Healed relationship. In the context of this teaching on reconciliation in relationships, Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20). What a beautiful promise to those who walk in peace and unity!
In perhaps one of the best teachings I have ever read on the topic of relationships and dealing with offenses, John Bevere writes, “The whole reason Jesus instructed us to go to one another… is not for condemnation but for reconciliation. He does not want us to tell our brother how rotten he has been to us. We are to go to remove the breach preventing the restoration of our relationship.” (The Bait of Satan).[ii]
3. Do not talk to another person about the offense.
If you are hurt by someone and you share that offense with a third person, they may become angry at the person who originally offended you, even though you may have already prayed and forgiven the person. They’ve picked up your offense, and they’re still hanging on to it. This is the root of bitterness in operation, springing up and defiling many people.
I found a great acronym for the word “T.H.I.N.K.” that reminds us to think before we speak:
- T Is it True? Obviously we should never share anything about someone that isn’t true.
- H Is it Helpful? Will sharing this truth help or benefit the situation?
- I Is it Inspiring? Is this truth positive, encouraging, and will it impart God’s grace?
- N Is it Necessary? Do you need to share this? If not, then don’t!
- K Is it Kind? If it’s not kind then don’t say anything at all.
Back to the Story of Paul and John Mark:
I want to go back to the contention between Paul, Barnabas and John Mark, to let you know that their story had a happy ending. When Paul and Barnabas parted ways, Paul had said, “I don’t want to have anything to do with John Mark the deserter.” As Paul got older, he came to a place where he wrote:
“Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him)… These are my only fellow workers for thekingdomofGod… they have proved to be a comfort to me.” (Colossians 4:10-11).
This letter was written during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, around 61 AD. “John Mark… my fellow worker… has proved to be a comfort to me.” I’m glad that Paul and John Mark were able to work out their differences. Paul later wrote: “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11). This letter was written when Paul was in prison, near his death, about 66 AD, and his heart towards Mark had changed. Who did he want to have come and visit him in prison? John Mark.
Isn’t that story encouraging? Maybe you have tensions, hurts or offenses in a relationship with someone, and you might feel like there is no hope. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.” (Ephesians 2:13-14). Jesus didn’t die on the Cross just so we could have peace with God, He also came so we could have peace in our relationships with one another.
I want to challenge you to think about any relationship in your life that is strained right now. Maybe it’s a friend or a family member who you’re not even talking to. Maybe you’ve written them off and said, “No second chances for them.” I want to challenge your stance in that. “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:20). God has called us to peace. Pray that the Lord would flood your heart with His love and forgiveness, so that you can have His heart for people. Those hurts and offenses may go back many years, but Jesus wants you to be whole and healthy. Restoration only comes when we have peace in our relationships with other people. Would you allow me to pray a prayer for you?
Lord Jesus, I am so thankful for the Cross. Your death made it possible for us to have peace in our relationships with people. We know that because love is such an important part of the Kingdom of God that the enemy will do whatever he can to keep us from loving others. Therefore, help us to guard our hearts against offense, and be able to see people the way you do. Help us to look at their hearts, and see them with eyes of love, grace, forgiveness and compassion. As we become healthy and whole people, we know that we will become the church you have called us to be, what Jerry Cook calls, “a center of love, designed for the healing of broken people, and a force for God.”
- Heal their broken hearts.
- Set them free from their captivity.
- Comfort them in their mourning.
- Give them beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning.
- Give them the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
In Jesus’ mighty name, amen.
Pastor Chris Jordan
[i] Richard Hoefler, Will Daylight Come?
[ii] John Bevere, The Bait of Satan. (Charisma House, 1994).