1. Note these two passages which encourage us to deal with relationship problems:
- Show the value God places on relationships.
- Tell us that service to the Lord is not an excuse to neglect our relationships.
- Place responsibility on us even if we aren't the one having the problem.
- Say nothing about blame - i.e. the person who has something against us may be wrong but we still should go to them--try to work things through as much as is possible (Romans 12:18).
There are some small offenses that we should simply overlook, forgive and forget. Others require kind and honest confrontation of the offender. If a friend, co-worker, or church member has offended you, you shouldn't take your concerns to other friends, your boss or your pastor until you have first discussed your concerns with the offender and given him/her a chance to respond.
2. What cautions should we take before trying to talk things through with others?
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Make sure we've dealt with our own sins and make sure our attitude toward the offender is gracious (not resentful).
It's not wrong to judge. It's wrong to judge hypocritically, harshly, without evidence or without mercy.
I've heard sincere Christians say that there is no use discussing their problems with someone who has offended them because that person would never understand their perspective. In my opinion, soap operas (which I used to watch 30 years ago) are built on this premise. I wonder how many problems could be averted simply by honest communication?
If we try to communicate in the right attitude, the other person still may not understand, but we can't know unless we try. We aren't responsible for the other person's response, but we are responsible for ours.
We should approach our offender with humility, guarding our heart, fully aware of our own capacity to sin.
One of my real life examples: My father was a good father despite the fact that he rarely affirmed me. If he commented on something I was doing, it was usually corrective or critical. After several tries to communicate this to him as an adult, I pretty much gave up.
After my mother's death, we moved close to my father to help with his health problems. During that time, he wanted me to arrange a birthday party for my 90 year old great aunt, and I was happy to do it.
However, at the supper table the day before the party, my father began criticizing everything I'd planned. Typically, I would have said nothing, assuming it would do no good.
But I'd been praying for a better attitude, so I very calmly, kindly and respectfully told him that I loved him and I was arranging the party out of my love for him more than anything else. And I told him that I was hurt that his only comments about my plans were negative.
He immediately denied that he'd been negative and left without saying more.
The next morning I heard a gentle knock on the door and found my father standing on my porch offering apologies for his attitude and asking my forgiveness, which I gladly gave. It was a very sweet moment for us.
After that, I tried to be more open when I was hurt by his negative comments. It didn't always turn out as sweetly as this situation, but I believe it was the right thing to do.
Some negative, critical people in our lives can be avoided, but family are God-given. I believe God expects us to do our best to live in good relationship with our family members despite their faults.