Before working through this Bible study, read Disastrous Attitudes for background.
Immature people can only see things from their perspective. They're inconsiderate, self-defensive, and easily offended. They set all the rules in the relationship.
If these people are in our workplace, neighborhood, or circle of friends, we should do our best to get along, but there's nothing wrong with avoiding them and choosing other friends.
It's different, however, when they're family members. God placed us in our family for a purpose. Working through our problems might be one of the most important aspects in our Christian maturity.
1. We can't have a good relationship with the Lord if we refuse to deal with human relationship problems:
1 John 4:7: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:20: Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
Matthew 5:23-24: Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Have you written off a family relationship when the other person is still interested in a relationship? Have you refused to work through problems when the other person is willing? If so, you've built a wall between yourself and God. I encourage you to read You Can't Serve God if you Refuse.
2. We also need to take a serious look at our own sins before judging others.
Matthew 7:3-5: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
The mature Christian listens thoughtfully to criticism and tries to see things from the other person's perspective. The immature Christian gets angry and defensive. I encourage you to read Speck-Finders.
3. We need to be willing to deny ourselves (i.e inconvenience ourselves) in order to improve the relationship.
Matthew 16:24: Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
If we refuse reasonable requests in a relationship, we're not only being selfish. We're being manipulative.
Some family relationships could be vastly improved by as little as an hour of considerate behavior each week - a phone call, a lunch date, two or three phone texts, or a short email. Often relationships flounder because one party neglects the other.
4. We need to choose our words carefully.
Ephesians 4:29-32: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Our words are important. When was the last time you complimented your parent, adult child, or sibling on something they did well? When was the last time you praised one of their good qualities?
We need to speak thoughtfully and kindly, even when we have a disagreement. When things break down and angry words are spoken, we need to ask forgiveness, forgive the other person, and speak words that promote reconciliation.
5. Selfishness kills relationships.
Philippians 2:1-4: Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
All good relationships involve deliberate effort and lots of unselfish grace. If you are an adult child, you may have little interest in keeping lines of communication open with your aging parents, but one day, when they're gone, you'll very likely feel regret. As I mentioned above, it can take as little as a few minutes a day or an hour a week to let them know you care. This is a small thing to ask for someone who cared for you 24/7 when you were young. When parents know they are valued, they are less likely to complain.
And parents of adults, step back a bit if you've been complaining. Ask God if you've been expecting too much or sharing your complaints in ways that encourage brokenness in the relationship. Have you asked your child if there's something you've done to cause strain in the relationship? Are you willing to ask forgiveness if they share legitimate concerns?
6. We can't fix everything, but we need to be willing to give it our best.
Romans 14:19: Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Sometimes a family member shuts off contact or refuses to discuss problems. If we've done our best to work through things, asked forgiveness for our faults in the relationship, and remained willing to keep lines of communication open, that's all we can do.
copyright 2019, Gail Burton Purath, Bite Size Bible Study
Bite Size Bible Study