Many times in life we find ourselves entangled in problems involving relationships with others. This is especially true when we have a difference of opinions. In these situations our first tendency is often to take our stand, stand our ground, and strongly voice our opinion on some matter. We tend to defend our turf and often want to protect our comfort zone. But life isn’t always comfortable and even among Christians we have disagreements. Relationships can be messy. All this because, given our struggles with the sinful nature in us, in our relationships with others we kind of take the Burger King approach and want to have it our way.
Now please understand that there are clearly stated truths of the Christian faith which are absolutes and based on the clear Word of God; and therefore they are not negotiable. The best example here is the 10 commandments. Understand also that truth telling, done in love and according to Matthew 18:15-17, is also the bedrock of maintaining our relationships. This is echoed earlier in the OT in proverbs 27:5 where the writer says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” Still, in a matter of a difference of opinions with others, there are also many areas of Christian Freedom which we call adiaphora. This word means that the matter at hand is not commanded or forbidden by God in His word. In such matters God offers us the following guidance;
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. –Philippians 2:3
22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. –1 Corinthians 9:22 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. –Matthew 7:2
When we combine these three verses we have a picture of Christian conduct that calls us not to put ourselves, and our felt injuries incurred in relationship to others, first. We are then also called to move toward others and give up our rights on anything or matter of adiaphora—perhaps a personal belief or preference or long held habit–that blocks us from being able to reach others with the love of Christ as we relate to them. Failure to put others first and reach across the aisle to them is then addressed by our Lord Jesus in the last verse from Matthew where He echoes the 7th Commandment’s admonition to not bear false witness against our neighbor; to not assume the worst about them or tarnish their reputation by judgmental words.
The truth is that none of us is a master-communicator this side of eternity; and none of us has lived a life with perfect relationships free of some turmoil or strife. So perhaps these next few verses can grant us some comfort and wisdom;
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. –Proverbs 15:1
(if you have sinned against your brother) 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. –Matthew 5:24
And since we know that all things work together for good for those who love Christ Jesus then we should draw comfort in our relationships from the following words;
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30
Pastor Mark Moss