When Relationships Fail

by Jennifer Slattery

No matter how hard we try, no matter how grace-filled our conversations and Christ-led our attempts, relationships sometimes implode. People remain hurt. Barriers are erected, and isolation, regret, and pain occur.

But the beauty’s in the obedience, not the result.

Some time ago, something I did deeply hurt a woman I cared for. I didn’t intend to wound her, and honestly, I didn’t fully understand her response or interpretation. In fact, initially I felt quite indignant. She was being over-reactive. I’d done nothing wrong!

And yet, she was hurt, and Jesus said, if I know someone is upset with me, regardless of the why, I’m to initiate conversation, and do what I can to make things right (Matthew 5:23-24). As far as it depends on [me], I should do everything possible to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).

In the Bible, the idea of peace goes much deeper than simple conflict avoidance. In fact, true biblical peace goes beyond the surface and can resolve much deeper issues—broken relationships, unresolved issues, and, often, harbored bitterness.

Biblical peace, eiréneuó in the Greek, points to wholeness.

Consider Ken Sande’s words, taken from his book, the Peace Maker: “Token efforts will not satisfy this command; God wants [us] to strive earnestly, diligently, and continually to maintain harmonious relationships with those around [us].”

This is a big deal. Not only does this help protect unity within the church, but Sande goes on to say, seeking peace can “turn conflict into an opportunity to strengthen relationships … and make [our] lives a testimony to the love and power of Christ.”

Perhaps this is why Jesus placed such emphasis on conflict resolution, so much so that He told us if we’re about to worship Him and remember an offended brother, we’re to immediately stop and seek reconciliation. Only after we’ve done that are we freed, emotionally and spiritually, to truly worship God.

But what if the other person is unresponsive?

In that case, we can walk away with clean hearts and hands knowing, “as far as it depended on us,” we attempted to live in peace.  Because resolution doesn’t just depend on us. We have no control over how another person will respond, but we do have full control over how faithfully we obey Christ and how well we reflect Him in our actions.

As I thought back to my situation with the offended woman, I remembered how Christ treated me. When I was living in complete rebellion against Him, He pursued me, diligently and patiently. When I sinned again and again, He forgave me. And when my sin created a barrier between us that I couldn’t cross, through His death, He tore it down.

Knowing this, regardless of how this young woman received or reacted to my efforts, I knew I needed to reach out anyway.

So I did. She responded exactly as I’d feared, but that didn’t mean my efforts had been pointless. Despite my fear of rejection and my desire to avoid the entire situation, I’d chosen to obey, and hopefully, in doing so, had provided a glimpse of Jesus … and reminded myself afresh of the beauty of grace.

“Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Colossians 3:12b-13 NASB

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author:  Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Join the conversation: Let’s talk about this! How do you typically react when someone hurts or abandons you? Why do you think it’s important God’s children learn to reconcile with one another?

Photo by Kseniya Petukhova on Unsplash

 

In Tune with Each Other

by Afton Rorvik

Some days my head spins with details on my to-do lists and my heart feels as if it could literally crack under the weight of concerns for people I love.

On these days I crawl into my favorite chair and talk to God about it all and beg Him for perspective and strength. If only I could stay in this chair all day, wrapping God’s love around me like a warm blanket. But life calls: responsibilities, decisions, opportunities, people.

And, truthfully, it is the people part of life that so often disrupts my sense of peace and sends me back to my chair. Because I care about people, I hear and see their pain. I want to listen. I want to help.

Most days.

Other days I just want to block it all out—no emails, no texts, no phone calls, no conversations. Just Jesus and me. Peace! Quiet! Solitude!

Life with people is messy. And joy-filled. Challenging. And life-giving.

The other day, while sitting in my perspective-setting chair, I read this in Colossians 3:15: “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing.” (MSG)

I have read this verse many times in the NIV but reading it in a different version brought a new perspective. I saw, as I had never seen before, the connection between the peace of Christ and the ability to keep in tune with each other.

So many times I have hugged the peace of Christ to myself in order to feel better. I have NOT regarded the peace of Christ as something that helps me reach out, something to help me live life with people. And, when faced with a challenging situation, I have thought to myself over and over, I can do this. I will just roll up my sleeves and do this.

This verse reminds me that the peace of Christ should become my fuel for reaching toward people and working to develop relationships with them, something that resembles a complicated, beautiful song. It also reminds me that a song sounds richer and stronger with multiple voices. Living for Jesus is not a solo act.

Just like any driver of a traditional car, I must refuel frequently—fill up my tank with the peace of Christ. I can do that in my chair, yes. But then I must push myself to stand up and leave that chair and go connect with messy, encouraging, hurting, thoughtful people.

Many congregations as part of their weekly service encourage members to turn to someone around them and extend a handshake and a greeting: “The peace of Christ be with you.” Congregants often respond: “And also with you.”

What a beautiful sound as a building buzzes with the words, “The peace of Christ.” And what a clear, visual reminder that the peace of Christ is meant to be shared, not hugged to ourselves in a comfortable chair in a serene living room.

Life with people. Life fueled by the peace of Christ.

“. . .so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:18 NASB

afton rorvik2About the author: Afton Rorvik loves shaping words, reading books, listening to music, drinking coffee with friends, traveling, and savoring the words in her favorite book—the Bible. In 2014 Afton published Storm Sisters (Worthy), a story-filled book about learning to stick around when storms hit a friend’s life. You can connect with Afton on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Join the conversation: How has God’s peace affected your relationships?