And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good…. Genesis 1:27, 31
The scary thing about relationships is that they are messy. Other people’s processes are not always easy to understand. Relationships are notoriously hard to navigate. During particularly daunting relational conflict it is common for thoughts of self-preservation to make an appearance. I want to encourage you today, if you are facing difficult relationships, if the waters around you are troubled and it is difficult to see clearly, He has already given the power and love you need for victory.
When we live for ourselves we tend to, by definition, live selfishly. Our conversations and thoughts revolve around ourselves. I often witness this phenomenon in relationships as conflict is introduced. How often I listen just to be ready with a reply, hardly to understand. More often than not, during conflict, while the other person speaks I hear more of what my own opinion informs me that what the person is actually saying. Have you ever watched a movie with subtitles? I get so distracted following along with them I miss the actual visual imagery on screen. This is what happens in my mind when I follow a conversation reading only my own opinion in the moment. I lose sight of the other person and what they are saying. This results in counter arguments that are usually very ineffective, and one-sided. The argument that results are then aimed at defending me, distance is created to protect myself, and silence is inevitably doled out to ascertain my standing in a relationship after myriad verbal punishments are served.
We fail to honor the other person, because we have lost sight of them in the chaos. It is imperative to remember that what God made is good, and those we are in conflict with are also made in His image. I love that when Jesus was standing in front of the high priest and Pilate and they brought His personhood into question, He did not answer them. I think there is much wisdom in staying silent when our character and who we are comes into question. Essentially conflict resolution is NOT loud redefining moment for us; it is a wonderful moment to lessen the distance between two people. The point of conflict should always be connection – how I can understand you better, love you better, treat you better, be better, more like Jesus. We cannot avoid conflict, but we can handle it with the wisdom of God. The only way to handle conflict well is to love well. For this we need His love and Spirit.
“So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-18
What if I told you that part of every believer’s calling is reconciliation? Whether prophet, evangelist, mom, teacher, scientist. If you are a believer and you don’t know your calling, you are called to reconcile people to Him. We do this by reminding people who He is, not who they are. We remind them what He has done, not what they have done. I cannot lead you to Christ by pointing out all your mistakes. I can only lead you to Christ by leading you to Christ. I can only reconcile you to Him by showing Him to you. During conflict, this is where love plays its part. If we are disagreeing, it is my God given duty to see Christ in you, and remind you of who He is, and who that makes you. Imagine being in an argument and telling the person everything they do well, everything they do that reminds you of Jesus, details that call to mind the amazing calling on their life. Let God have the last word.
I can honestly testify that the goodness of God changed my perspective of not only me but how I viewed the people around me. He has come and blown on the dry husk of my heart, breathing life into me, reviving me in His love. I have come to realize that He has placed immense value on those He loves, and that He has called His children to love each other the same way. That value cannot fluctuate because His love and nature is constant. I believe the highest calling is to love people the way God loves us. When we are confronted with difficult situations and rocky relationships, we often turn to verbal and emotional means to rectify the situation. If you win by manipulation, you will have to maintain with manipulation. I want to stress that it is only the goodness of God that can lead people to repentance, and only His love that allows for change to happen. Without operating in this love and from a good heart we will never see our relationships healed. And it is in operating from this mindset that we discover the purpose God has for our lives; to be good, and to do only good, consistently.
“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13
Pray with me, “Thank you Father for Your unfailing love and patience. Let Your goodness witness to my heart and encourage me to freely and wholly love every person I encounter. I want to see them as You see, loved and lovely. Help me lay down my weapons, and to use my words not to destroy, but to point out the good. Help me to recognize and acknowledge the value You have placed on the people around me, especially those I don’t always agree with. May my focus ever be on the identity they have in God and on the fact that the price for their lives are also paid in full.”