How does the good news become old news? See if you can find the subtle transition in these scenarios:
- A friend says, “Did you hear what Lauren said about you?! I can’t believe she had the nerve to even act like she knows what she’s talking about!” You stew for days/weeks/months/years while waiting for Lauren to “come clean” about her dirty, old gossip. Meanwhile, you give her the cold shoulder.
- A mom in your playgroup looks on and does nothing as her child “corrects” yours with proper playground etiquette, in a lovely and condescending and unrelenting sort of way. Suddenly, it’s painfully obvious (to you, at least) how very “bad” her child is and you silently congratulate yourself for parenting your child in a way that isn’t resulting in the horrid behavior you see in hers. Proper playground etiquette…ha!
- You discover your spouse has been looking at porn and feel devastated. You alternate between this new feeling of hopelessness over your marriage and a seething anger at feeling betrayed. Unsure how to bring up the subject with him, you fuss and fume at him and decide he deserves every bit of confusion over your attitude….the jerk.
- After what seems like the zillionth time you’ve approached your pastor about the sorry lack of emphasis on the youth group – and a polite, “thank you” is all you get- you throw your hands up in the air and just…leave. That’ll teach them to not draw from your years of experience!
- Who knew a pre-teen could be so difficult? You decide if your little diva decides to roll her eyes one more time, you’re going to take it all away until she realizes how good she’s got it and comes back to you with tears in those eyes, telling you how selfish she’s been.
Any of this sound remotely familiar? Yup. I know – hits pretty close to home, doesn’t it?
What happens when we brew and stew on situations like these, and others? A root of bitterness, conflict, anger, etc. begins to go deep into our hearts. Left alone and undealt with, this root can have far-reaching effects – crossing over from relationship to relationship and leaving us confused, unhappy, defensive and lonely. Worst of all, this causes a disconnect within our relationship with the Lord.
When the Good News Becomes Old News
My church recently asked speaker and author Ken Sande to speak – he’s kind of the expert on biblical conflict resolution! In fact, I cannot recommend a couple resources of his highly enough: The Peacemaker and The Young Peacemaker (can’t wait till my kids are old enough to begin using this!).
Ken was sharing how when we begin to lose sight of the meaning of the Gospel, and its application to our daily lives, we forget our identity in Christ. In Him we are loved, forgiven and reconciled. Therefore, we can love, forgive and reconcile.
That’s powerful. Let that sink in a moment.
He reached down into our miry pit and rescued us with love. He forgave us our long list of sins that cost Him His life. He reconciled us to the Father at the greatest cost ever required.
But, how does this transfer into our relationships, our conflicts?
When the Good News is the Right Choice
Well, it always is, isn’t? The hard part can be recognizing when we’ve lost sight of the Gospel – and what to do about that. Here are some ways to pinpoint this shift:
So you realize you’re in the midst of a conflict. Are you waiting for them to come to you? Are others more at fault than you are?
The Gospel can infuse this situation by desiring to imitate Christ and initiate reconciliation – even if they seem more at fault!
So someone is acting like you’re both in a war. Do you retaliate? Are you tempted to steer clear of them, dropping them like a hot potato?
The Gospel calls us to do the opposite because we have an example of this in Christ – to love them, pursue them and doing all it takes to be reconciled with them.
So someone isn’t changing. Again. Maybe it’s you – maybe you seem “stuck” and you don’t know what to do. Are you discouraged by the lack of change you see in others or within yourself? Do you withdraw and give up on others or assume you will never be any different?
The Gospel bursts on the scene with an outpouring of hope – a reminder that Jesus promised to continue to change us. Conflict is a part of the pathway to Change.
These are small paradigm shifts, but they can truly be “paradigm shifts.” Reconciliation can be a process, sometimes a long one. But it is always a worthwhile journey and one for which Christ promised to pour out much grace and wisdom.
I love this quote by Tim Keller from The Prodigal God (find it here):
All change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out of the changes that understanding creates in your heart. Faith in the gospel restructures our motivations, our self-understanding, our identity, our view of the world.
How could this thinking transform our thinking about ourselves? Our children? Our spouses? Our parents? Our friends? Neighbors, co-workers?
(Based on the message “Gospel-Centered Relationships” by Ken Sande.)