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Rules for Repairing Relationships

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Introduction

Last week we talked about being judgmental and critical with others. Several of you came to me after hearing that message to tell me your stories of old hurts and damaged relationships that you have experienced personally.
Some of you told stories of hurts you felt as others condemned you. Others told stories of having harbored critical and condemning thoughts about others.
My pastor’s heart breaks for some of the emotional wounds that some of you have carried around with you for years. As I prayed for each of you and your families this week, God put a check in my spirit about just continuing with our sermon series by moving forward without addressing this issue first.
I was up quite early one day this week as my mind was preparing for a lecture I was scheduled to give for pastors here in the valley. Thank you to those of you that showed up. It was a blessing to have a few friendly faces there as I spoke.
At any rate, I left the house at 5:30 one morning and walked up to the park to get a few miles in before I settled into work on writing… I know… unique concept, right? I’m not normally associated with either a 5:30 wake up or “getting a few miles in.”
I like to listen to other pastors preach when I am walking, so I was listening to J.D. Greear, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He’s a good preacher. I recommend that you find his podcast. I happened to catch the end of a sermon series that he was preaching, called Repairing Relationships.
As I heard an illustration in his sermon, I knew that God was challenging me to do something quite different this week.
When I am preparing for the sermons I preach, I always look at what others have to say about the passage. I read through commentaries. I read through sermons. I extract ideas and illustrations at times. But I never preach another pastor’s sermon outright, and I don’t usually like to preach topical sermons like this. Today I’m going to work from Pastor Greear’s sermon notes.
I never preach another pastor’s sermon outright, and I don’t usually like to preach topical sermons like this. Today I’m going to work from J.D.’s sermon notes.
Why am I doing this? I think God has a word for us in dealing with conflicts, disagreements, and personal woundedness. Now you won’t get J.D.’s sermon verbatim. I hope that’s okay with you all today. As I said, this is what I believe that God has for us today. And my prayer for you is that it will be helpful and healing to the relationships that you have in your lives. We’ll go back to the Sermon on the Mount next week.
Let’s go to the Lord in prayer this morning...
Father God in heaven, we come before you today worshiping your Holy name.
By the way, we’ll be going back to next week.
God we lift up our relationships before you today. We ask that you help us to handle our relationships properly and in a way that is righteous and blameless before you.
Father please forgive us for the sins that we have commited before you and before others. Please allow us to repair and restore those relations that you lead us to today.
God, I ask that you prepare our hearts to hear your message this morning.
God, I ask that you prepare our hearts to hear your message this morning.
Father give me clarity of mind, precision of speech, and a heart for your people here this morning.
In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, I ask these things, Amen.
We all have broken relationships in our lives:
we have had friends who have changed or moved away or faded away
We have
we have been in jobs with mean and nasty coworkers or bosses
we have been in business relationships where we have been betrayed or had to walk away for ethical reasons
we have been fired from jobs
we have left churches because of conflict
we have had people avoid us or talk behind our backs
we have family conflicts
we have people who are judgmental or critical toward us
possibly
we endure weak marriages where we feel unwanted and unloved
we go through divorce and lose the person we consider our soulmate for life
The point is, we all have had conflicts in our lives. Many times we are the walking wounded. Like soldiers returning from the front lines, battered and bruised by our poor interpersonal relationships.
How can we change that?
This is serious business. Some of you are enduring toxic relationships right now. Maybe you put up with it or maybe you’re desperate to leave, but you can’t. Maybe you’d never think of leaving, but you’ve been emotionally cut off.
Everybody in this room has some painful memory that has to do with a broken relationship of some sort. Some of you have worked through the pain of losing that relationship. Others of you have not.
Solomon, the wise king of the Old Testament has some incredible God-given wisdom to share with us about relationships, why they dissolve, and how to repair them when they break down.We are blessed to have some of this wisdom (which came from God) recorded in the Proverbs.
We are blessed to have some of King Solomon’s wisdom (which came from God) recorded in the Proverbs.
Rules for Repairing Relationships
React Slowly
Resist Superiority
Release Liability
Respond Graciously
Remember Mercy

Rules for Repairing Relationships

1. React Slowly -

I. Dealing With Conflict

We all face conflict from time to time.
Proverbs 19:11 NASB95
11 A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.
Most of time our emotions are gut wrenching emotions that are like flood waters overflowing the spillway of a dam. And our emotions also have the ability destroy us and destroy others around us.
A. React Slowly -
These emotions that we have almost seem to be able to turn on and off at the push of a button.
Have you ever said something like “they really push my buttons!”
We can all be like that from time to time: reactionary to what’s happening in our lives.
Others of us hold our emotions in, like that spillway holding back the water. This is one kind of person to watch out for. We can only hold back our emotions for a period of time, then they all come flooding out at once. Psychologists call this a “passive aggressive personality.” The problem with holding back or stuffing our emotions is that they are all packed in tight, like the explosives in a stick of dynamite. When they finally come out, they come out explosively and wreak much more damage then just the reactionary emotions.
These are natural reactions. But the Bible gives us a different option, a more healthy option...
React
Hold it in then explode when we can no longer take any more
Pro 15:
Proverbs 15:28 NASB95
28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
There is a classic Hebrew compare and contrast structure here… The “heart of the righteous” and the “heart of the fool” are commonly paired in Jewish wisdom literature.
The wicked mouth pours out evil things. Boy was I on the receiving end of that last week. There’s no telling what the evil and wicked mouth will say and the lies that will be told.
But this is interesting the heart of the righteous ponders the answer. There is no quick wit here. No sharp rebuke. Just a slow mulling over how to respond. The Hebrew word hagah means to moan or growl in thought, to utter, meditate or ponder.
The concept that comes to mind is when we respond to a new thought with this response...
[Hmm…] It indicates that we are considering and thinking deeply about the implications and pondering an appropriate response.
There are a couple of things we get from this slow and careful response that are valuable...
A. Emotional Distance from the problem.
Abraham Lincoln had a rule to hold a letter written in anger for 24-hours before sending. This allowed him to read it the next day with a fresh mind and attitude. This can be applied today to letters, phone calls, voice mails, emails, social media posts, texts. All manner of communications could be put to this test.
B. Consider the Other Person’s Perspective
Quick emotionally charged reactions never take the other person’s situation into perspective. There is a lot of value to this from the perspective of the one who is in the process of being wronged. There are times that we really need to hear where the other person is coming from. And there are times that our emotionally charged responses can negatively impact the relationship.
I have also known people who are suffering some medical condition to suffer some change in personality. People who have had head injuries can experience radical personality change. People with heart problems or who have undergone heart surgery can become combative and angry when they have not been that way previously.
Proverbs 18:13 NASB95
13 He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.
Proverbs 17:9 NASB95
9 He who conceals a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.
There is a great deal of value in the slow response. Not to mention that God tells us that it is the righteous response. We can practice our righteousness before God by measuring our response in a volatile situation.
React Slowly

2. Resist Superiority -

Proverbs 15:1 NASB95
1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
As I said previously there are times when we are wronged that our immediate response is emotionally charged. We seem to have no trouble at all identifying when we are in the process of being wronged. And our very natural response to this is anger.
Here is the verse...
Proverbs 19:11 NASB95
11 A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.
Why would being slow to anger and quick to overlook something be considered a good thing?
Pro
Proverbs 25:21–22 NASB95
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; 22 For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you.
The core understanding of the book of Proverbs is that human nature is naturally evil. The first step to wisdom requires us to understand that we are foolish in our nature.
Think about this in the context of alcoholism or drug addiction:
What is the first step to healing from any form of addiction? Admitting that you’re addicted.
We, every one of us, is addicted to self-righteousness. The first thing to spring to our mind is “I deserve better than this clown is giving me! He has no right to do that to me!” This stands in contrast to godly righteousness. This is a flesh vs spirit issue.
PRINCIPLE If you think you are naturally wise, you are foolish; if you know you are naturally foolish, you are wise.
Discretion causes us to slow down the reaction and think “What is really behind what he is saying?”
And when we remind ourselves of what could possibly be going on behind the scenes, we can form a correct response rather than trying to defend our pride from a personal attack.
Proverbs 11:12 NASB95
12 He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, But a man of understanding keeps silent.
The quickest route to anger for any of us is when we have our pride attacked. It surges a sense of superiority within us. This stems from a constant sense of insecurity within us. That insecurity is implanted within us from our childhood and blossoms in our youth. We learn during these days to attempt to protect ourselves from any attack that will harm us.
This happens at a very deep level within. We all want to call our own shots in our lives. We all want to play God. Any time we are denied that chance, we become insecure and look to justify what we are doing or saying.
See we’re ALL control freaks deep down inside. We hate it when our control card is revoked. So we begin to play for position and restore our place of power. This often means going on the attack to despise and humiliate the one who is controlling us.
We play this evil game at work, at home, at church.
And let me tell you, beloved, this game is an evil, sinful game that is fanned into flame by the enemy himself. We play this game with God every time we don’t get what we want.
If we refuse to recognize this in our lives and remind ourselves that it is sinful, then we are foolish and sinful.
Resist Superiority

3. Release Liability -

Proverbs 17:9 NASB95
9 He who conceals a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.
This word “conceals” carries the idea of forgiving a debt and the remainder of the verse of course points to forgiving a debt repeatedly.
Let’s paint a picture here, we are out to dinner with close friends and when it comes time to settle the bill, one friend suddenly discovers that he forgot his wallet, so he asks you to pay for his dinner. If we do this once, it is considered an act of love for that friend. When he thanks us we say “Don’t worry about it!” And we mean it sincerely. But should the situation repeat itself time and time again, suddenly he’s a mooch! We would be foolish to continue paying for that friend’s meal. If we did so repeatedly and stayed silent about the transgression our friend is committing against us, then it would undoubtedly grow to damage the relationship.
The proverb says that “he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.”
This idea of repetition can play out in many ways. Your friend could continue to repeat the sin against you by growing to expect you to always take care of his meals. This would be his sin.
But also you could begin to lose your temper with your friend’s constant mooching. You might pay him back with anger or you might constantly remind him of his debt. You might constantly dwell on it and begin to resent his action and hate him for it. In this case it would be your own sin.
In either case, the initial action of covering the tab for your friend was considered to be an act of love for that friend. But the enemy desires to corrupt our love and turn it into hate. The enemy seeks to destroy your relationship and drive a wedge between you.
The Bible encourages us to release liability in situations like this.
Luke 6:33–35 NASB95
33 “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 35 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.
Proverbs 20:22 NASB95
22 Do not say, “I will repay evil”; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.
THIS is what it means to release liability.
This concept applies to more than just money. We should seek to release liability whenever possible because it protects us from carrying around bitterness over unfulfilled expectations. Whenever we find ourselves thinking “He owes me!” we should return to this concept of releasing liability.
God considers this practice of releasing liability preferable to the hate that boils up between you and your brother.

4. Respond Graciously -

II. Navigating Disagreements

A. Respond Graciously -
Proverbs 25:21–22 NASB95
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; 22 For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you.
Wow! Heaping coals of fire on our enemy’s head! That’s quite an image!
I can think of a few things I’d like to do to my enemies. But I hadn’t quite gotten to that one.
It can be easy to forget that we’re reading this with a Hebrew mindset rather than a modern American mindset. To translate this concept into our modern vernacular: Pay evil with kindness. When we treat our enemies with kindness, we are continuing to release liability. We are not taking the matters into our own hands, but leaving it to God to settle the score. In the face of kindness, our enemy will be reminded that he is receiving a kindness that he does not deserve. They are reminded of their guilt.
The coals in this scenario are the coals of their guilt which will sear their conscience and give them another opportunity to do the right thing.
This is a gracious response in the place of a stern rebuke.
Proverbs 15:1 NASB95
1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
When we refuse to forgive others for their wrongs, God takes this behavior seriously.
Proverbs 24:17–18 NASB95
17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; 18 Or the Lord will see it and be displeased, And turn His anger away from him.
This is behavior that God cannot support in His children. There is no surer way to redirect God’s anger away from your enemy so that He turns it against you for the sin of unforgiveness.
As a gentle reminder (since the concept is found throughout the scriptures) God has cared for you and provided a way for you to be completely forgiven for your own sins. When we look on the sin of others and act critical and judgmental about their sins and forget to give them forgiveness, we offend God deeply.
Respond Graciously

5. Remember Mercy -

Proverbs 16:6 NASB95
6 By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.
Matthew 16:6 NASB95
6 And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
It is our own atonement that keeps us away from evil.
Atonement is that our evil against God is paid for by someone else. Jesus paid for our sins by His death on the cross. He took our sins on His own account and paid the price for those sins to be completely removed from our record onto His. That means that we can stand blameless before God.
We received mercy from Christ and we are expected to give mercy to others. When we remember this mercy that we received, we remember to lose our need for self-justification. We lose our need for revenge and pay-back. We lose our hurt and lose our anger against those who have wronged us.
One Freebie

FREE Rule: Turn the Other Cheek -

This rule is closely related to Respond Graciously, but I think it is so good that I gave it it’s own spot. And I decided to call it a free rule so you’d feel like I was giving you a bonus.
Matthew 5:38–39 NASB95
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
Jesus told us to turn the other cheek when we are slapped.
A normal modern response is “so you’re being physically attacked and abused and Jesus wants you to just stand there and take it on the chin?”
The slap that Jesus is talking about is not a tooth breaker and the attack is not necessarily physical abuse, but an offense nonetheless. For the Hebrews of this day a kiss on the cheek was a warm, friendly greeting. The slap to the face was the ultimate insult. The slap is the cutting of a relationship. It was damage that was might be considered unforgivable.
So we have several responses possible:
Get even - strike them back so that you can have your revenge
Make them pay you back - force them to make it right by apologizing
Turn the other cheek - this is the unexpected response
Turning the other cheek is not saying “I’m so tough that I can take it on that cheek and then again on the other cheek. Give me all you got, punk! Make my day so I can go off on you and put you in your place!”
Turning the other cheek is saying “I still love you. I can still love you if you did it on this side too. It won’t damage our relationship.” It is a gentle response in the face of offense.

FALSE Rule: Forgive and Forget

I have also given you a false rule. This one’s free too.
We have a saying that says we must “Forgive and Forget” when somebody wrongs us. Some people wrongly think that rule is in the Bible. But it is not. Not in any form is the phrase “forgive and forget” found in scripture.
We have a saying that says we must “Forgive and Forget” when somebody wrongs us. Some people wrongly think that rule is in the Bible. But it is not. Not in any form is the phrase “forgive and forget” found in scripture.
We find “forgive one another” throughout the Bible ( and ). Failure to forgive hinders our relationship with God and can turn his wrath in our direction (as we mentioned).
Forgiveness is a decision that we make and it requires our will to turn our mind to forgiveness.
God himself chooses not to remember our sins () when He has forgiven them. But God is all-knowing and surely remembers that we all have sinned and fall short of His glory ().
But we are not God. We cannot simply choose not to remember something that has happened. But we are required to put those transgressions behind us and move forward in grace. This helps us to keep the root of bitterness from springing up in our hearts (). It is this bitterness that spoils us and rots us from within.
How do we get to this point of forgiveness?
Changing hearts and renewing the mind is God’s business. This comes back to the idea of laying our hurt and brokenness at God’s feet so that He may heal us from within.
[piano]
We can only get to forgiveness as a child of God. That means that we must accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before we can get to any level of forgiveness and achieve this righteousness before God.
You might be here this morning with broken relationships and realizing that you need Jesus Christ in order to experience the forgiveness of God. And maybe God has revealed to you that you can only reach healing in your relationships by starting a relationship with Christ.
If this is you, I’d invite you to come in just a moment when we sing.
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