I am a spiritual magpie. I steal the spiritual characteristics in
other people that get applauded the most. Of course you can reply that it is
admirable that I imitate the good that I see in others. But this is not the
case. I am not taking these attitudes and making them part of my life as you
might take clay and use it to form a nose on a statue. Rather I am merely
reflecting what I see but it penetrates no more than a flashlight shining on my
chest. I wear these spiritual attributes like a large slogan button.
I acquire these tricks not because I am so enthralled with maturity,
discipline, character (although these are all good things) but more because I
am enticed by applause, appreciation, and acceptance. Someone just complimented
the pastor? —Why, I can be like that too! Over there a praise is being dished
out? –I’ve got that recipe written down. Did I hear a pat on the back? –I can
change faster than Clark Kent!
I’m a spiritual hypochondriac. If the spiritual vogue were large, round eyes
then I would resemble a loris faster than you can peel a banana.
I view every encounter as a report card with me trying to guess the
grades. Would they comment that I am well liked and get along with my other
classmates? Forget penmanship, arithmetic, and reading. We’re talking about
popularity, spirituality, and recognizability. Teacher’s pet—you would never
read that on a real report card, but pastor’s pet! —Now if I could pull that
one then that would be better than running A+s down the line. That would be a
report card suitable for framing or better yet, carrying around in my Bible so
that every time I open up the word of God it opens right to where the card is.
Then next time that old lady pulls out her grandchildren’s pictures I can nudge
in and open up my Bible, “Did you happen to notice what the pastor says about
me?” I can even now hear the “oooos” and see the admiring glances.
The result is not that I become all things to all men as Paul did but,
instead, I act like I think all men want me to act. If twitching were suddenly
deemed a spiritual gift then my left eye would look like it was always being
electrocuted. I never examine myself; I only watch others. Ask me my five
biggest weakness—I could not tell you. What sins am I struggling with? –Don’t
know. Why did they just make that person an elder? –That I can tell you!
I acquire and shed these traits with the speed of a poker player
exchanging cards. To be quite honest, it can quite wear me out. Sometimes I
wonder if it might be easier to just be myself.
can be infinitely varied and vastly different in depth. They can also be hard.
Relationships can be hard for those who are terribly shy or fearful. They can
be hard for those who lack social skills or who have been isolated for so long
that they lack people experience. They can be hard for those who have been hurt
a lot and have learned to put up barriers. They can be hard for those who are
constantly around self-centered, inconsiderate people or for those who are in a
marriage that is far from communicative.
must “practice” relationships. For each relationship that we are involved in,
no matter how short, there is something to learn about who we are and how we
can better understand other people. Even the most bitter and disappointing
relationship can teach us valuable lessons that can make our subsequent
relationships deeper, stronger, and wiser.
are going to examine a number of characteristics that form relationships. Some
of these are good; some are bad. Some should be developed to improve a
relationship and some should be recognized as red flags to possibly get out of
a relationship or at least proceed more slowly.
of this is absolute and there will be as many variations and applications as
there are people in the world. But there are principles here that can be
recognized as being universal. Hopefully, studying these characteristics will
make each one of us a better friend and maybe prevent us from making a bad
who are great friends to each other are not only good for the individuals and
for the church, but it is probably the best witness that we can make to those
outside of the church. The early church grew tremendously because of Christians
who demonstrated sacrificial love. Speaking about the first few centuries,
“Personal evangelism was often backed up by outstanding acts of kindness….
During outbreaks of plague at Alexandria,
Christians tended the sick and buried the dead when nearly everyone else had
fled. In fact, the Christian life-style itself was a very powerful influence in
evangelism. In a society where kindness, honesty and personal purity were rare,
Christians who lived out these virtues were sure to attract comment and often
it certainly has its place, most people will not be moved to Christ because of
strong apologetics or great evangelism techniques. They do not suddenly come to
a realization that they need correct doctrine and so show up at church. What
draws people to God is love, forgiveness, mercy, peace, and so on. Jeremiah
reiterates this, “The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you
with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.’” It
has been said that there are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and
yourself and probably the only one that most people will read is the last one.
we snap at people we bring reproach upon God. Many people’s view of God is the
Christian in front of them. Who would want to come to a God whose followers are
gossips, impatience, cranky, malicious, or moody? But when Christians love then
people will come.
before we examine these qualities we should define what a relationship is. This
is not easy since there are many levels ranging from the person that we meet
only once in a while and exchange a few words with to the marriage partner with
whom we share our most intimate emotions. So our definition will form the
entire next section.
books describe different levels of friendship. Some will have as few as three
and some as many as six. I have settled on four levels. Maybe that is because I
do not like living on the edge and so generally take the middle road. I think
that by using this resolution we can adequately describe each level in a
practical way. We are going to describe each level and then look at some
practical ways of developing and strengthening those friendships at each level.
Why is it important
to understand these levels? It is more than an exercise of categorization. It
is because all too often a person has never or can not move beyond the first or
second level of conversation. They may want to become more intimate or have a
deeper or exclusive commitment but because of some fear or because of a lack of
social skills they have been frustrated. Understanding practical ways to do
this can be very helpful.
Listed below are
some questions or concepts associated with each level. Of course, you can add
your own questions but part of the idea is to learn what is appropriate to ask
and when. For example, you would not want to blurt out a question to someone
who is merely an acquaintance a question like, “What is the dumbest thing that
you’ve ever done in your life?” That person would probably be taken back and if
he did not verbalize it he would surely be thinking, “Why should I tell you
that? I hardly know you.” However, it would usually be appropriate to ask,
“What type of work do you do?” These sample questions might make developing
friendships a little easier.
Also, if you are
only willing to give yourself to a relationship at a lower lever then you do
not have the right to expect deeper intimacy or commitment from the other
person. You should both be at the some general level. But if this is not the
case then you should be the one who is more willing to be vulnerable and open.
Do not expect from that other person what you are unwilling to give yourself.
getting through these levels takes time and effort. The deeper that you go the
harder it will be and the more vulnerable you will become. Sometimes there will
be problems that will set things back. That does not necessarily mean that the
relationship is doomed and should be forsaken. It just may mean that you will
have to work your way back to that same point and then possibly beyond.
all relationships must deepen as time goes on. Some relationships are quite
comfortable at the casual level, for example, and to force it beyond that would
create a strain. As you “practice” relationships you will best be able to
discern when to leave things as they are and when to go beyond.
with God should be at the fourth and deepest level. We should be willing to
trust Him with all that we are and all that we are not. Again, this may take
time, but it will grow if we continue to read the Bible every day, pray, attend
a good church, remember His good deeds for us, and worship Him.
Four levels of friendships
Levels of Friendship
Small talk, general questions,
clichés, public information. May involve a small superficial interest such as
a favorite sport’s team or how the children are doing.
Common interests, activities, and
Can talk about ongoing specific
circumstances, general personal questions, opinions, ideas, and broad goals.
May occasionally get together outside of chance meetings.
Mutual ideas and goals
Can discuss life goals, desires,
and problems in detail. There is an interest in and sharing of feelings.
These are people who know each other well and are familiar with a number of
issues in each other’s lives. They are freer to open up to each other but
with some limitations.
Commitment to each other
There is a deep trust and
vulnerability. Each person feels responsible for the other and is truly
concerned about the other. There is honestly, respect, and understanding.
There are no or, at least, very few boundaries.
level has practically no risk. This may be the person at the gas station that
you most frequent or at a favorite store. It may be someone that you
occasionally talk to at work or church. But just because this person is not
deeply involved in your life does not mean that you must be unconcerned. Here
are some thoughts regarding this type of relationship.
Learn and remember his or her name. Then use it
the next time that you see them.
Always pleasantly greet them. Do not be friendly
at some times and ignore them at others.
As long as you are not inconsiderate to other
people that might be waiting be willing to take a few more seconds than usual
to show extra interest in that person.
If it is at work then look around that person’s
area to see if there is anything that they have displayed that you can ask
about. It might be a family picture or a vacation photo. Or maybe ask them how
long they have been working at this place.
Be alert to the person that you are talking to.
Do not look around as though you are trying to find someone more interesting.
It was said that John Kennedy gave such undivided attention to whomever he was
talking to, that he made that person feel like he was the most important person
in the world to him.
Be a good listener and remember what they say.
Then mention that the next time that you see them.
As you leave, pray silently for that person.
For people that
you are able to spend more time with than an occasional moment you should be
able to move from the acquaintance to the casual level without much difficulty.
There is still not much openness and vulnerability here. In some ways these may
be the most difficult relationships to maintain because there often is not much
to talk about since you both do not know each other very well. Conversation is
usually limited to the same topics and issues. But that does not mean that a
sincere effort should not be made to encourage this person. All of the points
mentioned under “Acquaintance” apply here and then some.
Listen carefully and ask appropriate specific
Be open to answering their questions about
yourself and be honest.
If it is appropriate, ask them for some things
you can pray for them. This is usually a very good way to learn more about a
If they express a concern then try to support
them. This may involve looking up some information and getting back to them or
it may simply require praying. At a later time ask how that concern is going.
What are some
level two types of questions? Notice that the answers to these questions
generally require only facts; feelings are not involved. They are also not
“yes” or “no” answers.
How many brothers and sisters do you have?
Where have you lived?
Did you go to college?
What was your major?
Where do work?
Where do you go to church?
Why did you pick that church?
Are you involved in any ministries?
Do you think that the church should be involved
in politics or not?
Is it true that many of your ancestors are
missing fingers because they got caught stealing goats? (Use this question
are friendships that take time to develop. If two people hit it off as causal
friends and they both have the time and availability then they can become close
friends. Questions can often aim at discerning the underlying feelings to many
of the actions or attitudes of the person. Because of this, many people never
reach this level of friendship, all of their relationships never get deeper
than the discussion of facts. In that case, the dominant bond is nothing more
than common interests like sports, children, or ministry. But at this level
there is a greater degree of vulnerability and a greater chance of
disagreement. People who have been hurt frequently may never develop this level
of friendship again. But even though this level involves risk it is worth the
Discover that person’s goals and see how you
might be able to help.
Learn each other’s struggles and be there to
help each other.
Spend time together whether on the phone or in
Be willing to take the initiative and not just
always wait for them to set up getting together.
Learn what motivates that person, what their
interests or hobbies are, and what qualities in people they find the most
Ask questions that do not
just require facts but involve underlying feelings or motives.
What are your favorite types of movies? Why?
What do you think your spiritual gift is?
What are some important things in your life?
How do you feel when someone treats you that
way? (If you are discussing a specific situation.)
What was the most embarrassing time in your
What are some things that really make you happy?
Are there any things that really annoy you?
What are some of your greatest fears or
Disregarding money or talent, if you were able
to choose any job in the world what would it be?
is the level of friendship that all marriages should achieve and is certainly
possible for two unmarried people. It is a level that is usually restricted to
maybe one or two people at a time in a person’s life. It is undoubtedly the
most rewarding relationship but it is also the most difficult. It requires a
lot of honesty, a lot of sharing, and a lot of openness. It is the relationship
that all of us should have with God.
Spend a great deal of time together.
Be able to rejoice together and mourn together.
Learn to be a comfort and support through each
Help each other to defeat any sins or
Be committed to shaping each other into the
character of Christ.
Work through conflicts.
Deepen your understanding and trust of each
Understand how previous experiences shaped his
or her current thinking.
Discuss the Bible and pray together
By this point you
will know what kind of questions you will be asking each other.
You are jealous if you:
since you cannot have it then they should not have it either
person because of what they have and show it in subtle ways such as being
unfriendly, sarcastic, or belittling
or maybe even others that that person does not deserve what they have
Scheme how you
can get that from the other person even if doing so is unrighteous or unfair
Spend too much
time thinking about what you do not have and what someone else does have
The thing to keep
in mind while we are looking at these is that you can apply these same
principles to all relationships and that includes your relationship with God.
This does not just have to apply to your first date with someone.
How many times
when you are anticipating a date do you think, “Then this will happen and then
that will happen and then he’ll say this and it’ll end like this”? And then the
date goes well but because it did not go exactly the way that you had hoped you
are now a little disappointed?
Though you cannot
plan every part of a date as though you are both reading from a script, some
people devise conversational expectations and checkpoints that they try to hold
to no matter where the actual conversation is going.
Get rid of the
script. It is fine to have some topics of conversation tucked away just in case
things get slow but do not plan out the evening. Especially do not plan out how
the other person will respond to questions that you may ask and how you will
then use those responses to work your way to some greater end. For example, you
ask, “Do you like to play miniature golf?” You expect her to answer that she
does and then you will lead to asking her if she would like to play a few games
next weekend. You have the place scouted out, how long a couple of games would
take, and where the nearest coffee shop is. You feel confident that she will be
impressed with your planning abilities and with a big smile agree to the date.
But then she says, “No, I really don’t like miniature golf.” Your plan just hit
the floor, shattered, and was swept away by a large push broom. Suddenly the
whole evening becomes tense. Now you do not know what to do about a next date.
Your confidence has fallen and you are wondering if this is a sign from God to
can the whole thing.
says, “The mind of man plans his way, but
the LORD directs his steps.” It’s been said, “We plan, God laughs.” On
dates its, “We overly plan, we cry.” Having some kind of script will make you
tense and, more often than not, you will find yourself missing more checkpoints
then you will having things go according to your plot. Dump the “And then
she’ll say this and that’ll be the perfect opening for me to say that.”
Instead, just be yourself and have fun.
This is where you
are being who you think your date wants you to be rather than being who you
really are. There is nothing wrong with showing interest in what the other
person likes or asking specifics about their hobbies even if it something that
you would never be interested in. The problem is trying to become whatever it
is that he or she finds interesting. For example, she likes to travel and, even
though you’ve never cared to leave your own county, all of sudden you are a
budding Jacques Cousteau. Or she likes to collect thimbles and, by George, you
have always had a deep yearning to start your own collection and maybe she will
be willing to help you.
The question is,
“Do you want someone who will ultimately accept and love the real you or the
chameleon that you have become?”
God, who is our
example of all right relationships, does not present different sides of Himself
to different people simply so that He will be more likable. He does not promise
untold riches to the greedy but poverty to the ascetics. He does not promise
smooth sailing to the easily frightened but challenges galore to the hearty of
soul. He does not promise easy comfort to the lazy but unqualified success to
the ambitious. God is who He is and we must accept Him for exactly that.
In 1 Corinthians 9:22 Paul
does say, “I have become all things to all men” but that was related to seeing
people saved. It was not in the context of dating.
though, it is good to suppress some bad or odd habits. If you have a habit of
sticking your thumb in your ear and wiggling your fingers vigorously then do
not do that. If you think that your date would like to hear her name burped out
then think again. If you like to gun your car and then hit the brakes to test the
seatbelts then refrain from such activity. There is a difference between being
a phony and being an idiot.
will be more comfortable when we are ourselves and not when we are morphing
into whatever we surmise the other person is looking for.
Why would you lie
about yourself? Perhaps it is because you are not confident enough with who you
are to believe that if you present the real you then you will be liked. What
are some things that you might lie about? You may up your job title. Or you may
exaggerate the number of dates that you have been on or the number of
ministries that you have been in. Or that you are good friends with someone
important. Basically you are doing anything to make yourself look more
university hired a coach to run their football team. This was one of the most
visible and honorable college coaching jobs in the country. A few days later he
was caught having lied on his resume about athletics that he claimed happened
decades ago but actually did not. So he was let go. Why did he lie? Because he
thought that in the beginning of his career he needed to pad his resume so that
he could get a better job. But once that deed was done it was too late to
change it. He was forced to carry that lie throughout his career hoping that no
one would ever notice. But they did and it cost him dearly.
If in the
beginning of your date you feel that you have to make yourself look more
impressive than you really are then what happens if things go well and you
continue dating? You may be revealed as being a lying weasel and, even if this
was your only lie, it will put into doubt everything else that you said. And
how can you then say, “But I swear, everything else was the truth” and expect
to be believed.
reads, “Do not lie to one another, since
you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.” It is easier to
tell the truth because there is only one version. Do not try and fake someone
Of course one of
the primary purposes of going on a date is to hope that we will both be
impressed by each other and like each other. However, in trying to put our best
foot forward we oftentimes simply put an overbearing, bragging foot forward.
This bragging may be straightforward, obnoxious self-aggrandizing such as how
you were able to buy that really expensive car because you have such a high
paying job and how you got that job because you were tops in your class and so
on. It is like pulling out a wad of bills and peeling off a big bill on the
top. Instead you are using your accomplishments in place of the wad.
bragging may not even appear in the form of gorilla-like chest thumping. It may
be subtler, but it is ostentatious bragging all the same. It may entail
slipping in proofs of how wonderful you are and then gauging how duly impressed
So what is the
difference between bragging and simply telling about some good things that you
have done? With bragging, you force your accomplishments into the conversation
even when it is inappropriate. With telling, your accomplishments flow into the
conversation. With bragging, you are coming out looking better than others.
With telling, you have simply done something worthy of mention. With bragging,
the attention is on how great or clever or persistence you are. With telling,
the attention is on the deed itself.
has been said that one form of advertising that is a liability instead of an
asset is a person blowing his own horn and the fellow who blows his horn the
loudest is usually in the biggest fog.
Maybe you have
accomplished some pretty nifty things. Give it time, those gems will come out.
If you want to impress your date with some things about yourself then do it in
a less irritating way then by bragging. You can always impress her with your
thoughtfulness regarding her. Ask her about herself and show interest in her
answers. Bring some nice flowers or upgrade to a nicer restaurant. Tell her how
much you liked this date and ask her for another. Impressing someone does not always
If there is
anyone who has the right to brag unceasingly it is God. And yet, as you read
the Bible you will notice that He does not do it at all. He only tells what is
appropriate for the moment. Let that be a lesson to each one of us.
sharing secrets or aspects of your life that are very personal and complicated.
Every one of us has deep, complex issues in our lives. These might be emotional
or they might regard some family members. They might involve some crisis in
your life or some sins that were severe.
You might think that
sharing those skeletons in your closet is a great way to bond with your date.
Or you may believe that talking about those terrible setbacks in your life will
simply show how open and honest a person you are. Or maybe you want the person
to feel sorry for you or to want to help or support you. But what you are
really doing is creating a false sense of openness and intimacy for the purpose
of trying to establish a connection. Or maybe you are just nervous and you do
not know what to talk about so you are just saying the first thing that comes
to mind. Either way, do not do it. Your goal is to get to know each other. You
are not trying to create a juicier book for a ghostwriter.
One reason why
this is bad is because, until the person gets to know you, information can be
misinterpreted. You may share about something horrible that happened in the
past and unless he knows you well enough to realize that you have indeed grown
from it and have put it behind you he might become suspicious and leery and
wonder what he is getting into.
Also, the other
person is not going on a date with you because she is looking for someone to
counsel. He or she is there is have fun; not dispense psychiatric advice.
Stick to simpler
topics. Those other things can come out in due time as the relationship
develops but your goal is not to set up a test to see how much freakiness the
other person can endure. This is not a psychological test. Some people may eat
Oreo cookies by twisting the cookie apart and eating the inside first, but you
are not an Oreo cookie. So do not twist yourself open and reveal all of your
guts from the get-go. Intimacy takes time. Part of the fun of getting to know
another person is by getting deeper and deeper into their lives and
understanding what makes them tick. But this takes a lot of different pieces.
It is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece gives a clearer
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but
the glory of kings is to search out a matter”—Proverbs 25:2. Sometimes
it is better to let some things stay hidden for a while. Eventually as a
relationship deepens and grows you should probably disclose more and more of
yourself. Be patient.
You think that it is great
how your date is always so active in church ministries—so tell him that. You
think that she is funnier than the donkey in the movie Shrek (and prettier,
too)—so tell her that. Everyone likes to be noticed and complimented. But too
often we are afraid that if we give a compliment that it will appear that we
are being a flatterer or charmer. But it will not appear that way if the
compliment is well thought through and is sincere.
as you are hoping that he or she will like and accept you so are they hoping
the same thing. Ease some of that tension by being kind and complimenting
honestly. This shows that you are paying attention.
5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and
build up one another, just as you also are doing.”
rude behavior? Flirting while on a date. Showing up late. Waiting in the car
and blowing your horn. Bringing an uninvited guest (your niece that you got
stuck babysitting or another couple on an unannounced double date). Mouthing
off to other people such as waiters. Being unclean or inappropriately dressed.
Conveniently forgetting your money and forcing her to pick up the tab. Long
conversations on your cell phone.
Do you want to
appear considerate or arrogant? Do you want to appear respectful or
belligerent? Then choose manners and sensitivity over trying to appear brash
and a show-off.
reason, this tends to be an all-too-easy mistake that a lot of people make.
Maybe it is because you are on a date and so your ex is on your mind. Whatever
the reason, steer clear of the subject.
Why should this
be diligently avoided?
It is a rare person who relishes hearing the
excruciating details of how terribly you were treated and misunderstood by that
This person is your date; not your therapist.
Your interest should be on the person in front
of you; not on the person left behind. Your purpose is to bond with your
current date; not use them to help you sever the bond with your past dates.
It is boring. Your ex might have meant a lot to
you, but probably means nothing to this person.
can help us here—“forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what
lies ahead” In His
relationship with us, God tells us to take our eyes off of what is behind us
and put them on what is ahead of us. This means taking past relationships,
learning from them, but then using what we have learned to make the
relationship that we are in even that much better.
No one wants to
date someone who is dragging the dead corpse or corpses of past relationships
into every situation like the chains of a moribund Marley’s Ghost.
we have a wrong self-esteem, we expect people to put us down and so we feel
that we have to beat them to the punch. The result is that we make
self-deprecating remarks. Sometimes those remarks may be extremely clever or
funny. But here is the rub: nobody wants to date a loser and if you think that
you are a loser then others will think the same thing of you. It is important
that you come across confident and assured.
But you may say
that you are not confident and assured and so how can you act that way? Well,
if you are a Christian, then here you are wrong. God does not save people and
leave them useless and withered. You may not be confident in yourself but you
can always be confident in who and what God has made you.
us just look at one verse and see what we are in God. 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a
chosen race, A royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for God’s
own possession, so that you may
proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His
marvelous light” In this one verse alone God has said seven things about you.
a) You are chosen—God specially picked you.
You are a royal
priesthood—you are someone who can approach God at any time in full confidence.
You are holy—you
may not practice what you are but God has made you holy.
You are God’s
possession—you are not just a creation but you are a child of God.
You have an
excellent message—you can talk about the glories and wonders of God because you
have experienced them first hand.
You have been taken
from the darkness where most of the world lies.
And you have been
transferred into God’s marvelous light where there are untold blessings.
There are many
more scriptures on what God has done for you. He has made you sufficient to do
every good deed. He has made you glorious. He has forgiven you, sanctified you,
redeemed you, adopted you, and so on. To belittle yourself is to belittle the
work that God has done in you.
So if you have a
tendency on putting yourself down then stop it now; even if there is a great
laugh involved. And, if you are on a date, then especially do not do it.
Things will go
wrong on a date or in any relationship. That is just how life is. However, it
does not help to blame the other person. Learn to deal graciously with problem
You go to a restaurant and
the food is lousy. Do not say, “We should have went to the restaurant that I
wanted to go to.” Instead make little of it and say, “I guess that we can cross
this place off of our list.”
You miscommunicate the
time to meet and one person is 30 minutes later than the other. Do not argue as
to how your understanding was the correct one. Instead, comment as to how at
least you are both here now so let us make it a great evening.
You go to a place for a
date and then find out that she hates going to those kind of places. Do not
insist that she lead you to believe that she liked those places and that she
should have been clearer. You should have made certain and asked in the first
place but if you are stuck there then try and make the best of it. Maybe focus
on each other rather then on what is around you.
happen. Learn to be gracious. That will carry more weight in the long run
anyway than trying always to be right. Arguing with your date is one sure way
of guaranteeing no next date.
You should never
maliciously put down another person no matter what the setting, but it is even
more dangerous when on a date. Why is that?
The person that you are gossiping about may be
someone that this other person likes.
The other person may wonder that if you are able
to talk about others like this then what prevents you from talking about him or
her in the same way.
It gives a negative feel to the evening.
It shows the other person that you are small and
It pulls the conversation off of each other and
onto someone else.
There is always
the temptation to build yourself up by putting others down and it does not take
much to give us the slightest excuse to do this. You will never move up if you
are continually running other people down. Ephesians 4:31 is a strong
commandment—“Let all bitterness and wrath
and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
If you want to
bond with another person through the sins or mishaps of others then that will
not be a relationship that God will honor and bless.
Frequent phone calls,
flowers or gifts, unexpected notes, and so on, these are ways of showing
interest, attraction, and sometimes-even love. But do not substitute these
displays for love itself. Love will show itself in deeper ways such as
sacrifice, faithfulness, acceptance, communication, trust, and encouragement.
We all want to be
flaunted over and treated like royalty and there is absolutely nothing wrong
with that. But do not be swept away and blinded by that.
Also, be careful
not to assume that just because you are both attracted to each other that,
therefore, it was meant to be. It may just lead to a great friendship and
nothing beyond that.
gives us a word of caution—“Charm is deceitful
and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Do
not be swept away by charm and the outer trappings. Ultimately, it is godliness
and depth of character that matters.
are par for the dating game. The normally reliable restaurant served up a
clunker this time. The weather ruined that great walk along the beach. You said
the one thing that you were trying so hard not to say all evening.
Things will never go
perfectly. You say and do stupid things in life; that will happen. If it was
harmless then laugh it off. If it was not then quickly apologize.
Let other people make
mistakes also. Be careful about making instant judgments.
You will both
probably be nervous on that first date and more relaxed and natural on the
subsequent ones. So, unless, it was clear that it was a no-go, then think about
giving a second possibility a chance.
You will have problems in
relationships if you:
competitive in your relationships; you must always come out on top
emotions like a flag in everyone’s face
Need to always
slander, or are critical of other people
nearly every conversation
the topic that the other person brings up but, instead, talks about only what
only when you want to be
confidential information or secrets that you were entrusted with
and do not pay it back or borrow possessions and do not return them
friendships just come naturally; some need work. Some friendships last forever;
some require a lot of maintenance. Some people seem to be able to make friends
without any effort at all; some people struggle to make even one friend.
desired result of this section is to take good friendships and make them better
and to take those who have no friendships and turn them into people who have
I went out to
find a friend,
but could not
find one there.
I went out to be
And friends were
we will look at some characteristics that will make you a better friend.
In boxing there
is a situation where the two fighters just circle each and never throw any
punches. Neither one of them wants to take the initiative because they are
afraid that the other boxer will get in a good counter punch. This is called
“posing.” There may be an occasional flick of a jab but it is usually a soft
punch that carries no weight or desire behind it. When this happens frequently
it is a dull fight.
relationships this same thing can happen. We can have a relationship that is
going nowhere because neither person is willing to take the initiative. Neither
one is willing to put themselves into a vulnerable position. So you have a
relationship that is dull and shallow.
God wants us to be a
people who are willing to be open with our lives. We see this in the Apostle
Paul. He said in 2 Corinthians 6:11-13, “Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O
Corinthians, our heart is opened wide. You are not restrained by us, but you
are restrained in your own affections. Now in a like exchange—I speak as to
children—open wide to us also.”
Usually when we
want to make an important point to someone we will use their name to ensure
their attention. There are only three places in Paul’s letters where he
addresses the church’s congregation by name within the text of the letter: 1)
Philippians 4:15 where Paul commends the Philippians for sticking with him and
supporting him, 2) Galatians 3:1 where Paul chides the Galatians for living by
the law rather than by grace, and 3) here in 2 Corinthians where Paul is
pleading with the Corinthians to open up to him. This was an important issue to
The term “opened
wide” in the Greek meant that his heart was enlarged; i.e. Paul chose to expand
his heart wide enough to give his affections to all of the Corinthians. He was
willing to take them all inside; to love them, to care for them, and to share
his life with them.
Then he indicts
them by saying that the reason why they are restrained around him is not
because he has given them any excuse to be tight-lipped. But, rather, the
problem is because they are deliberately holding back their affections. And so,
he asks them to be as open to him as he is to them.
What is the key
here? On what basis was Paul able to ask them to open up to him? It was because
he was first open to them. He was not expecting them to do something that he
had not done first. So he was able to say, “Now in a like exchange…”
In the same way,
in order to develop friendships you must be the one willing to take the
initiative. Do not expect everyone to come to you.
I got saved when
I was going to college at Kansas
The first 7.5 years of my Christianity was spent in the church where I got
saved. Eventually, the national leaders of the movement declared themselves to
be apostles. Me, not being shy about defending what I think to be Biblical
truth, typed a 27 page letter explaining why I did not think apostles were for
today. The leaders told me that if I did not like it then I should just leave.
Then because of other issues like the associated churches becoming a
Shepherding movement I convinced a bunch of people to leave that group and go
to other churches. The result of this was that even after I had left the church
they excommunicated me (years later they confessed that this excommunication
was an error). However, their concept of excommunication was that nobody in the
church could ever talk to me again. They could not even acknowledge my
existence. They were even told that if they saw me coming down the street that
they were to cross over to the other side to avoid me. So here were people whom
I spent 7.5 years praying with, worshiping God with, evangelizing with, eating
with and now they would not even acknowledge my presence. I felt that this
demonstrated that their friendships were all show and insincere. They were
friends to me only because they had to be. So I decided that from then on
people would have to first approach me and initiate the conversation because
then that would prove that they were sincere. Well, for the next several years
I did not make one new friend. Finally I saw that this was not going to work
and decided to take the initiative again and, as a result, I have made a lot of
The key is that
you must determine to be the one who takes the first shot. And if it does not
work out then you shrug your shoulders, you move on, and you try again. Like
most other things in life, developing good friendships takes practice and
How do you do
this? What does this mean?
It means being the one who walks up to other
It means looking for people who are alone and
talking to them.
It means learning how to ask questions or say
things that will get a conversation going.
It means learning the skill of being friendly.
It means being the first one willing to share
It means responding with interest to the other
It means that the more that you do it the better
you will become at it.
What does this not mean?
It does not mean using this as an opportunity to
talk incessantly about yourself. Have you ever been with someone where 90% of
every conversation is about them?
It does not mean laying your whole life on the
table to someone that you just met. That means that you do not walk up to
someone and say, “Hi, my name is Bob and I just got out of an institution and
my entire life is in a shambles. Do you want to hear why?”
It does not mean giving up because it is not
going as well as you had hoped.
God is our
ultimate example of this. He did not wait for us to come to Him. Instead, He
came down and did all that He had to in order to forge a relationship with each
one of us.
So ask yourself.
Do you have a heart that is clenched as tight as
a fist or do you have a heart that grows in response to people?
Do you build a stone fortress around your
affections or are you willing to be unrestrained in your affections?
Are you willing to settle for a life that is
safe but empty or are you willing to put up with some discomfort for the sake
of the strength that friendships bring?
Sometimes the two of you
just do not click. Or that person may not be looking for a new friend at that
time. Or that person may be struggling with their own battles and does not
really need or want a new friendship. Or sometimes, some people are just a cold
fish or are bitter. That does not mean that you are unlovable. It does not necessarily
mean that you are a poor friend or a bad person. You cannot take every
interaction personally as though everything that someone else says and does is
a reflection of you. It is not always all about you. People do have other
things going on in their lives and that may affect their ability to get along
with someone else; no matter who that person is.
If something is
not working out then just let it go and move on. If you want to communicate
your displeasure at how things are drifting apart, then fine, go ahead. But do
not cling to people like a leech. Move on. Learn from the situation and make
If you and one
other person are the only survivors of a nuclear war and you cannot get along
then that is a problem. But until that is the case, there are plenty of other
people around. Do not become fixated on one person. You will drive yourself
crazy if you think that every relationship has to work out and last forever.
You will also drive yourself crazy if you think that every failed relationship
is a reflection of you.
What does Jesus say in
Matthew 10:14 to His disciples? “And whoever does not receive you, nor heed
your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of
your feet.” Shake off the dust; i.e. let go of it. Leave it behind and move on.
Not everyone got along with Jesus Christ and He was perfect.
But just because
a relationship does not turn out the way that you might want, that does not
mean that the whole thing must be chucked. Maybe you can settle very nicely into
being casual or close friends and that may be the one of the most secure
friendships that you have.
Of course it
could be true that it was totally your fault that the relationship fell apart.
You must be honest with yourself and not try to cast blame everywhere but
inward. Listen to what your friends have to say. Tell them to be honest with
you no matter how much it may hurt. Then, if you see how it was your fault, you
have a good basis to change.
People know when you
sincerely care about them and one of the surest ways of proving this is by
carefully listening to what they are saying. Many people hear what others say
but they are not really paying attention. We need to learn to listen to people
and then ask appropriate questions based on what they just said. This is a
skill that must be developed.
We learn to ask
appropriate questions by asking details about what was just said or, if you
know the person very well, asking about their feelings. Usually this is not
difficult, in fact, most of the time it is extremely simple. The problem is not
being able to come up with a follow-up question; it is caring enough to make
the effort. For example:
“I just got a new job in
“What are you going to be
“I’m going to be setting
up new computers and networking them together.”
“Have you done a lot of
this before? Did you go to school to learn this?”
“I’ve taken some classes
and did some of it at my previous job.”
“Is this something that
you enjoy doing?”
See how easy that is?
However, much of the time the conversation would go more like this.
“I just got a new job in
“That’s great. I hope it
works out for you.”
End of that topic.
It is our nature to want
to talk about what is on our minds, to voice our opinions, to express our
ideas. Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only
in revealing his own mind.” A fool does not care about what the other person is
saying; he is only waiting for an opportunity to talk. In contrast Proverbs
20:5 says, “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of
understanding draws it out.” Notice the distinction between these two verses.
The fool only cares about what he has to say and so he lacks in understanding.
But a man who learns how to draw out other people will gain understanding.
Then we should go
even one step beyond listening and that is remembering. When someone tells you
something significant try to remember it. Then the next time you see them ask
them about it. One good way to remember this is to pray about it as you are
parting company and then pray about it again later.
Who is our best example
here? It is God, of course. God loves to listen to our prayers every second of
every day. Psalm 116:2 is a good verse for how much God desires our prayers,
“Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I shall call upon Him as long
as I live.” That word “inclined” in the Hebrew means to “bend over.” It is like
we start to pray to God and He bends over and cups His hand to His ear so as to
not miss a single word. How often when someone is talking to us do we look past
them to see if there is anything interesting going on behind them? How often
does our mind drift and wonder when he is going to stop? God bends over and
gives us His full, undivided attention.
This means not
interrupting unless it is immediately pertinent to what is being said. This
means being willing to give them the lion’s share of the conversation. This
means letting them talk even if it seems vastly less important than what you
want to say.
Of course, if
your goal is to be more of a listener that does not mean never talking. Being a
good listener means listening to the other person. That is very different from
not talking. The quietest person may never listen to anything that another
person is saying. The goal is not to let the other person talk more but to
listen to what the other person is saying.
Also, there is a
point where someone may simply be yammering only because they like the sound of
their own voice. To be a good listener does not necessarily mean having to
stand and listen endlessly to a self-absorbed person. There is a point of
discernment where you know when to end a conversation.
Other people are
not microphones for us to talk in to. They are people with goals and desires
and opinions and struggles just like us. Each one of us must be careful not to
turn a friend into nothing more than a tape recorder. If you want to be a good
friend then learn to listen, learn to remember, and learn to ask.
This is necessary
for two different aspects: 1) in order to get into relationships, and 2) to
maintain and improve already existing relationships.
You will never
meet people sitting home. God is probably not going to have some wonderful
person break down in front of your house and come knocking on your door looking
for help. You need to put yourself out where people are. The saying for the
lottery goes for finding friends also: “You’ve gotta be in it to win it.”
says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the
LORD.” To be “found” you have to be in a place where people look. Of course you
can always cite some story where a woman was ministering by herself to mountain
goats in the Himalayas when some lost hiker
stumbled by, they fell in love and got married. But any story like that gets
circulated because it is so uncommon.
You need to put
yourself in a position to be able to talk to that person you might be
interested in or to be seen by that person. I personally put a lot of value in
whether or not a person came to things that I was involved in. If she knew that
I was running the Singles Ministry but she never came to any of the events then
I would assume that she was not interested. I knew one woman who was interested
in a guy at her church and when she found out that he ran the church bowling
club she joined that club just to increase her odds of meeting him. She did and
they eventually got married. In a case closer to home (literally), one woman
came to a lot of the events and outreaches that I was running, we started to
date, and we got married. The key was that she (Toni) put herself into a
position to be noticed and was available for a friendship.
One woman told me
that she was not looking because she expected God to drop a husband down in
front of her. Unless she wants to marry an impersonator and goes to a show with
parachuting Elvis’s I doubt that will ever happen. God does not reward a lack
of effort in other areas so why should He do it in the area of marriage? Notice
Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”
God expects us to be moving; not standing still. If we are doing nothing then
God cannot direct our steps to any desirable place or goal. In order to get to
anything you have to move. God is not going to move everything to you just
because you have put your feet, or maybe in this case your heart, in cement.
But what happens
when you find yourself interested in someone? Oftentimes you will go out of
your way to do what? —Ignore that person. Why do you do that? Probably because
you are afraid that if he or she realizes that you are interested and they do
not want that then you will feel rejected. So you do the opposite. You
basically try and beat them to the rejection punch. But think about how that
tactic usually works out. Let us say that I am interested in some woman but she
does not know it. Now let us say that she is getting interested in me also. So
now she starts to ignore me. What will I think? I will think that she picked up
from me that I am interested in her and that she is not at all interested in me
so she is ignoring me to discourage any initiation on my part in asking her
out. So instead of attempting to get to know her better I will back off and any
possible relationship has been lost.
What do you think
would happen? A woman will start to ignore me so I will think, “Wow, she
treating me like I’m dirt. She must really like me.” No, I do not think so.
the first way of being available is by being around people. It will increase
your chance to make new friends, it will increase your opportunities to
minister to others and to allow others to minister to you.
can do this by going to church on a regular basis, by getting involved in
ministries at your church such as singles or outreach ministries, or by
participating in ministries that are outside of churches such as food pantries.
You can join clubs, go with groups to concerts or other events, or join one of
your church’s home groups if they have them. You may be very shy but the more
that people see you the more you will get used to each other and the easier it
will be to strike up conversations. Do not be scared away just because it does
not go well the first time you go to some meeting or event. The first time
there everything is new and different: the people, the surroundings, the
agenda, and so on. Sometimes it takes a couple of meetings before you start to
feel comfortable with everything.
second way of being available is with those people who already are your
friends. If they call you because they need to talk or they need advice then
turn off the TV or put down that magazine. Do not just let the answering
machine pick up because you do not want to miss the end of the show. It is for
people that Christ came; people must always be our priority right behind God.
someone sits alone in church then go over and sit with them and then possibly
invite them out to lunch afterwards. Have them over to dinner sometime. And
even beyond that, call them up and ask them how they are doing. Take the
initiative. Ask them what are some things that you can pray about for them.
Pray with them although it does not have to be as dramatic as stopping them in
the church foyer and putting your hand on them and praying right then and
you force people to always be the ones to carry the relationship then soon they
will tire and give up. Just as you like to be asked how you are doing so do
they. Just as you like to be invited to things so do they. Being a friend means
being available. If you put up a wall and make people hammer through it then
you are not a friend, you are a project.
available does not mean being in that person’s face all of the time either.
This is covered under the section “Do not be a pest.”
It also does not
mean giving up quickly. Just because you are interested in someone do not
assume that he or she must be on the same page as you are. The other person may
have things going on in his life and may not want to get into a new
relationship right at that moment. You need to allow people to make that
decision. The key is being patient and being content to just be friends for a
while if that is what is necessary.
Do not put the
burden of making friends on everyone else. You must be available.
throughout the scriptures we can see how God seeks us out and makes Himself
available to us. Psalm 139:7-10
Where can I go
from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence?
If I ascend to
heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there.
If I take the
wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Thy
hand will lead me, And Thy right hand will lay hold of me.
“Am I a God who
is near,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far off?”
“lo, I am with
you always, even to the end of the age.”
God is always
available to us. He is near to us. He does not make us hunt Him down. This is
you or gives you a little dig. The attack could be unwarranted and mean. Right
to your face he may call you names or impugn your motives or make false
accusations. Or the dig could be subtle. Things like “You should know better”
or “No wonder why you’re… “ or “That was really dumb.” When this happens we
want to pounce right away and clamp our teeth onto their neck.
How did Jesus react to
these little digs? One example is in Matthew 4:3-4, “And the tempter [Satan]
came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones
become bread.’” What was the little dig here? “Hey, if you’re so high and
mighty; if you’re so special; if you’re such a big deal; then do this.” But
here was Jesus’ response, “But He
answered and said, ‘It is written, “MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY
WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.”’” Satan came at Jesus with that
little dig, “If You are the Son of God…” But what did Jesus do? Did He jump
right in and defend Himself and say, “I am the Son of God and I don’t have to
prove it to you!” Actually, He did not even address it. He just let it go by.
Instead, He addressed the main issue.
Another example is in
Matthew 27:39-43, “And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging
their heads, and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild
it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the
cross.’ In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and
elders, were mocking Him, and saying,
‘He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let
Him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe in Him. HE TRUSTS IN
GOD; LET HIM DELIVER Him now, IF HE TAKES PLEASURE IN HIM; for He said, “I am
the Son of God.”’” They abused Him. They mocked Him. They made fun of Him. Again,
what did Jesus say in return? –Nothing.
Proverbs 26:4-5 reads, “Do
not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a
fool as his folly deserves, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” How is a fool
wise in his eyes here? It is because he just put you down with some snide
remark and what did you do? –You fell right down to his level and responded in
kind. Therefore, in his mind, you proved that you are just as low as he made
you out to be. So he was right.
The temptation is
always to jump right in and defend yourself and to give digs in return. Do not
do that. If you have something to say then communicate it in a mature,
Too often we want
people to pay and pay immediately for something that they said to us that we
did not like. As hard as it is we need to learn to keep our mouths shut at
these times. Proverbs 15:28 gives us good advice, “The heart of the righteous
ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” We
should be able to leave the conversation, think about what was said, and then
get with that person at a later time and discuss things in a more reasonable
There have been
many times in my life that someone gave me a dig and I had to bite my lip to
keep from nailing him back. But by the next day or maybe even an hour later I
am so glad that I did not retaliate. Sometimes I would get back to that person
if I felt that they were simmering something against me. But most of the time I
did not reply at all because it appeared that they were merely being
momentarily irritable or perverse. Some things are better off swallowing and
forgetting about. We must learn to be gracious even in the midst of adversity.
1 Peter 2:19-23 is counsel
worth taking to heart, “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience
toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what
credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with
patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure
it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since
Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His
steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while
being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no
threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
When it comes to
hostile relationships or situations it says here that Christ left us an
example. What was that example? When He was reviled; He did not revile in
return. When He was suffering because of others; He did not threaten them. He
left the judgment to His Father. This is our example. And what is the point of
an example? For us to do it.
This does not
mean, however, that you should be a doormat. Sometimes when someone is
attacking you it might be necessary to stop them and have them check their
attitude. Are they out of control? Are they red hot with anger? Are they being
terribly cutting and vile? You do not have to allow them to continue on and on
like that. But what it does mean is that you should not stoop to their level of
name-calling. Deal with it in a gracious manner. If that means dealing calmly
and maturely by giving your perspective then do that. If that means being
silent; then be silent. But if that means simply saying, “We can continue this
when you are in a better frame of mind” and then walk away, then do that.
If you always
have to get in the last dig, if you need to always get the other person back
immediately when they do something that you do not like, then you will lose
friends. Everyone says stupid things at times. And sometimes people are just
under stress and you are the one unlucky enough to be in their way at that
time. Learn to take the hit on the cheek and, if necessary, even turn the other
We are an insecure people.
Because we know our weaknesses and our sinful thoughts and motives we sometimes
think that everyone else has figured them out also. This can make us guarded
and edgy. It can also make us think that we are able to figure everyone else
out also. Sometimes this is true. Just as we do not always fool people so it is
that many times we can see through other people’s antics. But many times we go
beyond the facts and presume other people’s attitudes and motives in a negative
way. Sometimes we do this because we think that we are so clever. Sometimes we
do it because the only way that we can feel good about ourselves is to put
people below us. And sometimes we are nothing more than malicious.
When we develop false,
negative impressions of other people we are judging them. God gives us a strong
warning in Matthew 7:1-2 about doing this, “"Do not judge lest you be
judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of
measure, it will be measured to you.” If you are quick to form sweeping
character flaws about other people based on mere tidbits of information then,
in the same manner, that is how you will be judged.
How can you tell
if you are judging someone? Here are eight possible tests. If you fail at any
of them then there is a good chance that you are guilty of being judgmental.
Do the facts sustain the conclusion that I have drawn?
Can I honestly agree that I have formed my
conclusion based on all of the facts available to me and that I am not overly
emphasizing those that are negative and de-emphasizing those that contradict
the opinion that I want to form?
Am I being fair?
His perceived faults make me feel superior to him.
Do you now feel spiritually better than that
person? Do you think, “Thank you, God, that I’m not like him”?
Or might you think, “Even I’m not that bad!”
I am using his faults to justify my own shortcomings.
Do you ever have this attitude, “I thought that
this one sin in my life was pretty bad but look at him. If anyone has to work
on their life it’s him; not me”?
Do I want to see him publicly exposed, ridiculed, and
Do you hope that others see what he is doing or
find out about it and then take him to task?
Are you glad when he fails at something so that
you can blame his failure as being directly caused by his sin?
You know that gossip is wrong so you cannot just
blurt out your suspicions. So you lead the conversation so that the other
person brings up his name first. Then that somehow enables you to open up the
floodgates of gossip.
Do you find yourself telling others about his
sin hoping that they will agree with you as to how big of a louse he is?
Do you find yourself telling others about his
sin hoping that they will then go and tell even more people?
Do you hope that his influence is reduced?
If he is in a ministry do you hope that he drops
Do you hope that he fails or is at least
admonished at his job?
Do you hope that his friendships fall apart?
Do you find yourself reviewing his past shortcomings?
You start thinking about everything wrong that
the other person said or did no matter how trivial it may have seemed at the
time. What was insignificant then has now become a terrible horror.
Have you taken his several weaknesses or sins and
parlayed them into concluding that he is an overall evil person?
Everyone sins and has sins. Are you making his
sins to be bigger than anyone else’s so as to vilify him as much as possible?
Are you taking faults in one area of his life
and drawing conclusions in other non-related areas?
Are you trying to make him out to be as bad as
possible rather than wanting him to change and succeed?
Do you feel that whatever he has done is so bad that
you can never forgive him?
Are you hoping that he does not repent so that
you can continue to despise him?
What this person did was so horrible that you
cannot find it in yourself to forgive him.
When you judge
someone else, God is basically saying, “OK, I’m a God of mercy and I want you
to be a person of mercy. I’m a God of forgiveness and I want you to be a person
of forgiveness. I’m a God of patience and I want you to be a person of
patience. But since you prefer to use your own standard of judgment then that’s
the one that I’ll use with you also since it’s the one that you seem to like so
If you are a
critical, judgmental person then do not be surprised if you find yourself being
isolated. Nobody likes a back stabber.
But people do sin
and people do make terrible mistakes. The Bible commands us to rebuke those who
sin. To not judge does not mean acting as though no one ever does wrong and
ignoring it when it does happen. The key is knowing the difference between
discernment and judgement. Discernment involves wisdom and the love of God.
Judgment involves a negative attitude and wrong desires. Here are some ways
that we can test to see if we are showing discernment or judgement when we
think that we see sin in someone’s life.
Discernment is to perceive something
obscure or concealed; to distinguish using wisdom. Discernment seeks out all
of the necessary facts until all crucial factors and people are understood.
Proverbs 18:17, “The first to plead his case seems just, until
another comes and examines him.”
Judgment forms quick opinions
based on little information no matter how sketchy.
Proverbs 14:15, “The naive believes everything, But the prudent
man considers his steps.”
Discernment is thoughtful and
prayerful in considering the situation before drawing any conclusions.
Proverbs 15:28a, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to
Judgment wants to broadcast its
conclusions right away without thinking or prayer.
Proverbs 15:28b, “But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil
Discernment tries to take into
account the entire picture to try and determine a reason.
Judgment sees the negative and
nothing but the negative.
Discernment comes with gentleness
and humility knowing that sin is crouching at his own door.
Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any
trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of
gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
Judgment wants to humiliate the
person. It goes in with both guns blasting.
2 Samuel 16:5-7, “When King David came to Bahurim, behold, there
came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was
Shimei, the son of Gera; he came out cursing continually as he came. And he
threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the
people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left. And
thus Shimei said when he cursed, "Get out, get out, you man of
bloodshed, and worthless fellow!”
Discernment is willing to offer
solutions to the problem.
Judgment only wants to point out
Discernment is willing to talk to
the person directly without spreading gossip.
Judgment oftentimes draws
conclusions based on second and third-hand information and delights in
God never tramples
on us. We must never trample on another person.
publication offered a prize for the best definition of a friend. Thousands of
entries were received and the one that was given first prize was this: “A
friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.”
Do not abandon a friend when they have nothing
more to give to you but, rather, need something from you.
Do not abandon a friend because they are not the
most popular or the best looking.
Do not abandon a friend if they become
unbearable when they are going through a deep trial.
Do not abandon a friend just because nobody may
particularly like her or if others are telling you to dump her.
We are going to look at
three Biblical examples of loyalty. The first example is Ruth. We can read in
Ruth 1:14-18 where Naomi had just told her two daughters-in-law to leave her
while she returns to Bethlehem.
“And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her
mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Then she said, ‘Behold, your
sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your
sister-in-law.’ But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from
following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge.
Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will
die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if
anything but death parts you and me.’ When she saw that she was determined to
go with her, she said no more to her.”
Naomi, because of the
death of her husband and two sons, was left with no one except her two
daughters-in-law. She was on her own. She was in great sorrow. She was
impoverished. She was old and could not work and because she was too old to
have children she would probably never find a husband who could support her and
Ruth. If Ruth came back with her to Bethlehem,
the odds were that Ruth would never remarry because it was unlikely that an
Israelite would marry a Moabite woman. These were not very encouraging circumstances
for Ruth to stay with Naomi. Probably most people would have counseled Ruth to
ditch her. Yet Ruth was loyal and God rewarded her. Ruth did remarry and she
became the great-grandmother of David and from her line came the Savior of the
The second example is
Ittai. The situation is where David’s son, Absalom, pulled a coup and David had
to flee with a small group of followers to save his life. As they were fleeing
David stopped and took stock of the 600 men who had come with him. One of them
was Ittai. We can pick up the story in 2 Samuel 15:19-22, “Then the king said
to Ittai the Gittite, ‘Why will you also go with us? Return and remain with the
king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile; return to your own place. You
came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander with us, while I go
where I will? Return and take back your brothers; mercy and truth be with you.’
But Ittai answered the king and said, ‘As the LORD lives, and as my lord the
king lives, surely wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for
life, there also your servant will be.’ Therefore David said to Ittai, ‘Go and
pass over.’ So Ittai the Gittite passed over with all his men and all the
little ones who were with him.”
Here was the
situation where Ittai had just joined up with David and David was telling him
to go back. As a foreigner, Ittai was not obligated to serve anyone and so he
was told that he should go back and wait to see whomever God would finally set
up as king. Then Ittai could serve under that person without any fear of having
made a wrong choice and then suffering for it. But Ittai did not make the most
comfortable choice. He did not hedge his bets to see who would be the winner.
He was not fickle.
What was the result of his
loyalty? We can read in 2 Samuel 18:1-2, “Then David numbered the people who
were with him and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of
hundreds. And David sent the people out, one third under the command of Joab,
one third under the command of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, and
one third under the command of Ittai the Gittite.” When David was fleeing from
Saul, Ittai remained loyal to David. Ittai could have called him a loser and
left him. He could have taken the more convenient route and went home leaving
David to fend for himself. He could have concluded that since Absalom was the
king that the most expedient thing would be to provide his services to Absalom
where he could get the quickest and most assured gain for his skills. But he
did not. He chose uncertainty over assurance. He chose hardship over
convenience. But most importantly, he chose loyalty over expediency. And David
rewarded him as one of his most trusted friends and greatest supports. And
through Ittai, God accomplished His purposes. Ittai stayed with the one who was
struggling and in confusion and, as a result, he helped to make David the
victor. He was not content to just be a tag-along. He was active in helping out
his friend and in helping him to overcome his rough times.
And that is what God wants us to be
like. God does not want us to dump our friends when their hard times make us
uncomfortable. God does not want us to dump our friends when their side has
dwindled down to a precious few. God does not want us to dump our friends so
that we can step back and then choose the winner. God wants us to stay with
that friend through the struggles and confusion and do what we can to make them
a winner again.
Joseph Roux in Meditations of a Parish Priest said, “What is love? Two souls and
one flesh; friendship? Two bodies and one soul.”
Our third example is that
most perfect example of loyalty—that of God. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your
character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for
He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU’”
What is the purpose of money? So that we can have things that will make our
life livable and comfortable. But what is God saying here? “Do not love money
for what it can offer because what I have to offer is even better. Money cannot
give peace of mind; but I can give peace of mind. Money cannot give you an
assurance of intimacy; but I can give you assurance of intimacy. Money cannot
give you joy that goes right down into your bones; but I can give you that kind
of joy.” And on top of all of that it is guaranteed and forever because He
said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”
Second Timothy 2:13 is a
verse that demonstrates God’s loyalty, “If we are faithless, He remains
faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.” Even if our faith fails, God will still
stick by our side.
Do not make your
friendships to be only ones of convenience. As it says in Proverbs 18:24, be a
“friend who sticks closer than a brother.” You will find great reward.
Proverbs 25:17 reads, “Let
your foot rarely be in your neighbor's house, lest he become weary of you and
hate you.” Another more familiar way of putting it would be “Don’t wear out
your welcome.” A person who does not have many friends may find someone who
will listen to them and be with them. For a person who is a social outcast, or
at least perceives himself to be, this can be exhilarating. But a problem can
occur when that person (or you) goes overboard and crowds their newfound
friend’s time and/or space
Matthew 7:12 is
referred to as the golden rule, “Therefore, however you want people to treat
you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” If you want people
to show you mercy then you had better show them mercy. If you want people to
understand how the stupid or insensitive things that you say are not malicious
then you make every attempt to understand that the stupid or insensitive things
that they say are not malicious. If you are having a bad day and everyone knows
it but you expect them to forget it by the next day then you had better be
willing forget other people’s bad days by the next day also. God does not allow
it any other way.
In this story,
one man, who was the king, said, “I showed you mercy. I showed you compassion.
I forgave you. But you couldn’t do the same in return? When you blew it I let
off of the hook. But when someone else blew it you took them to task!” The
king, who represents God, was angry because the first slave hoped for and
received mercy but he was unwilling to show the same to another person.
If you sin
against someone no matter why or what caused it or what you are going through
you still need to repent and ask forgiveness. But if someone sins against you
then be quick with mercy. When you are able to do this then you will be amazed
at how God will pour out His abundance on you. Do not expect more from others
than what you are willing to give back in return.
I have seen many
friendships break up because one person is cranky and expects others to always
understand what he is going through but then would snap at others when they did
something that he did not like.
There will be
times when it will be necessary to do something that will hurt or disappoint
another person. This might be where you are dating someone and you believe that
the best thing to do would be to break up. Or maybe you are running a ministry
and you have to ask someone to step down from assisting. When this situation
occurs you hate to look like the bad guy and you do not want others to think
that you are an insensitive louse. So, to save face, you might first set up the
other person so that it will make it look like it was their fault so that you
will be spared.
If you are
breaking up then you might try to make it appear as though he or she had all of
these faults that you had never realized and, though you gave it your best
shot, you just could not see it ever working. Instead, accept your share in the
Or if you know
that some situation is going to make you both look bad then do not set it up so
that they will be the one who takes the fall and you escape unscathed. Do not
leave someone out there twisting in the wind. Be loyal to that person. Place
that person’s feelings above even your own reputation and then let God raise
you up. So many times I have seen two people get themselves into a mess, but
one of them walks away and tells others how that whole fiasco was the other
person’s fault—even when that was not true.
There is a famous story in
the Bible where two people blew it and then tried to blame others. They were
Adam and Eve and they ate the fruit that God told them not to. In Genesis
3:11-13 we can see what happened when God confronted them. “And He said, ‘Who
told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded
you not to eat?’ And the man said, ‘The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me,
she gave me from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the LORD God said to the woman,
‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and
What did God say
about their trying to pass the blame? –Nothing. He simply addressed their sin.
God knows our hearts and He knows our sins to the fullest. We are not going to
slip anything past Him. So when you try and escape from blame by pointing your
finger at the other person God is not fooled. But now instead of merely having
to deal with your part in the situation, which may not have even been wrong,
you now have to confront your sin of unjustly trying to lay all of the guilt at
the feet of another.
So many people
have lost friends because they are always trying to come out of every situation
smelling like a rose. Be willing to take the shots that you deserve. Do not
throw someone else in front of the bullet. People will not respect phony
spotlessness, but they will respect humility.
I have heard so
many times over the years Christians saying, “I just can’t trust Christians. I
can trust my non-Christian friends more than I can trust my Christian friends.”
Why do people say that? Is it because Christians are more untrustworthy than
non-Christians? Is it because Christians are sneakier? Are they less sincere?
That will certainly be true for some Christians. Just because someone is a
Christian that does not mean that they are not lazy or self-centered or
gossips. But that is probably not the real reason for this attitude.
Let us take a look at
Colossians 3:12-13. “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and
beloved, 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.”
This verse is exclusively about how we should treat each other in the church.
And what words does God use?
He tells us to have
Because Christians can be hurting
and suffering and in confusion.
Because Christians can be needy.
Because Christians can be
Because Christians can be
vulnerable and fragile.
Because Christians can drive you
crazy sometimes with their stupidity, with their self-centeredness, and with
Bear with one another
Because Christians can be
intolerant at times.
Forgive each other
Because Christians can sin
What is the basis
for commanding us to have this kind of heart? It is because the Lord has
already and continues to have this heart towards us. God never asks us to be
something that He is not Himself.
Jude 1:22 says, “And have
mercy on some, who are doubting;” Christians have doubts. Christians have
struggles. Christians have sins. Christians will blow it.
It is interesting to look
up all of the verses in the epistles that talk about how we should act towards
“one another.” These admonishments are meant for fellow believers; they are
meant for those in the church. Following the same format as we did for
Colossians 3:12-13 we can see what God has said.
To “one another” we should
can be self-absorbed
others before you think of yourself, let them speak first, show them interest
the same mind
can be divisive
be deliberately contrary, do not treat some as more contemptible than others
can be unlovable
people as God sees them and then be to them as Jesus would
can be judgmental
section on “Do not judge other people”
people for the good that they do, work with them on those areas where they
can hold others in contempt
categorize people, if they are not as smart or rich or popular or attractive
or socially adept as others still treat them as one for whom Christ died and
can be snobbish
friendly to all, ignore no one, never give anyone the cold shoulder
can be greedy or arrogant
things out, talk to each other, get an arbitrator
can be insensitive
grab the best before the others arrive
same care for
can be prejudiced
same to those who can give back as those who cannot, do not exclude or
belittle anyone because they are outside of your group
can be wrongly competitive
with those whom God has blessed more than you, let others get the promotion,
the recognition, and the praise without jealousy
can be envious
with those whom God has blessed, be content with what God has given to you
can be irritating
respond in kind to a harsh remark, do not give anyone the cold shoulder, do
not disdain someone because they have an annoying habit
can lie or be deceptive
speak what is right even if it diminishes your reputation
can cruel and hurtful
belittle, snap at, or injure someone with your words, help others who are
needy even to your own sacrifice, do not gossip
can act superior
first to serve others, do not just sit around and wait for others to serve
you first, defer to other’s opinions or wishes if you do not see any good
reason to disagree
others as more important than ourselves
can be egotistical
other people’s desire, goals, and needs above your own
can hurt and be confused
good listener, pray with them, offer advice where it can help
can be discouraged or depressed
them with words and/or actions, be there for them
can be very annoying
harass, be friendly, do them favors, seek their good
after that which is good for
can be spiteful
God’s blessings upon them and you give what would help them the most
can be lazy
them make goals and do what you can to enable them to achieve those goals
tell others about someone else’s shortcomings
can be grumblers
are not sincerely seeking a solution then do not condemn other people or
can be proud and act perfect
have sinned against another then humble yourself before them
can forget about God
with them, pray for them, pray frequently
can want to take and not receive
people over for lunch or dinner, lodge temporary visitors at your house
If Christians were perfect
then we would not need these commands. God would only have to tell us how to
deal with those self-centered, sinful, evildoers in the world. But Christians
can commit the same sins as other people. The church is not full of perfect
people; the church is full of sinners and a lot of Christians can grind on us.
Of course the same is true for our friendships and our marriages. To obey these
commands we need grace, we need the Holy Spirit, and we need to pray a lot.
The problem is not that
Christians are worse than non-Christians but that we expect more from them. We
hold Christians to a higher standard because we think that they should already
be everything that God wants them to be.
relationships and marriages have failed because one person put unreasonable
expectations onto the other person. And instead of being willing to work with
that person, instead of taking the time to make that person more like Christ,
instead of being patient and forbearing they want that person to be everything
that they expect them to be and they want it now. Well, you know what? That
will never happen.
When you have
those expectations then you will put a strain on the relationship. You will
focus on those areas that you do not like and you will take their slowness to
change as a personnel offense and as a lack of concern for your feelings and
desires. The result will be that you will become resentful and demanding.
Quite a number of
years ago there was a button going around Christians circles with the letters
“PBPGINFWMY.” What it stood for
was, “Please Be Patient, God Is Not Finished With Me Yet.” We need to
constantly keep that in mind with or without a button to remind us.
For those Christians who
seem to be so terrible: Are you praying for them? Have you humbly gone to them
with your concerns and possibly even reproved them? Are you willing to work
with them to make them more like Christ? Or are you just complaining about them
to others? Are you gossiping about them? Are you just belittling them in your
The only person
that you should hold to higher expectations is yourself. For everyone else,
apply Colossians 3:13 and all of the “one another” verses. It will do wonders
for your friendships.
How would you
like it if you dated someone for a while and then found out that a lot of what
they were about was merely show and window-dressing? You would feel cheated and
deceived. So you should not do that to others.
What does it mean
to be phony?
It means acting more spiritual than you really
It means making yourself out to be more
important or wealthier than you really are.
It is when you lie about your age or your job or
It is making believe that you are interested in
something that you are not just because the other person is.
It is making believe that you are an expert at
something that you are not.
It is trying too hard to be funny or
intellectual or godly.
If you do not
feel confident in presenting your true self then change those things that you
think are unappealing. Being phony is like being a worm on a hook. You will
look interesting for a while but eventually you will stab the other person with
the barbed hook that you have been hiding and then the other person will
rightfully run away. Unless you are really, really good you will eventually
give yourself away anyway. Most people are not that easily fooled. In
communication the actual words make up 7% of the message, the tone of voice
makes up 38% and the nonverbal or body language makes up 55%. Do
you really think that you will be able to fake all three all of the time?
Be positive about
yourself, be positive about others, and be positive about life. If there is one
thing that will wear people down it is someone who is always critical. We all
have struggles; life is rarely smooth sailing for anybody. So what we do not
need is someone putting hooks in us and trying to pull us down even further. It
has been said that “misery loves company,” but I think that it is more true
that “misery makes company.”
Do not put
yourself down. Nobody wants to be with a loser and if you portray yourself as
one then you will turn the other person off. And do not paint yourself as a sad
sack so that someone will go out with you because they pity you. That is not
how to build a wonderful relationship. People are attracted to confidence so be
confident in yourself. If you have to dress up more fashionably then do so.
There is nothing wrong with that. If you have to exercise more to trim up then
set up a scheduled program. If you feel good about yourself then others will
also feel good about you. But if you feel lousy about yourself then others will
feel lousy about you, too.
Some people put
themselves down all of the time because they are wanting to beat others to the
punch. But if you can learn to think more positively about yourself then other
people’s slings will not affect you nearly as much, if at all. Proverbs 26:2
reads, “Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, so a
curse without cause does not alight.” If someone calls you a loser but you know
that in God’s sight you are anything but that then that remark will not have
any affect. Oftentimes the kid at school who is picked on the most is the one
who reacts the most. It is no fun to pick on someone who is able to confidently
shrug it off and walk away.
Do not put others
down. People love gossip. They love to hear what scandal is going on. When they
hear about other people’s failures it makes their own misgivings seem that much
more justifiable. For most people the only way that they can feel better about
themselves is by having others dragged beneath them. Of course this is wrong.
We should feel good about ourselves because of what God has made us.
But some people
love to demean others. They may attract people who want to listen but they will
not attract friends. For someone who puts down others it is only a matter of
time before you become their fodder. Therefore, everyone will be hesitant to
share any part of their life with this type of person. When others gossip about
someone else then you defend that person or if it really was clearly a sin that
is being talked about then ask the gossips if they are going to help that
person. Too much of the world is filled with backbiting and ridicule. God wants
someone who will support and encourage others. You be that person.
Do not put down
everything all of the time. People get tired of hearing how lousy your job is,
how lousy the church is, how lousy your neighbors are, how lousy your health
is, how lousy your finances are, how lousy your circumstances are and so on.
You probably got tired reading that sentence. Imagine how wearying it is to
hear that from someone all of the time? I know several people who are like this
and I get tired of hearing it. They are not interested in remedying anything;
they just like to complain about it. It gets to the point where I do not even
want to bring up a new subject because I know that is just new fodder for them
to rail at. I get tired of trying to defend or explain everything.
If you are
critical like this then stop it. This does not mean becoming a Pollyanna and
seeing everything through rose-colored glasses. But it does mean learning to
see that apart from sin and evil most things do have a positive side that can
be discussed for once.
If you struggle
making or keeping friends then some time listen to your conversation. Are you
frequently putting down yourself or others or everything in general? If so,
then maybe that is your main problem. “When you’re smiling the whole world
smiles with you” may be overly cliched but it goes a lot further to making
friends then being continually glum.
There was a woman
who had been severely burned about her face. She was quite disfigured. But when
people saw her they thought that she was very attractive and did not even
remember the scars. Why was that? It was because she was always smiling and
cheerful. That is what people saw and remembered. May this be what people
remember about all of us.
You will have success if you:
Bible every day
Pray every day
Attend and are
involved in a Bible believing church
to meet the needs of others
about other people
reverence God often
Always seek to
do what is right even if it is more difficult
you are wrong and forgive when you have been wronged
way of salvation with others
friendships deepen they become broader, more vulnerable, more committed, and
more sacrificial. These are all qualities that cannot stand on their own. In
order to last they must rest on a solid foundation. The following attitudes are
that foundation and must be present and growing for a relationship to sustain.
They may not all be at the same level but they must all be present to some
these attitudes may exist as mere emotions; i.e. you feel understanding or you
may feel loving or patience. But ultimately you must be able to choose to be
these qualities even when you do not feel like it. Emotions can change like the
weather. You may love someone so much one day that you feel that you cannot
live without him or her. By the next week it has settled down to a pitter-pat
of your heart. The following week you are distracted by some other pressing
needs and it is given hardly a thought. But through all of those weeks you
still must make the choice to love but not just as an emotion but as a choice
and as a desire.
do not expand and deepen these attitudes by sheer luck. You will never wake up
some day and suddenly be trustworthy. Consistency will not sneak up on you. You
will not slide unconsciously into being an understanding person. These things
require an effort. They require work. They must be built through time by
knowing, understanding, and making right choices. It will usually involve more
character development on our own part than in changing the other person. And as
we develop these traits we will become more like the character of God who has
all of these attitudes in completeness and perfection.
Pray about each
of these areas and ask the Holy Spirit to help you with them.
trust someone is to be firmly confident in that person’s character to be
confidential, reliable, wise, and sensitive to your emotions, needs, opinions,
plans, and goals. What are some aspects of trust?
Confidential. When you trust someone you
are willing to share personal matters that are important to you knowing that
they will not take that information to someone else. There will never be a
sense of betrayal.
Reliable and faithful. They are always
there for you; to comfort you in sorrow and to rejoice with you in your time of
joy. They will not ignore you or abandon you because other friends are around.
Wise. You can trust that their counsel
will come from a godly perspective. If they do not know an answer you can be
assured that they will not fake it.
Sensitive. They understand who you are
and why you make the decisions that you do. You know that they will never
deliberately be cruel or hurtful. They will not be critical but will correct
you with humility and gentleness.
Honest. You can trust that person to be
honest with you. They will reprove you when you have sinned. They will never
act one way around you when you are alone together but differently when around
a group of friends. They will not tell you what you want to hear but what you
need to hear.
Responsible and dependable. When you ask
them to do you a favor you know that they will make every effort to do it on
time and to do it right. They will never come up with phony excuses. They will
never leave you hanging.
Confidence. You know that they will do
their best concerning you and not just when it is convenient for them. You know
that they are not just using you for their own ends.
Fidelity. In a marriage you are
confident that your partner will not be at all tempted into giving his or her
emotions, affections, or body to another.
is important because you know that they will always be there to catch you when
you fall. You do not have to keep one eye on them.
there can never be openness. People who do not trust others are always
suspicious; they are always putting up walls and keeping everything tucked away
close to themselves. They are like a man in a rainstorm with no umbrella who
tightly holds valuable papers under his coat.
involves a certain amount of risk. People will disappoint you. That is an
unfortunate price to pay, but the rewards of being able to share your heart
with someone that you can trust is far greater.
is not easy predictability. Consistency is the confidence that the person will
not unexpectedly and without reason radically change behavior, morals, or mood.
Of course people do change over time and, on a smaller scale, people can be
affected by health, weather, circumstances, relationships and so on. But these
changes are generally within a reasonable range. However, we will find it
difficult to become close to someone who is all over the place on areas that
are important to us.
will push away from the person who is kind and thoughtful in most areas but
then will quickly accuse and attack when they are inconvenienced. How many of
us recoil when our favorite preacher is found to be committing adultery? What
about the father who reads the Bible at the dinner table and is so pious in
church but then rages at his wife for every little thing? We can understand
people being in different moods but it is difficult to visit someone who is
sweet one day, terribly cranky the next, and depressed on another. That is like
playing a slot machine—you may hit a winner this time but the next time you
we approach God we do not have to worry about whether He will like us today and
accept us into His presence. We do not have to timidly approach Him with
stammering and quivering afraid that He might be in one of “those moods” and
decide to rip us to shreds. Instead Hebrews 4:16 reminds us, “Let us therefore
draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and
may find grace to help in time of need.”
can we be consistent?
Not letting our moods run uncontrolled.
We may feel like lashing out at everyone who is nearby, but knowing that this
is wrong we instead choose to be kind. This does not mean being a big phony,
but it does mean controlling our temper, being especially careful to hold our
tongue, and perhaps getting off alone to pray.
By trying to do what is right in all
situations. We should not talk about how much we love God but then curse
our neighbor. We should not oppress others when we can get away with it, gossip
under the guise of prayer, be prejudiced against people different from us, or
give generously at church but steal from our job. We should apply the Bible in
all circumstances and not just when it does us the most good.
By exhibiting the same morals in private
as we do in public. We should not have a “church face” and a “home face.”
We should not treat someone better in public because we want to have a good
reputation. We should not condemn others for what we have found out about them
but then do the same things when we think that we are safe and will not be
respect someone is to recognize the value that they have as a creation of God
and also for what God has done in their lives personally. It is seeing the
other person the way that God sees them. It is knowing that God considers that
person as valuable enough to die for. Therefore, there are two aspects to
respect: 1) an equal respect for each person as having tremendous worth from
God. 2) A personal respect based on how much their character is like that of
God’s. It is the second aspect that we are concerned with here.
How can you show
respect to another person?
Listening to. This means listening
carefully to what they have to say. It means considering their opinion as
valuable even if you do not agree. It means not jumping in to share what you
want to say until they are finished. Paul Tillich, an American theologian,
said, “The first duty of love is to listen.”
Deferring to. You trust enough in
their wisdom, understanding, and concern for you that if you do not see any
reason to disagree or be contrary then you will assent to their opinions or
Honoring. Everyone has some good
qualities. Be free to point out those qualities. You can say, “I really admire
how you serve in that ministry.” Or “You are a real example to me of
perseverance.” Do not ever call that person a derogatory name. Do not ever
refer to them as stupid or dumb. Instead, praise that person for good things
that they say or do. Be generous with your praise and praise them to others.
Most people like to slander and drag down their spouse or others. Do not you be
like that, do not get dragged into that
my-spouse-is-worst-than-your-spouse-but-see-what-a-trooper-I-am game. Even if
the others are saying, “My husband does nothing but complain and he is so
lazy,” you can say, “My husband really cares a lot about all of us and he
always tries to do the best for us.” Do not put the person down to anyone even
in a joking fashion.
Defending. When others are being
petty and are putting your friend or spouse down then be bold and emphatic
enough to defend them. And even if what he or she did was wrong you can still
stifle the gossip. You do not need to just sit there while everyone else is
sending out depth-chargers to sink him even further.
Encouraging. Help that person to achieve
his goals. It means, at the minimum, giving verbal support to that person. I
get really tired of people who always have to say something negative about
everything. When Billy Graham was in New
Jersey a while ago I volunteered to help out with
several aspects of the crusade. I told a good friend of mine this and instead
of encouraging me she said, “Hopefully this won’t affect your job.” Here I was
trying to do something good and all that this person could do was to come up
with some negative spin on the whole thing. Another time I bought a new car and
when I told someone the first thing that he said was, “That car is really bad
on snow.” I thought, “Gee, I almost had a moment of pleasure there. Thank you
for bursting my bubble and bringing me back to reality.”
Sustaining. Everyone has their down
times. They may feel as though circumstances have battered them around and they
need to pull back a bit and gather their emotions, goals, finances, and/or
esteem. At these times do not kick at the person because they are wounded.
Instead, do what you can to support them and help them through these times.
Respect is earned
as many have said. It is not bestowed on someone just because you are close to
them. However, I have found that people are more deserving of respect then they
generally get. Usually it is more like a group of people going into an
exquisite and wonderful mansion and then commenting while they leave about how
tacky the wallpaper was in the sixth bedroom. No one is perfect but when we
comment on someone, all too often it is the characteristic that is their
weakest that comes to mind first.
The more that we
learn to respect others the more that we will find others respecting us in
involves making an effort to see why this person does what they do and how they
think. It involves seeing life from their perspective. It means looking beyond
the surface of that behavior or words and knowing why it happened.
are areas that we can gain understanding in?
Health. Some people just are not the
picture of vigor. When doing some strenuous activity such as sports or hiking
that we are enjoying we must force ourselves to limit what we do to accommodate
their limitations. To have understanding is not to try and push them further
than they are able to go.
Motives. Many people have had traumatic
experiences or may have been neglected while growing up. This will affect their
motives. It may be obvious to you what course of action to take in some
situation but for them that choice is terrifying. They may be willing to
sacrifice great loss for the sake of predictability and safety. That may drive
you crazy but if you understand why they are like that it may make it easier to
come up with a compromise or entirely different solution.
Desires. One person wants to be
surrounded by material comfort while another prefers the freedom of having very
few things. One person likes quiet walks while the other likes doing things together
such as jigsaw puzzles or playing games. It will indeed be the rare person who
will share all of your same likes and desires. But instead of setting up a
competition of “Will we do it your way or my way this time” understanding might
allow you to appreciate why they want to do the thing that you never could see
yourself doing before. Understanding will allow you to see why that means so
much to them.
Emotions. One person can be told
something and shrug it off whereas someone else falls apart. Emotions are
shaped by many different factors. Probably very few people are completely
normal in all aspects of their emotions. An older single person who is
emotionally stable may get discouraged at the sight of a young family. To
understand another person’s emotions is to not quickly dismiss their reaction
to something as being a lunatic. It is to know why they are affected so easily
by that and so that enables you to be able to help them through it.
Interests. Someone may like to
collect exotic insects; to you that is disgusting and barbaric. Or he may be a
huge sports fan. To you that is nothing more than cheering for men or women
wearing various types of pajamas and running around a lot. If you make an
attempt to find out why they are interested in that then you may gain a deeper
appreciation for that interest—even though you still may not embrace it as the
greatest thing on Earth. It may also give a greater understanding of who that
Family. Our families will shape who
we are more than anything else. Eighty five percent of our personality is
developed by the age of six. By
discussing how their parents related to each other or to their children should
provide great insights into the person. It will also send up red flags when
they are imitating their family’s bad habits.
can we better understand another person?
Talking together. This involves drawing
out the other person while sharing your own life. Drawing out another person
requires sincere and focused interest and asking appropriate questions. Learn
to avoid belittling statements and ask non-accusatory questions. What is a
belittling statement? –“Politics is so boring I can’t see why anyone would be
interested in it.” Whereas a question that leads to understanding might be,
“What is it about politics that you find so interesting?”
starts with knowledge but then goes further than just the facts and into the
motives. What is a question that leads to knowledge? –“What is your favorite
movie?” Whereas a question that leads to understanding would be, “Why is that
your favorite movie?” You should learn how to ask appropriate questions that
will delve deeper and deeper into who the person is. This will take practice.
You may get a few “That’s a little too personnel, isn’t it?” responses or looks
but then you can take that as your current boundary.
Most of us are
unequipped to ask these types of probing questions because we would rather talk
about ourselves than to listen to what others have to say. We may think about
that other person a lot, but we think about ourselves all of the time. But that
leads to the next aspect.
Listening. We cannot ask relevant
questions if we do not listen to the other person. This means being genuinely
interested in that person and what is happening in their life. How many times
have you been talking to someone and you felt that they were only listening to
you so that they could bring each topic back to themselves? Here’s a true
Me: “I just got
Person: “Oh congratulations! I want to get married. I thought that I was going
to get married a few years back but it didn’t work out.”
Me: “We’re going
to have a Fall wedding.”
Person: “I used to love the Fall but then it seemed that every relationship
that I was in broke up in the Fall. So now I hate it.”
By now I’m
realizing that this person is always working the conversation back to herself
so I try something outlandish as a test.
Me: “My finance
is an astronaut.”
Person: “Really? I once dated a guy who loved to play this video game about
By now I have
simply given up. I might as well just sit back, say “So tell me all about
yourself—your emotions, your desires, your opinions, and anything else that
pops into mind. Oh, and by the way, feel free to repeat many of these things
several times,” and then become glassy-eyed.
Observing. See how that person reacts to
what you say or how they behave in certain situations. Their responses will
tell you a lot about themselves. If every time that you mention her father she
tenses up ever so slightly then you know that there is something there. You
might want to gently ask about it at an appropriate time.
Contemplating. Understanding what
makes a person tick is more than just gathering some facts. It requires putting
conversations together and seeing how everything melds. This does not require a
psychology degree but it does require thinking. Of course nobody wants to think
that they are being psychoanalyzed and that is not the goal. The idea is to get
a better understanding of that person; not play junior Sigmund Freud.
a person takes a lot of time and effort. Whereas you can respect someone that
you have never met you must spend quite a bit of intimate time with someone in
order to understand them. In a sense, you can spend a lifetime with someone and
never come to a full understanding but it is certainly well worth the effort
is a mutual sharing of opinions, thoughts, emotions, desires, needs, goals, likes,
dislikes, and lives. It involves talking, writing, body language, and actions.
Full communication involves discussing the bad things as well as the good.
can we develop total communication?
Make opportunities. Instead of
reading the paper or watching TV during meals make it a point to talk to each
other. If one person is going to be late then, if possible, wait until you can
be together. When visiting places like museums or parks do not spend all of the
time only talking about what you see but concentrate on each other at times.
When driving home ask the other person what they liked most about the day and
Be equitable. You may take the
suggestion of sharing about yourself very seriously and go on and on. That may
be fine at times but you need to let the other person talk also. Becoming
intimate is a two-way street. But on the other hand it does not mean just
allowing the other person to share incessantly without you ever adding anything
in. There are poems and analogies about how a close relationship is being like
two streams that flow into each other and form a mighty river. But if one of
those streams is a dry bed then there is not any additive effect. Yes, some
people need a lot more words to say the same thing as another person and the time
may not be split exactly 50/50. But there should at least be an attempt by both
parties to open up and to give each other that same opportunity.
Make an effort. Because life and
circumstances change so do people. Communication is an ongoing effort. Too many
people settle into a rut where neither bothers to even try or care to
communicate. I had a poem published on this called “Nick and Stella.”
The thin, black
of the starburst
wall clock sends
its plastic summons.
Nick and Stella
to their daily
rendezvous with the
set before them.
large yellow flowers.
$50 worth of groceries
The rustlings of
provides all the conversation.
is digesting the
band of tin
which edges the
while he chews.
the greasy steel is placed
among the petals.
one of the chair’s
hollow metal legs
decolored linoleum floor
as it is pushed back.
only the pulsing of
disturbs their darkness.
through his nose.
The wall clock
Stella gets up,
sets her alarm,
and goes to bed.
Argue maturely and sensitively. This
might be the hardest time to communicate. Yes, it is true that some couples
seem to bicker, complain, and yell at each other rather easily. But this is not
communicating; this is attacking, berating, assaulting, accusing, criticizing,
or whatever else you might want to call it. But this is not communicating.
will happen. It is how they are handled and resolved that makes the difference.
Communication involves maturely discussing the situation, sharing why you did
or said what you did and how you felt. It means first examining yourself before
pointing your finger at the other person. It requires listening patiently to
what the other person has to say and considering his or her points. It means
trying to work out a solution and not just attempting to nuke the other person
I remember one
instance where two people were arguing. The wife was on the attack at that
point and the husband said that he did not want to argue anymore and just got
up and walked away for a minute. Then he came back and criticized something
about her. The truth was not that he did not want to argue anymore, but that he
only wanted to argue when he was making all of the attacks.
many times when I am counseling people they want to do nothing more than point
out what is wrong with the other person. Husbands and wives will do that to
each other all of the time. I have to tell them that if they only point out the
other person’s faults then nothing will ever change. They have to look at their
own shortcomings first and then do something about it. That is the only way
that change will ever occur.
ways of handling arguments is conversation killers like “I guess that I’m just
always wrong” or “Like you’re so perfect.” If you say “I don’t want to talk
about it now” to avoid discussing the issue at all then that is wrong, but if
you are sincerely planning on revisiting the issue when the circumstances are
better then that is fine. If a fault, mistake, or sin is pointed out to you and
your response is to attack the other person without attempting to examine what
you might have done wrong is to be arrogant and unteachable. That is a technique
called ad hominem, which means that
you are not interested in discussing the point reasonably but are only trying
to deflect it by attacking the person initiating it.
course it is not necessary to air every gripe and offense. If this happens then
you will probably find the opposite effect of communication becoming suppressed
because everyone is walking on eggs. Many of the smaller and one-time offenses
will just need to be swallowed and forgotten.
has faults. Not everyone does things as well as you do. Some people take longer
to change than others. All of this requires patience. Patience is the ability
to see beyond your own schedule and expectations and wait for someone to change
at their own reasonable pace.
helps us to develop patience?
Understanding that if the attitude for
improvement is there then the results will come. Sometimes we are impatient
because we want the results right now; we cannot wait. But people cannot go
from “A” to “Z” in one swift move. It takes time and for certain issues that
have deep and terrifying roots it may take more time then for most people. We
can either stand on the side with our arms crossed over our chests and bark out
instructions or we can roll up our sleeves and pitch in to help.
has been said that it is not so important where you are at but where you are
going. Ecclesiastes 4:13 sums this up well, “A poor, yet wise lad is better
than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction.”
Someone who has reached a high level of accomplishment or character but no
longer desires to change or improve (i.e., he is not teachable) is worse off
than someone who is still near the starting gate but is running as fast as he
can towards the goal.
Being able to help the person according
to their schedule rather than your schedule. You may see clearly where the
person is at right now and where it is that they should be. Then you draw a
straight line between those two points and that is the path that they should
take in order to change. But that person may not be able to take that route for
a number of reasons: they may have other issues that are clouding the picture,
some task along your route may be insurmountable for them and instead of going
through it they may have to go around it, or they might not be emotionally or
psychologically ready to take one or more of those steps. To be patient is to
be willing to understand what they are capable of accomplishing at the moment
and helping them with each step as they are able. It also means realizing that
what may have been doable yesterday is no longer doable because something has
Giving God a chance to work. We want
people to get saved today. We think that this one characteristic is the one to
improve on first. We think that the work should start immediately and without
delay. But God may have other plans. God knows what is more important and He
knows that this one characteristic that we are so juiced about them changing
first cannot be changed until this other, more hidden, issue is dealt with
first. We should try as much as possible to determine if and how God might be
working in that person’s life before we decide to play junior Holy Spirit.
See the good. Someone may not think
or care that their behavior or attitude is wrong or hurtful. Would you want to
throw away everything that is good just because of these one or two things? We
have a tendency to think that it will be better with someone else and sometimes
that is true. But have you taken for granted all of the good things in that
person because they have become routine? Will another person be more compatible
or easier to take? Perhaps, but have you given the person that you are with a
chance and are you being fair?
Being willing to wait. Sometimes
that person is obstinate and has no desire to change at all. Maybe she has dug
in her heels and refuses to admit any wrong or faults and is highly defensive
when you even try to talk to her. In this case you may be able to do nothing
other than try to lead an exemplary life (applying the principle of 1 Peter
3:1-2 to both men and women) and to pray. To be patient is to endure this and
hope that it is only for a season.
patience is perhaps the hardest of all of these foundational qualities. But if
we do not learn patience then the result will be frustration, anger, and
disgust. We will then, as is usually the case, bring it right back to ourselves
with thoughts such as, “If he cared about me he would change more quickly.”
patience is usually learned the hard way. Romans 5:3 tells us that patience is
learned through tribulation and in 2 Peter 1:6 patience follows self-control.
Tribulation and self-control are not two of our favorite things. But these are
the primary things that will help us to develop and grow in this vital
difficult this can be! The things that we will do to avoid true repentance with
other people. We may simply be extra friendly hoping that will wash away the
offense. We may blame the other person to try to force them to be the one who
repents. Or we may refuse to talk to them ever again. All because we are not
willing to admit that we are wrong.
is to admit that we have done wrong and to sincerely desire not to commit that
wrong again. There is repentance before God and repentance to someone that we
have sinned against.
Why is repenting
before God so important? There are entire books written on that matter but we
will just examine one verse: 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is
faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness.” We are going to look at some of the words in this verse.
To confess is to
admit to God the wrong that we have done. It is not to hide the sin or to deny
it. It is not to make excuses or to blame someone else. All that God asks from
us is that we be honest: “I have sinned.”
God is faithful
and just. In the scriptures, God’s faithfulness is tied to His promises. He
will always do that which He has said. 2 Corinthians 1:20 reads, “For as many
as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is
our Amen to the glory of God through us” and Hebrews 10:17, “and their sins and
their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
The word “just”
is interesting. We associate justice with punishment; not with forgiveness. So
how does justice play into this? It is because Jesus Christ died on the cross
to pay the entire sum of the penalty for our sins and then God raised Him from
the dead. Do you know what is the significance of the resurrection? Because God
raised His Son from the dead, it showed that He fully accepted Jesus’ payment
for our sins. The risen Christ is proof that God will, indeed, forgive us of
our sins when we repent because if He does not forgive us then Jesus did not
accomplish His mission on the cross and so cannot rise from the dead. When we
confess our sins, God must forgive us or He will not be just. He is faithful to
forgive because He has promised to do so, and He is just to forgive us because
Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again.
It is interesting
to note that the word “our” in “to forgive us our sins” is not in the Greek.
This sets up a subtle contrast between this expression and “all
unrighteousness.” The verse may be paraphrased, “If we confess our sins, He is
faithful and righteous to forgive the sins we confess and to cleanse us from
all unrighteousness.” The idea is that when we confess the sins that we are
aware of, God will cleanse us completely and thoroughly from all unrighteousness
even those that we forgot or are unaware of. We do not need to agonize over
sins that we cannot remember. God takes care of that Himself.
“cleanse” means to wash clean. In the Hebrew culture it meant to take a dirty
pot and to make it shiny.
So you can
paraphrase this entire verse as, “If we acknowledge our sins to God, He will be
faithful to His promises and remember that His Son, Jesus Christ, paid for
those sins and He will remove the guilt of those sins and wash away all of the
dirt from all of the wrongs that we have committed and we will shine like new
creation” This is why repenting before God is so important.
is repenting to someone that we have sinned against so important?
It clarifies our need to change. If
we never see ourselves as doing wrong then we will never change. But even if we
really do know in our hearts that we have done something wrong but are
unwilling to admit it then any effort to improve will be postponed.
It cleanses us. Guilt, shame, and
sin are like garbage and unless we get rid of it they will continue to build up
and pollute us. Confession incinerates these things.
It restores a broken relationship. If
we have done someone wrong then it is more than likely that there will be a
rift between us. Repentance helps to bring two people together that were
previously on different sides.
It is commanded. James 5:16 says,
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that
you may be healed.”
It is living in truth. When we try
to deny or suppress our sins against one another we are living a lie. We are
trying to pretend that we are better than we are and that something that we
said or did was either misinterrupted, totally justified, or simply never
happened. God created us to function in truth. When we lie about our sin our
conscience will bother us, we will be tense, we will act phony, our fellowship
with God and with that person will be strained, and we will lie, blame, justify
or whatever it takes to verify that our sin really was not sin. Is not it just
easier to repent?
forgiving can even be harder than repenting. But whether it is hard (or so we
might even think—impossible), goes against our nature, or is something that we
have never done before we must still do it for our own sakes, the other
person’s sake, and for the relationship.
are some key steps in forgiving others?
God forgives us. The first step in
forgiving others is to recognize that God has greatly and abundantly and
completely forgiven us when we are born again. Any godly character that we
practice must first radiate from God’s character. You can go to a number of
seminars on how to do evangelism and hear a bunch of rah-rah sermons on
reaching the lost. You may help out with a few outreaches and pass out some
tracts. But until you see God’s burning desire for the lost, it will never burn
in your own heart. You may have the technique, but you will not have the heart.
And so it is with forgiveness. You must first see how abundantly God has
forgiven you before you will be able to forgive others.
Pray for power. This takes realizing
that we cannot do it on our own--that we lack the power, and that we lack the
desire. Let us take a look at a passage in Luke 17.
5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase
6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a
mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted
in the sea’; and it would obey you.
7 “But which of you, having a slave plowing or
tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come
immediately and sit down to eat’?
8 “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare
something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me until I have
eaten and drunk; and afterward you will eat and drink’?
9 “He does not thank the slave because he did
the things which were commanded, does he?
10 “So you too, when you do all the things which
are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which
we ought to have done.’”
In verse five the
apostles are asking Jesus to increase their faith. But for what? Was it to move
a mountain? Was it to reach the world with the Gospel? Was it to heal someone
who is terribly sick or maybe even to raise the dead? What was this incredibly
great task that Jesus was asking them to do that they were forced to cry out,
“Increase our faith”?
see the answer in verses three and four. Their request was in the context of
forgiving someone. Jesus just told them that no matter how many times someone offends
you, you need to forgive each and every time. And they said, “But we can’t do
this! It’s impossible! So give us more faith so that we can do this.”
But notice Jesus’
response in verse six. The tree that is mentioned here is probably the black
mulberry. The rabbis thought that its roots could remain in the ground for 600
years. Clearly, this is something that has dug itself down deep and would be
hard to move. So there is this large, deeply rooted tree and Jesus is saying
that in order to remove it completely and cast it into the sea you would need
what? A hundred men with ropes? A giant bulldozer? A sharp axe, a shovel and
about 100 years? No, we just need something as small as a mustard seed. What
Jesus is emphasizing here is that in order to effect miracles, our faith does
not have to be great, it just has to be genuine and to have its foundation in a
When we struggle
with forgiving someone the problem is not that we do not have enough faith to
forgive them. The problem is that we do not have any faith to forgive them.
Why? The main reason may be because we do not want to. We want to see them
suffer for what they did. We want them to feel the same hurt that they made us
to feel. We want to give them the message that if they hurt me then they will
feel pain also, so they better think twice about hurting me again. But if
someone hurts me and then I make them suffer for it to the point where I feel
satisfied that they know what it feels like then I cannot forgive them. Why?
Because forgiveness involves releasing someone from a debt. But if I make them
pay off that debt then there is nothing left to forgive. Let us not confuse
forgiveness with justice or to somehow try and mix the two together. Let us not
think that if someone hurts us, that we can grab them by the neck and shake
them real hard and then let go and say, “I forgive you, brother” that we are
being noble and Christ-like. Forgiveness means graciously releasing them from a
debt; not making them do penance first.
Back to Luke 17.
Just like this mulberry tree, hurt can dig its roots deep into our lives. It
may even feel like those roots have been there for 600 years. And it may feel
that there is nothing that we can do to extract those roots from out of our
heart and from out of our thoughts. But Jesus said that it only takes the
smallest amount of faith to do this. This gives hope. We can, by the grace of
God, forgive anyone; no matter how deep, no matter how long it has been there.
We need to pray, “God, give me the desire to forgive. Give me the power to
forgive.” We can forgive others the way that God forgives us. The key is that
we must want to forgive them.
that is interesting about this passage is that the mulberry tree is cast into
the sea. In Micah 7:19 God said about Himself, “He will again have compassion
on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their
sins into the depths of the sea.”
But then Jesus
continues this teaching in verses seven through ten with a very interesting and
what seems to be unrelated story. What is Jesus talking about here? He is
saying that we do not need to become a spiritual giant in order to forgive
someone, even if that person has hurt us badly. We just need to use what little
faith we already have to believe God that He wants to give us the desire and
the power in order to forgive that person.
How do we get to
that point? By obeying God in other areas. Notice that this story does not even
say anything about forgiveness. It is about serving. It is about doing those
basic things that God wants us to do. It is not even talking about doing great
things. The servant in this story is not out there raising people from the dead
or preaching the Gospel to thousands of people. He is out there doing that
which is simple. He is plowing or tending sheep. He then comes in and serves a
meal and clothes himself properly. These are not terribly difficult things to
do. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good
understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures
forever.” God does not make forgiving others hard. But He is saying that if you
do not have the faith to obey God in even the simple, basic commands then do
not expect to have the faith to do something like forgive another person. If
you are not regularly attending a church, if you are not reading the Bible on a
consistent basis, if you are not praying or obeying other commands then how can
you expect to be able to forgive?
A key to
forgiving someone is not for us to psyche ourselves up until we think that we
have convinced ourselves that we should forgive that person. It is not weighing
the reasons for and the reasons against. The key is in believing God to do the
work in our own hearts and to believe His strength and His power. We will
struggle with forgiveness so long as we leave God out of the picture and try to
accomplish this on our own.
Do not vilify them. This next point may
not apply in every situation but it is something to think about. Lewis Smedes
in his book “Forgive & Forget” says it well. We need to see the deeper
truth about the people who have hurt us; “a truth our hate blinds us to, a
truth we can see only when we separate them from what they did to us…. For the
truth about those who hurt us is that they are weak, needy, and fallible human
beings. They were people before they hurt us and they are people after they
When someone hurts us we can too easily make them out to be monsters in order
to justify our bitterness and our own bad attitudes. We can enlarge their sin
to be even greater than what they are in every other area of their life. If
they have gossiped about us then we see them like a big, ugly rat that does
nothing else in life than run around and tell everyone they meet wicked lies about
us. We can de-humanize or even de-Christianize them. To be able to forgive
someone we must see them as sinners for whom Christ loves and died for.
A lack of forgiveness will enslave you.
If you cannot free people from their wrongs then you will enslave yourself to
your own painful past and will then allow that bitterness to become your
future. You can reverse this future only by releasing the other person from
their sin against you and you can only do that by forgiving them. In Philip
Yancey’s book “What’s So Amazing About Grace” he says, “I once heard an
immigrant rabbi make an astonishing statement, ‘Before coming to America,
I had to forgive Adolph Hitler,’ he said. ‘I did not want to bring Hitler
inside me to my new country.’:”
Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God;
that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be
defiled.” When you are bitter and refuse to forgive, not only will it destroy
your own life, but it will also negatively affect the lives of those around
Get strength and accountability from others.
Tell someone else about your lack of forgiveness and ask them to pray for you.
But be careful not to tell or hint at who the person is who has sinned against
you. Do not use this as an excuse to gossip. The unforgiveness is your sin and
that is of greater importance to you at this moment than what the other person
did to you.
Extend forgiveness. If possible, we
should offer our forgiveness to that person. If our forgiveness only remains in
our mind and cannot be outwardly expressed then it will do little good. When
doing so there several points to realize.
understand the truth of how much they hurt you. This does not mean going on the
attack. It does not mean ripping them to shreds and calling them names. It
means explaining from your perspective why you were so hurt. Not, “This is what
you did to me!” But, “I was hurt by what you said or did and this is why.” Do
not expect that person to agree with you about every little detail. That is not
necessary and it is unlikely to happen. If you want total agreement on every
insult, hurt, or offense you will never get it. You do not have to force them
to feel remorse for every word, every nuance, and every action. The first step
is for you to forgive them. That is absolutely the most important part of this
whole process. It is even more important than for them to repent.
You must be
truthful about what happened and how you felt. Do not exaggerate so as to make
them feel as badly as you can make them.
Make an attempt
to restore the relationship.
the most egregious act of one person sinning against another was Saul against
David. Saul tried everything that he could think of to destroy David to the
point of chasing him around the country in order to kill him. Did David forgive
Saul? I believe so and some scriptures indicate this. David was able to wish
Saul well (1 Samuel 24:21-22). David considered Saul to be important as a
person. Even though Saul was a failure in many ways as king, David did not
berate him or recount all of Saul’s failures or sins. David did not play him
out to be a monster (1 Samuel 26:24). David was sincerely grieved at Saul’s
death. He was not gladly thinking, “See, I knew that God would get him eventually.
That certainly justifies my dislike of him.” All too often when we have had a
conflict with someone, even after we believe that we have forgiven him, we can
still secretly hope that things will go poorly for him or even be a little glad
when we do hear about something going lousy for them. David was not like that.
He found no vindication in Saul’s misfortune (2 Samuel 1:24-25a).
We are going to
look at two Bible stories. In each one, someone was terribly sinned against.
And yet, their responses were opposite. We are going to see how this affected
their lives, their futures and how God viewed their reactions.
The first story
involves Simeon and Levi. In Genesis 34:1-7 we can see where Shechem, who was
outside the tribe of Israel,
raped Simeon and Levi’s sister Dinah.
In verses 13-17
Jacob’s sons pretended to go along with Hamor [Shechem’s father] in order to
trap them and get revenge. Notice what is missing from the sons of Jacob. They
did not pray or cry out to God. They did not seek counsel or their father’s
advice. They lied or, at least, used half-truths. They schemed together about
how to get revenge. Obviously, they did not make this story up on the fly. They
sat around and planned it out. When we are sinned against, is our first
instinct to cry out to God. Do we seek counsel? Or do we lie and plot revenge?
Do we think evil thoughts towards that person?
Then in verse 25
we read how Simeon and Levi killed all of the males of Shechem’s village and
then stole what was left. They punished even those who were associated with the
transgressors. Lack of forgiveness sometimes knows no boundaries. My enemy’s
friends become my enemies is an old saying. Have you ever been hurt by someone
and then snubbed his or her friends? This is wrong.
In verse 30 Jacob
erred in that he did not reprove Simeon and Levi for doing evil but only for
causing him trouble. He was more concerned about consequences than
In verse 31 we
discover that they could not get their eyes off of Shechem’s offense. They
focused on the sin and not on God’s grace and forgiveness. They let another
person’s sin dictate their own lives. Shechem’s sin dominated their thoughts,
their actions, and their excuses.
story notice how many times God’s name comes up—zero. They never took the
situation to God. They never even tried to rely on His grace and power. And the
result was the ruin of their own lives and the ruin of the lives of those
around them including their own family.
we go to Genesis 42:24. It is interesting how Simeon was the one taken and held
in prison. The one whose life was already imprisoned by unforgiveness is now
the one who is held in an actual prison.
in Genesis 49:5-7 we read about their future. These brothers are forever linked
because of their sin. In this prophecy of Jacob concerning all of his sons they
are the only two who are mentioned together.
We can see some of the consequences
of revenge and unforgiveness: They were not led by God’s guidance. They were
not vessels of God’s glory; i.e., God would not shine through their lives.
tied to anger, destruction of others and of ourselves, self-will, wanting our
way rather than God’s way, and cruelty. The result was that God cursed them and
God divided them; i.e. they did not have the strength to do what should have
been able to do.
second story involves Joseph who was one of Jacob’s other sons. In Genesis
37:18-20, 23-24 we can see how Joseph was offended. He was unfairly schemed
against. He was personally hurt and the attack went deep.
Genesis 45:3-5 Joseph brought God into the middle of the hurt. He did not focus
on the sin, instead he focused on the God who can overcome all sin.
in Jacob’s same prophecy in Genesis 49:22-26 we see what lied ahead in Joseph’s
future. He was fruitful. Notice how many times the word “blessings” is used.
What is the theme of verses 23-25? When he was attacked, God stood by him and
supported him and blessed him.
at the contrast:
Simeon and Levi perpetrated violence. Joseph resisted
Simeon and Levi lost the council of God. Joseph had God
Simeon and Levi lost the glory of God. Joseph was
surrounded by the Almighty.
Simeon and Levi were cursed. Joseph was blessed five
times from the heavens above, from the depths below, and from all around him.
Simeon and Levi were scattered; their strength was
removed. Joseph was distinguished.
Who would you
rather be? The one who fumes about your undeserved hurt or the one who puts God
into the center of your hurt and forgives?
People will hurt
us. We must forgive. Otherwise, our relationships will seethe with bitterness,
hurt, and revenge.
There are many
different levels of love. But true love involves sacrifice. In John 15:13 Jesus
said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his
friends.” Love mean putting the other person’s needs, desires and wants above
even your own. Philippians 2:3 is one of the most powerful but difficult verses
in the Bible, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility
of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself”
treatise on love ever written is found in 1 Corinthians 13. We are going to
take a look what love means and how we can apply it by examining four verses in
4 Love is patient, love is kind, and is not
jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek
its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but
rejoices with the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes
all things, endures all things.
Love is patient. It should be noted
that the first definition of love in this section is for patience. Maybe that
is because patience is the first thing to go when love wavers. This word as
used here is more regarding people than circumstances. It means to be long or
distant from anger. It has the picture of there being a lot of space between
you and your anger with a very long fuse in between. This is in contrast to the
person who always tightly clenches his anger in his fist ready to swing at the
first provocation. Love does not retaliate when wronged. It waits for people
who have faults to change. It waits for people who have sinned to repent. It
waits for people who are weak or who doubt to be strengthened. Love does not
toss aside these people because they get in your way. It realizes that maybe
God has put them into your path so that you may stop what you are doing and
minister to them.
When you hear that someone has gossiped about
you and then you spread around something terrible about them in return then you
do not love.
If someone in a ministry is doing an adequate
job but is not quite up to your standards and so you quickly replace them then
you do not love.
If someone is struggling with anxiety and you
take the time to help them grow in their pray life and trust in God then that
If someone in customer service takes longer then
you had hoped to get you some information and you do not throw a tantrum or
criticize that person then that is love.
Love is kind. Love is generous; it
readily gives to others in need. This might be time, resources, or a listening
ear. It is hospitable; it does not view guests as obligations or
inconveniences. It is warm and friendly; it does not ignore people because they
are different. It reaches out to the lonely and the needy. It is sympathetic
and understanding; it does not take advantage of another’s misfortune or
weakness. It treats others with dignity and respect. Love is never cruel to
people nor to animals. It gives a sense of safety and security to a
relationship. Love allows people to relax when they are around you.
If you see someone new at your church and you go
over and talk to them to make them feel welcome and comfortable then that is
If someone did something to you that you did not
like and so you give them the cold shoulder then that is not love.
Do you serve food at a soup kitchen or deliver
supplies to the homeless then that is love.
If you unfavorably compare your wife, your
children, or your friends to other people then that is not love.
If you are able to include other people in your
life, your interests and in your goals then that is love.
Are people able to be open with you, able to
share their thoughts, their feelings, and their emotions without worrying about
being rejected then that is love.
Love is not jealous. Jealousy wants
to protect what it already has. It does not want to lose possessions,
affections, or position. Whereas envy wants for its own something that another
person already has. Both of these concepts exist in the word used here. This
does not mean that we should foolishly give away everything that we have and
impoverish ourselves (1 Timothy 5:8), but that we should be content and
generous with what God has given to us.
If you hope that someone does not get the
recognition or the ministry or job promotion that you wanted for yourself then
that is not love.
If you hope that the person who did get that
ministry or job position that you wanted fails and looks bad then that is not
If you cannot rejoice with someone who is
getting married because you are not married then that is not love.
If you cannot rejoice with a couple who are
having a child because you want to have a child then that is not love.
If someone who already has more of something
than you do and then gets even more because they deserve it and you can rejoice
then that is love.
If you are able to support and encourage someone
even if it means that they leap over you in some way then that is love.
Love does not brag. Love is not a
vain windbag or blowhard. It does not try to impress people with its knowledge
or accomplishments. Love will share useful wisdom and be a good example but
only so that the other person will grow and become more like Christ and not
merely to impress them.
Do you monopolize conversations with how great a
person you are or with what you have accomplished then that is not love.
If someone is pleased to tell you something that
they have done and then you have to top them then that is not love.
If there is a conversation going on about some
subject and you have to jump in and spill everything that you know just to
impress them then that is not love.
If someone fails or sins and you boost about how
you would never do anything like that then that is not love.
Love is not arrogant. Some like the
translation “puffed up.” Love does not act condescendingly to others nor does
it act superior and oppressive. Love does not consider itself to be more
important than others. Love does not sit back and wait to be served; love jumps
to its feet and serves others. Love does not think that it is beyond correction
from even the newest Christian.
If you are a ministry leader or a pastor and you
refuse to do the dirty work because you have “more important things to do” then
that is not love.
If someone sends you an anonymous letter of
correction and you refuse to even look at it because it is unsigned then that
is not love.
Do you refuse certain people at your church
because their appearance is not up to what you think is proper or because they
are dirty then that is not love.
If you expect other people to always pay for
your meals, take you places, and give you things when you make no attempt to
sacrifice for any one else’s needs or desires then that is not love.
Love does not act unbecomingly. Love
does not make a fool out of itself. It is not rude. It does not act
dishonorably. Love does not draw unnecessary or excessive attention to itself.
Do you insult waiters or waitresses because they
made a mistake or were not fast enough then that is not love.
Do you make a public scene because you did not
get your way then that is not love.
Do you wear clothes that are sexually
provocative then that is not love.
Do you belittle your spouse, children, or
friends in front of others then that is not love.
When you are playing sports or games and you
have to win at all costs even if it takes the fun out of it then that is not
Love does not seek its own. Love
does not wait until all of its desires and wants are fulfilled before seeking
to assist others. Love does not squirrel away things that it may not even want
just to ensure that others will not get it first. It is not competitive.
When food is being served do you jump to the
front of the line to make sure that you get the best that is being offered then
that is not love.
If you are able to be genuinely interested in
all aspects of another person, wanting the best for that person, and being willing
to sacrifice to help them achieve it then that is love.
If someone is in a crisis or is sick and you
sacrifice doing some things that you like to stay with them then that is love.
Love is not provoked. Love is not
driven to anger or resentment. It is not irritated.
When someone is getting on your nerves and you
are able to handle it maturely and graciously then that is love.
If someone serves you a food that you do not
like or gives you something that is the wrong color or size and you snap at
them or criticize them then that is not love.
If someone offends you and you scheme on how to
get them back then that is not love.
Love does not take into account a wrong
suffered. This means not keeping a record of someone else’s wrongs
especially so that you can launch this list at them when you want to criticize
them. Love does not hold a grudge. Love allows the restoration of the
If someone offends you and then sincerely admits
that they did wrong, if you still hold a grudge or expect more from them then
you lack love.
If someone leaves a cup or your tools around and
you say with anger, “There you go again” then that is not love.
If someone does something wrong and then feels
terrible about it and you do not hammer them even more then that is love.
Love does not rejoice in
unrighteousness. Love does not side with immoral or illegal acts even if it
would be to its own profit. Love hates excessive or misguided justice. Love
does not glory in sin.
If someone does something wrong but then it gets
blown up way beyond what you know to be the truth and then they are punished in
accordance with the inflated story and you are glad then that is not love.
If you like to brag about how drunk you got or
what woman you had sex with then that is not love.
If someone that you do not like gets caught in
sin and you are smug then that is not love.
When someone who you know is guilty is acquitted
and you pleased then that is not love.
When you know that a program or movie is risqué
or foul and you refuse to bring your family or friends to it then that is love.
Love rejoices with the truth. Love
is not glad when someone gets away with something that is wrong. Love does not
admire the clever thief or the amoral hero. Love is glad to find out that it
was wrong or had misinterrupted a situation so that it can now walk in the
When you do something wrong and are caught and
then admit to the situation exactly as it was and fully accept your
responsibility without twisting anything to implement someone else then that is
If you believe a certain doctrine and you hold
to it despite all evidence to the contrary then that is not love.
When someone rightly corrects you and you accept
it without being defensive then that is love.
Love bears all things. Love is like
a watertight vessel. It is able to contain itself from venting or raging when
put under hardship and trying circumstances. The word “bears” is related to the
word “roof” or “to protect by covering.”
When your spouse or friend is unnecessarily
criticizing you or belittling you and you do not retaliate in anger then that
When a bad driver cuts in front of you and you
do not curse him or get furious then that is love.
When your family or friend is being accused and
you walk away leaving them to fend for themselves then that is not love.
Love believes all things. Love
thinks the best of any person until that is proven otherwise. It is human
nature to first think the worst and then force the person to prove their
innocence. But love is not like this. Love gives people the benefit of the
doubt. But this does not mean that love is a rosy-eyed fool that disregards
negative facts in order to always be positive. Love is not gullible.
When you start a new job and people say nasty
things about a co-worker that you have not even met and you find yourself
accepting their gossip as fact and so avoid that person then that is not love.
When someone makes a malicious comment about
your pastor or someone in your church and you accept it unquestioningly then
that is not love.
Love hopes all things. Even when
other people no longer hope in that person who is wavering in their faith or
strength love is able to continue hoping for the best. Jesus did not extinguish
a smoldering wick or break a broken reed.
When your friend has fallen back into drinking
or drugs and all others have given up on him in disgust but you stay with him
then that is love.
When someone talks about accomplishing some goal
that you may think they are grossly unequipped or unprepared for but you are
able to encourage and support them anyway then that is love.
If someone does something seemingly stupid but
you are able to defer to their integrity until you find out all of the facts
then that is love.
Love endures all things. Love
continues to be steadfast even when tempted to do otherwise. When the battle
rages close at hand, love is the soldier that stays at his post and does what
he is commanded to do; he does not run.
When you are with some old non-Christian friends
and they talk you into going out drinking or watching pornography or using foul
language then that is not love.
When your boss wants you to do something wrong
or illegal and you go along with it for the sake of your job then that is not
When someone wants you to harm another person or
their possessions and you refuse then that is love.
You have a critical spirit if you:
of what people say and do with an eye for what is wrong
Focus a good
portion of your conversations on what is wrong with your church, pastor, job,
family, friends, neighbors, etc.
Think that you
have a gift for finding problems or weaknesses
condemnations based on one small or perceived failure
quickly in judgement before hearing all of the facts or the other side of the
Usually find yourself
alone in a condemnation of something
all too often using phrases like, “I’m only telling you this for your own good”
or “Believe me, I’d rather not have to be the one to tell you this, but…”
Think of your
criticisms as “helpful opinions” or “love jabs” or as “guideposts to maturity”
rather than as the stinging reproofs that they really are
Are forced to
rely on unverifiable support for your reproofs such as “The Holy Spirit told
me” rather than being able to give a real example
only able to enumerate the “wrong” or weak parts of a sermon but never any good
One of the
biggest causes of relationships and marriages falling apart is because one of
the persons becomes greatly disillusioned and is unable to either accept the
shortcomings of the other or is unwilling to work to remedy it. Some
disillusionment in a relationship is not unusual. No one will ever be perfect
and no one person will ever be able to fulfill all of another person’s needs.
So there will always be a sense that not every piece of the two puzzles will
fit absolutely perfectly and that some pieces will be left open. That is
actually normal because God created us not so that one other person will be all
that we will ever need but that we will also need God and close friendships to
make us whole.
The issue is not
whether there will be disappointment but how it is dealt with. Disillusionment
provides us the opportunity to grow and compromise. The problem is when the
disillusionment and discouragement becomes greater than the desire to overcome
them and to strengthen the relationship.
There can be many
reasons for disillusionment: one person might have been phony and now the real
person is coming out or someone was blind to the other’s faults no matter how
large they loomed. But probably the biggest cause of disillusionment is going
into a relationship with unreasonable expectations. And the higher our
expectations are the greater the potential for this problem because then we are
coming closer to idealism rather than to reality.
So what can you
do to avoid falling into the trap of unreasonable expectations while you are
still unmarried? Make out an honest list of what you are looking for in a mate.
Write it down on paper. You may never have done this and you may be surprised
at what you are thinking. Then go through your list and determine what is set
in stone and what is set in sand. Those set in stone are absolute necessities.
This list may be as long or as short as you honestly need to make it, but, if
you are a Christian, then there must be at least one requirement set in stone
that is irrevocable and that is that the other person must also be a Christian.
Those written in stone might include the following:
She must faithfully attend a good church
She must have regular devotions
She must be financially responsible
She must be good with people
These are things that are
reasonable and, to you, necessary.
Those set in sand
are things that can be compromised. They are qualities that you would love for
the other person to have, but they are not showstoppers for the relationship.
In a want ad those characteristics set in stone would be listed under
“required.” Those set in sand would be those listed under “desirable” or “a
plus.” They might be:
It would be great if he has a college degree
It would be great if he exercised three times a
It would be great if he is willing to share
It would be great if he likes cats
It would be great if he likes punk/industrial
These are things that may be
reasonable to a degree but you must be willing to give up any or even all of
them without anger or bitterness.
A problem is when your
entire list or a great deal of it is set in stone and nothing is negotiable.
Then, unless your list has almost nothing on it, you will either never commit
to anyone or you will be guaranteed to become disillusioned.
So what happens when you
meet someone that seems great except for one or more of the necessary
expectations not being met? Then you have several choices.
Try and change the other person. This may not be so bad
if done right. What is the right way?
Let us say that you love cats and
you put this in concrete and he really does not care for them. You can tell him
all of the benefits that you have had from owning a cat. You can introduce him
to your cats and encourage him to play with them. You can ask him why he does
not like cats and see if any of his reasons are misguided.
What is the wrong
way? You can bombard him with cute cat stories ad nausea until he runs
screaming into the darkness. You can repeatedly tell him why there is something
wrong with him because he does not like cats hoping that you will grind him
down. You can tell him that if you two ever get married that you will have cats
whether he likes it or not.
What is the
difference with these approaches? With the first approach you are discussing it
together and you are trying to win him over to your viewpoint. With the second
you are trying to wear him out, or humiliate him, or arrogantly telling him
that you will have your way and that is it.
if he does not come over to your side then you will have decide on one of the
following three remaining options.
Your second choice is to drop him like a hot potato.
Cats are important to you and if he does not like them then out he goes. This
is a requirement set in stone and if he does not meet it then away with him.
After much hand wringing you can honestly drop this
expectation from your list. It will be tough and it will possibly hurt but you
can decide that this one requirement does not outweigh everything else that is
great about him.
But a word of
caution, do not half-heartedly drop it only to resurrect it some time in the
future because, if that is the case, then the disillusionment will come. If you
find yourself thinking, “We’ve been married five years now and you’d think that
by now he’d want to have a cat just because he knows how important it is to me.
I’ve been more than patient.” then you and the relationship are headed for
trouble. The truth is that you never really dropped this requirement; you only
put it aside for a while.
Keep this as an expectation and assume or hope that he
will change in the future. This is the worst thing that you can do because this
is what sets up disillusionment and then, ultimately, anger. This is same as
the previous choice but instead of resurrecting what you think you had dropped,
here you know that you expect him to eventually change. You have simply put the
fulfillment on temporary hold.
This final choice
is, unfortunately, what too many people do in their relationships. Then the
longer this expectation goes unfulfilled the more that it simmers and burns and
the more that it becomes a point of contention. Then hurt comes in with
thoughts like, “He just doesn’t understand me.” Or “He isn’t being fair.” Or
“My needs are not being met and they should be.” Or “He must not think that I’m
important or he’d make more of an effort.” Or “He knows how important this is
to me.” Then comes anger, which can manifest itself in resentment, indignation,
or bitterness. This leads to more and bigger doubts about all kinds of things.
Frustration runs high and there are arguments about every little thing. Being
contrary, attacking, and being defensive are all frequent actions. Finally the
Have you ever heard of the
proverb: “ For wont of a nail the horseshoe was lost. For wont of a horseshoe
the horse was lost. For wont of a horse the rider was lost. For wont of a rider
the battle was lost. For wont of a battle the war was lost.”? It may sound
overly dramatic that the loss of one nail determined an entire war. However, do
not glibly toss aside the effects that even one unmet expectation can
ultimately have on a relationship. It is like the fly in the ointment.
course after we get into a relationship we can start to develop expectations
that we did not have before. This is fine so long as they are based on what we
already know about that person and are not beyond that person. Expectations are
not goals. They are not ways to stretch the other person into something else.
us face it, we all have expectations. They are necessary because without them
we would settle for anything and then we would probably be miserable all of our
lives. However, if we do not properly determine which expectations are
necessary (i.e., those set in stone) and those which are desirable but
unnecessary (those set in sand) then we can have several possible problems.
If our list of necessary expectations is too long then
we will spend our time searching for that perfect person who will have to meet
every one of our expectations and so will be on an endless hunt.
Even if our expectations are not that many some of them
may still be highly unreasonable. We may have an expectation that less than one
percent of the population can fulfill. If we can live with that then fine. But
maybe instead of having to marry a millionaire settle for someone with
financial stability. Maybe instead of someone who is drop-dead gorgeous choose
someone whom you find attractive and forget about what anyone else thinks.
Maybe instead of someone who is fanatically in love with cats settle for
someone who likes cats and wants to have one. Be careful that some of your
necessary expectations are not just vain desires. Athletes, celebrities, the
gorgeous, the powerful, or the rich may not make the best husband or wife for
We can carry unmet expectations into a deep
relationship or marriage that may, ultimately, lead to great disillusionment,
anger, frustration, and possibly divorce.
We must all be
diligent to be careful not to make these mistakes. We need to understand what
we want and expect from a relationship.
belong to us only. We should never try and force, intimidate, or threaten
people to be what we want them to be. The most that we should do is to help
them to be what God wants them to be. Anyone who moves in that direction will
be a better friend or mate anyway.
You have a problem with anger if you:
Often yell or
raise your voice to get your way or force your opinion on others
days, weeks, or even longer at the least slight or inconvenience
language in an argument
belittle the person with whom you are in disagreement
violence such as hitting, pushing, or squeezing
intimidate person with your physical presence such as backing them against a
wall, making a fist, or looming over them
Become mad at
the slightest provocation
throw things, stomp around the room, turn music on really loud or similar acts
and literature have produced countless examples of great relationships where we
can find much to emulate. But perhaps the greatest of them all was between a
king’s son and shepherd who would one day sit on the throne.
was the king of Israel
and was Jonathan’s father. When Saul died Jonathan would have been the rightful
heir to the throne. But Saul had a madness that was soothed by music. David
became known to the king’s courts by slaying the Philistine giant Goliath. He
was also an accomplished musician and was brought in to play the harp for King
Saul. Eventually David conquered many of the King’s enemies and the people’s
hearts went for David. This enraged Saul and eventually Saul spent much of his
time and energy trying to kill David. Saul also tried to turn Jonathan’s heart
against David because he knew that David was the people’s choice to become king
instead of his son.
all of this time Jonathan and David became great friends and what we can learn
from their friendship can strengthen and deepen our own relationships. In this
story we will see tremendous sacrifice, selflessness, encouragement, and
support. These were not cardboard characters. They were not myths or examples
that God made up. These were real people who did exactly what the Bible records
about them. If we lived back then we could have seen them together, we could
have heard their conversations, and we could have seen the affect that each had
on the other.
1 Samuel 18:1
“… the soul of
Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, Jonathan loved him as himself.”
Why did God word
this verse this way? Why did He not just say, “Jonathan was knit to David”? Or
“Jonathan and David were very close”? In the Bible the word “soul” has several
senses to its meaning. In its broadest meaning it denotes the very life and
essence of a person. When people were counted for a census, the Bible says that
they were counted as souls, that is, as persons (Exodus 1:5 and Deuteronomy
10:22). So, in this sense, the soul means the very person himself. God evens
refers to “My soul” as another way of referring to Himself. Thus when God
speaks of His soul He is summing up all that characterizes Himself in His love,
holiness, wrath, faithfulness and so on.
In a narrower
sense the soul denotes man in all of his varied emotions and inner powers. A
person’s soul contains his desires and his emotions. In the Bible the soul is
said to weep (Job 30:16), to have patience (Job 6:11), to have knowledge and
understanding (Psalm 139:14), thought (1 Samuel 20:3), love (1 Samuel 18:1),
and memory (Lamentations 3:20). In today’s language we would say that the soul
is our personality or ego.
In the New
Testament, “soul” is often translated as “life.” So we read that Jesus gave His
soul as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) and He laid down His soul for His
sheep (John 10:14).
So to say that
“the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David” is to say far more than
“Jonathan was knit to David.” It meant that every part of Jonathan to his
deepest emotions was intricately intertwined and woven to every part of David.
They could be emotional with each other, they could share anything with each
other and because their souls were knit or bound together it meant that one of
them could not experience their emotions alone. The other one would surely feel
and participate in those same emotions.
The result of this was
that Jonathan loved David with a total and uninhibited love; he “loved him as
himself.” To love someone with the love that you have for your own self is the
greatest love that you can have. It is a love that sacrifices. John 15:13,
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his
friends.” It is a love that looks away from self and onto others. Philippians
1:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind
let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not
merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of
We will never
love another person as completely as we might until we are willing knit our
souls to theirs. This takes sacrifice. This takes work. This kind of
relationship is one of vulnerability. It means being willing to be deeply hurt.
This is a challenge to each one of us. You might ask yourself:
Am I willing to share my deepest emotions with
Am I willing to be vulnerable?
Am I willing to hold nothing back?
Am I willing to intertwine my emotions with
someone else so tightly that I will hurt with their hurt and feel their joy
when they rejoice?
Am I willing to take my eyes off of my needs and
desires so that I might fulfill their needs and desires first?
And are you willing to do this with
someone who is less than perfect?
1 Samuel 18:3-4
made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. And Jonathan
stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his
armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.”
Of all of the things that
Jonathan could have given to David why did he give David these items and what
did they symbolize? The robe was generally a very ornate piece of clothing that
was usually only wore by the most wealthy and powerful people. In Ezekiel 26:16
foreign princes were often notable for their luxurious embroidered garments. So
by giving David his robe, Jonathan was saying that my wealth and power and
prestige are yours. Use them in any way that you see fit.
Armor, of course,
was used for protection. By giving David his armor Jonathan was making himself
vulnerable and, therefore, proving his trust in David as an equally caring
The sword was generally a
short, two-edged blade used for close in fighting by using quick jabs and
thrusts. By giving David his sword, Jonathan was ensuring to David that he
would not attack him or in any way personally hurt or offend him when they were
So by picking
these particular items Jonathan was telling David
That David had all of Jonathan’s wealth and
power for his use.
That Jonathan left himself vulnerable to David
and trusted him to return due care.
That Jonathan would never hurt or offend David.
That Jonathan would never talk wrongly about
David to others.
And that David had Jonathan’s full usefulness,
faithfulness, and loyalty.
1 Samuel 19:1-3
“Now Saul told
Jonathan his son and all his servants to put David to death. But Jonathan,
Saul's son, greatly delighted in David. So Jonathan told David saying, ‘Saul my
father is seeking to put you to death. Now therefore, please be on guard in the
morning, and stay in a secret place and hide yourself. And I will go out and
stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak with my
father about you; if I find out anything, then I shall tell you.’”
“delighted” has the idea of giving or of wanting to improve the other’s
person’s life. We can see that in 2 Samuel 22:20 where it says, “He [God] also
brought me forth into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in
had to take sides. There was the king, his father, who was wealthy and powerful
and from whom he could ask for and get anything. On the other side was David
who was a shepherd boy, not terribly wealthy and who probably did not have much
in the way of wealth or power to give to Jonathan.
So whom did Jonathan choose? He
could have set David up, had him killed and been the hero. Instead, he chose
loyalty and friendship over immediate reward.
1 Samuel 19:4-5
spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him, ‘Do not let the king
sin against his servant David, since he has not sinned against you, and since
his deeds have been very beneficial to you. For he took his life in his hand
and struck the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for
you saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood, by
putting David to death without a cause?’”
Here we read how
Saul was speaking ill of David. Jonathan had three choices. 1) He could have
taken the easiest route and agreed with Saul. 2) He could have simply ignored
the comments or changed the subject. 3) He could defend David. Which one did
Jonathan choose? He chose the third; he defended David and notice how he
He pointed out to Saul that Saul’s attitude was wrong
or potentially wrong (“Do not let the king sin…”).
He pointed out to Saul that David had done nothing
wrong to him (“he has not sinned against you”).
He pointed out to Saul that David had been helpful to
him (“his deeds have been very beneficial to you”).
He gave specifics to prove his points (“he took his
life in his hand and struck the Philistine…”).
What David did was right (“the LORD brought about a
great deliverance for all Israel”).
Nothing kills gossip
faster than turning around and speaking well of the person. If you do not
appreciate someone putting down a friend of yours then say something good about
the person. Nothing douses the hot coals of gossip better than the cool water
of a good report. Be willing to stand up for and defend a friend.
1 Samuel 19:6-7
listened to the voice of Jonathan, and Saul vowed, ‘As the LORD lives, he shall
not be put to death.’ Then Jonathan called David, and Jonathan told him all
these words. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as
What was the
result of Jonathan’s defense of David? Even Saul, whose heart was so filled
with loathing towards David, relented and was willing to reconcile. Jonathan
worked hard to reconcile his friend to someone who hated him. True friendship
does not take the attitude that rifts between two other people are their own
business and so let them fight it out. True friendship seeks a solution and
tries to bring those people together in harmony.
Jonathan did not
say to Saul, “Well, obviously, you and David have to work some things out. Call
me when it’s over.” No, he made an effort. He worked as a middleman or
We read in 1
Timothy 2:5 how God did this for us, “For there is one God, and one mediator
also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” A mediator is someone who
resolves or settles differences by acting as an intermediary agent between two
conflicting parties. This is what Christ did. This is what God wants us to do
likewise. Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called
sons of God.”
When you find
yourself in the middle of a conflict do you duck and run? Do you bow out and
wait until the dust settles before returning? Do you jump into a front row seat
to watch the cat fight? Or do you get involved in trying to promote
reconciliation? Are you willing to be a mediator?
1 Samuel 20:1-2
“Then David fled
from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said to Jonathan, ‘What have I done? What is
my iniquity? And what is my sin before your father, that he is seeking my
life?’ And he said to him, ‘Far from it, you shall not die. Behold, my father
does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. So why should
my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!’”
Jonathan was a friend that
David could share his troubles with. He was able to pour his heart out to Jonathan.
He was able to talk to him about his confusion and his anxieties. David knew
that Jonathan would be patient and not condemning.
Are you the type
of friend that people are able to open up to? How can you be like this?
By learning to patiently listen.
By asking questions to draw out that person and to show
that you are truly interested in their life.
By showing with your body language that you really do
care. For example, do not look past them as they are talking to you. Do not
have a far off look as though you are thinking about who is going to win the
game this weekend. Look at them. Focus on them. Give them your full attention.
By being trustworthy with the information that they
tell you; i.e., do not tell this to others no matter how juicy it is.
By asking them about the situation later. That may be
later that night or the next day or next week, but follow up with the
Make an effort, if possible, to find some kind of
solution if they come to you with a problem. Even if that means doing nothing
more than praying with them.
Jonathan did not use this
meeting as an excuse to talk about himself. When David shared his anxiety with
Jonathan, Jonathan did not listen for a bit and then jump right in with his own
troubles. He did not say, “Well you know what happened to me? I was sitting at
the table and my own father tried to run me threw with a spear.” Nor did
Jonathan come back with a “I know exactly what you are going through because
When people share
their troubles with you
Do not see it as an opportunity to turn it around and
talk about yourself.
Do not necessarily try and relate to their situation
especially if you cannot. If someone is suffering through the tragic loss of a
relative do not say, “You know, I can sort of relate because I once had this
goldfish that I really loved and then one day I came home and there he was on
the top of the water.”
Listen, listen, listen.
If you can truly relate or if you can share something
from your own life that will help them then do so.
Always offer your loyalty and support.
David did not use his own
problems as an excuse to make Jonathan his whipping boy. Here was David, he was
adored by the multitudes. By killing Goliath he saved his nation from possible
conquest by the Philistines. He was being persecuted not because he did
something wrong but because of someone else’s envy and jealousy. He was being
chased like a rabbit though a harsh and lifeless wilderness while a king and
his army were trying to kill him. Can any of us relate to this? –Probably not.
Yet when we are going through far less trials do we ever have the tendency to
take out our frustrations on our close friends or relatives? This is wrong.
David never once lashed out at Jonathan. He never once treated him poorly. If
you have the habit of kicking people who are loyal to you just because you are
frustrated then you must repent and stop that behavior.
1 Samuel 20:3
“Yet David vowed
again, saying, ‘Your father knows well that I have found favor in your sight,
and he has said, “Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.” But truly
as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is hardly a step between me and
In verse two
Jonathan said that he thought that his father, Saul, did not really want to
kill David and that his attacks only occurred during his times of madness.
David knew, however, that Saul’s attacks were more than fits of temporary
insanity. He knew that Saul’s heart was first envious and then fearful and that
Saul’s solution to these feelings was to eliminate David.
Here we see that
Jonathan and David’s friendship was well known. It was not hidden; it was not
kept in a box. It was nothing to be ashamed of. We should not be ashamed of our
friendships either even if they might be to our potential detriment.
1 Samuel 20:4
said to David, ‘Whatever you say, I will do for you.’”
willing to do whatever it took for his friend David. He did not weigh the
perils to his own life. He did not weigh out his lose of power or his loss of
riches or go off someplace and ponder, “Is this worth it?” He was loyal.
In Philippians 2:5-7 we
read, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who,
although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a
thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant,
and being made in the likeness of men.” Why did Jesus Christ empty Himself? It
was solely for the purpose that God could have a relationship with us. God
Himself placed no limits on the sacrifices to be made for a friendship.
1 Samuel 20:27-29
1 Samuel 20:33
“Then Saul hurled
his spear at him [Jonathan] to strike him down; so Jonathan knew that his
father had decided to put David to death.”
Jonathan stuck by
his friend even to his own possible hurt.
1 Samuel 20:34
arose from the table in fierce anger, and did not eat food on the second day of
the new moon, for he was grieved over David because his father had dishonored
Jonathan had deep
feelings for his friend David. His was not a utilitarian friendship. It was not
one where the friendship only existed for what they could get from each other.
Good friends allow themselves to feel deeply. They are willing to express those
1 Samuel 20:41
“When the lad was
gone, David rose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and
bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David more.”
humility towards his friend and he acknowledged with gratitude all that
Jonathan had done for him. Do you ever take your friends for granted or do you
appreciate what they do for you? Do you thank people for what they do for you
or do you act as though they are rendering service due to you?
1 Samuel 20:42
said to David, ‘Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the
name of the LORD, saying, “The LORD will be between me and you, and between my
descendants and your descendants forever.”’ Then he rose and departed, while
Jonathan went into the city.”
Despite all of
the problems, they still reaffirmed their loyalty to each other. They never
wondered if their relationship was too much trouble. Are you willing to
verbalize your loyalty to another person? Sometimes it is not enough just to
show it. People need to hear it also.
relationship was centered on God. They trusted that by doing right God would
bring them through the tumultuous times. They trusted in the promises of God.
The strength of their relationship was bound up in their commonality of the
things of God.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 says,
“And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three
strands is not quickly torn apart.” This verse is usually used in the context
of marriage, but it is also true for friendships. Who is “him”? Many would say
that this is the devil. One person will have a difficult time not being
deceived by the devil. Two people will be able resist the devil, but the
implication is that it will be difficult and that, eventually, they might be
split apart. But if there is the third person of God, then that union will
and most secure relationships should be with fellow Christians. That is not to
say that your relationships with non-Christians should be abandoned. But a
relationship humbly based on God should be able to stand the test of storms.
1 Samuel 23:16-18
Saul's son, arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God. Thus
he said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father shall not
find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you;
and Saul my father knows that also.’ So the two of them made a covenant before
the LORD; and David stayed at Horesh while Jonathan went to his house.”
This is the last
meeting that Jonathan had with David. We can see several points here.
Jonathan knew that David
was potentially discouraged. David had been running all over the wilderness
hiding from Saul. Jonathan did not wait for David to call him; instead, he went
to David. When you know that someone is struggling, do not wait for him to come
to you. Even if it is inconvenient, go to him.
Jonathan went to
be an encouragement. He did not go to share in a pity-party. He did not go and
agree with David about how rough his life was, “I know how hard it is David.
You’re running all over this miserable wilderness. You’re dirty. You’re hungry.
You’re tired. You have every right to be miserable.” No, he went to be an
encouragement, not to agree with his misery.
He got David to
look to the future; not to wallow in the present.
Jonathan was next in line to be king he willingly acknowledged David’s right to
the throne and his own willingness to be subservient. He exemplified
Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with
humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than
He reiterated his loyalty
that the LORD was the center of their relationship.
2 Samuel 1:26
“I am distressed
for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to
me was more wonderful than the love of women.”
heard that Jonathan was killed. That word “distressed” in the Hebrew means “to
bind,” “to tie up,” “to be restricted or cramped.” You get this picture of
David bent over on the ground in great sorrow. David was unashamed in
expressing his emotions for his friend.
“Your love to me
was more wonderful than the love of women” is a very strange phrase to our ears
and some have used to it to conclude that their relationship was homosexual.
This is completely wrong. David had a number of wives and a number of
concubines and, as we read through the Scriptures, we do not seem to find him
particularly attached to any of them. Many of his marriages were for political
reasons and his wives and concubines did not seem to show much loyalty to him.
It may be possible to say that none of them were what we would think of as the
traditional loving union between two people. But his relationship to Jonathan
was different. It might well have been the most honest, intimate, and loyal
relationship that David had and thus he could say that Jonathan loved him more
than anyone else ever did.
2 Samuel 9:1
“Then David said,
‘Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness
for Jonathan's sake?’”
It was discovered
that Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth.
2 Samuel 9:9-11
“Then the king
called Saul's servant Ziba, and said to him, ‘All that belonged to Saul and to
all his house I have given to your master's grandson. And you and your sons and
your servants shall cultivate the land for him, and you shall bring in the
produce so that your master's grandson may have food; nevertheless Mephibosheth
your master's grandson shall eat at my table regularly.’ Now Ziba had fifteen
sons and twenty servants. Then Ziba said to the king, ‘According to all that my
lord the king commands his servant so your servant will do.’ So Mephibosheth
ate at David's table as one of the king's sons.”
This is a
touching ending. Jonathan was gone, yet David still wanted to honor his memory
and to bless those whom Jonathan would have wanted him to bless. David never forgot
Jonathan and he blessed even the relatives of Jonathan in his honor.
We looked at one
of the greatest friendships in all of history. What were some of the key
characteristics of the deep friendship that Jonathan and David had for each
Willingness to sacrifice
Defending the other’s reputation
Trying to reconcile other broken relationships
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable
Allowing yourself to feel emotions towards that
Not being ashamed of the friendship
Being there for that person when they are
Listening to that person
Trying to be an encouragement to that friend
Blessing the friends and relatives of your
All of these
things and more were exhibited in the relationship that Jonathan and David had
for each other. This is the type of relationship that we should strive for and
by God’s grace we, too, can have a David in our lives. But first we must be
willing to be a Jonathan.
You are bitter if you:
always on the edge of being angry
of everything and find yourself easily vocalizing it
Do not care
what you say to people and how it might affect them
inconvenience personally as though everyone is out to make your life miserable
everyone to do what you want and then get mad if they are unable
Are unable to
maturely discuss a disagreement but must rant and rage
fume because you think that everyone is always stepping on you