…the Bible wouldn’t be the best-selling book in all of history.
…our hillsides wouldn’t be dotted with cemeteries lined with crosses.
…the university would not exist.
…our hospital emergency rooms wouldn’t be identified by a red cross.
…your weak or elderly family members would be discarded and disposed of as unproductive members of society.
…Sunday would be just another workday.
…education would be a privilege of the rich and elite.
…calendars wouldn’t call this the year 2016 A.D., anno domini, in the year of our Lord.
…orphanages and foster care systems wouldn’t exist.
…Da Vinci would never have painted, Shakespeare would never have written, Michelangelo would never have carved, and Beethoven would never have composed.
…death would be the end.
The life, death, burial, and resurrection didn’t just change his fate. It is an understatement to say that he changed the world. Praise God that we serve not the God of the dead, but the God of the living!
Wherever you find people, you’ll find disagreements, too. Here are ten suggestions for how to “fight fair” adapted from Danny Akin’s book on Exalting Jesus in Song of Songs. I think you’ll find them useful whether you’re arguing with your spouse or your friends about politics.
- Confront problems as soon as possible after they arise. Don’t let them fester into bitterness.
- Master the art of listening. Make sure you understand what they actually are saying, not what you think they are saying. Don’t rush them.
- Limit the discussion to the present issue. Don’t bring yesterday’s mess into it. What’s done is done.
- Use “I” messages to make your point and express your feelings. “You” messages are attacks. “I” messages are admissions.
- Avoid exaggerations. “Always” and “never” aren’t helpful. They move us from attacking the issue to attacking the person.
- Avoid character assassination. Don’t insult, don’t demean, don’t patronize. Jesus didn’t use these when he talked to the devil, so you probably shouldn’t use them with other children of God, either.
- Use appropriate words and actions for the discussion. Is this really worth yelling about? Does the way I load the dishwasher really need to get my blood pressure up?
- Don’t focus on winning or losing. If you win an argument with a friend, you’ve won a loser. How well does that work? Focus on understanding. What do you really want? Reconciliation and peace.
- Determine limits. Know what “hot-button” topics do nothing except derail the conversation. Vow not to cross them.
- Choose to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice. When you hesitate to offer it, remember how often you need it. And if you can’t figure out why you would need forgiveness, think harder. Be willing to say, “I was wrong” and mean it.
Do you think any of these suggestions, if implemented, might change how we talk about politics? Might they change how we relate to that hard-to-get-along-with person in our lives?
Perhaps three of the most important letters in the English alphabet are W, H, and Y. “Why” is a child’s favorite question to ask. “Why” provides motivation for endurance in trials. Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” “Why” exposes our motivations—the reasons behind our words and our actions. “Why” can reveal where our hearts really are.
Jerry Bridges tried to supply a “why” for each line of love’s definition in 1 Corinthians 13. He wanted us to search our hearts and see what the “why” revealed. It is possible for us to act in a loving way but not be loving. We all have times that we act what we do not feel, but ideally our hearts and actions come to agree more often than not.
“Because” is the word that answers “why.” Look for the motivations in love—and compare them with your “why’s.”
- I am patient with you because I love you and want to forgive you.
- I am kind to you because I love you and want to help you.
- I do not envy your possessions or your gifts because I love you and want you to have the best.
- I do not boast about my attainments because I love you and want to hear about yours.
- I am not proud because I love you and want to esteem you before myself.
- I am not rude because I love you and care about your feelings.
- I am not self-seeking because I love you and want to meet your needs.
- I am not easily angered by you because I love you and want to overlook your offenses.
- I do not keep a record of your wrongs because I love you, and “love covers a multitude of sins.”
Unfortunately, our “why’s” often get out of whack. We are patient because we don’t want to make a scene. We are kind because we don’t want a bad reputation. We don’t boast because there are consequences.
Let’s look at our hearts – and be people who are motivated by real love.
There are two times when we tend to think temptation is behind us and we are out of danger, according to Puritan writer John Owen. In both cases, we’re usually wrong.
The first is immediately after we have failed the test and have committed sin. In that moment of shame and guilt, we can’t imagine ever going down that same road again.
The second is immediately after a serious crisis that leaves us feeling like we are changed people.
Have you experienced either?
How did you fare after the fact?
Those temptations tend to keep coming back, don’t they?
Those experiences tend not to be lasting.
Jesus himself said that “temptations to sin are sure to come” in Luke 17:1. It is rare that they leave us suddenly, totally, and permanently.
The more frequent transformation for Christians is that temptations wane as we mature out of them. God works in us to help us grow and acquire new tastes—a taste for holiness that makes the taste of sin less satisfying and the aftertaste more bitter. Our cravings for wrong subside as our appetite for God increases day by day.
I say this to remind us—transformation is a marathon, not a sprint. God seldom chooses to remove that piercing thorn in our flesh, but he always promises that his grace is sufficient in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). If you’re discouraged that you’re still tempted—don’t be. God isn’t done with you yet!