Relationships can be one of the most vital and rewarding areas of our lives. Yet we often find ourselves at odds with each other due to our differences. But we don’t need to agree on every issue to enjoy meaningful connections with one another.
Here, Dr. Stanley shares the importance of valuing relationships and the art of disagreeing with friends and loved ones—without being disagreeable.
When I attended seminary, several friends and I would sometimes debate the Bible’s teachings on end time events. Each of us firmly believed our stance and cited Scripture as evidence to support our view. But none of us could definitively prove that we were right.
These discussions were sometimes fairly heated, yet after an entire evening of arguing over our perspectives, we still remained buddies. Our disagreements had nothing to do with the ongoing nature of our deep friendships.
Conversations about different perspectives can be very enlightening, even energizing. But it’s easy to react in a self-centered, quick-tempered, critical, or easily offended way when there’s a disagreement.
Too often we defend our views rather than listen and try to understand another’s way of thinking.
If we allow anger or resentment to creep in, we’re in danger of destroying a relationship for the sake of winning an argument. When we act like this, we’re letting our flesh control us instead of walking in the Spirit. And the relationship suffers.
The Lord gives us a new, righteous nature at the moment of salvation, but we still live in fallen human bodies. We’ll always have an internal battle with the flesh. As you look at the way you respond to others, what’s more apparent—the fruit of the Spirit or the deeds of the flesh? The contrast between the two is seen in Galatians 5:19-23.
The deeds of the flesh include hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, and factions. Whereas “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control.”
Much has been written and said about how to have good relationships, but until we deal with the issues in our own hearts, root problems will remain.
So what does God say it takes to live in peace with one another?
Romans 14:19 tells us to “pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” Paul clarifies how to do this in Ephesians 4:1-3: “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, being diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
First of all, to develop and maintain great relationships you need a pure heart.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt. 5:8). This describes your position in Christ, but it’s also something you can pursue in a practical way by dealing with sin quickly and living daily in a way that honors the Lord. Your relationships cannot be right if you’re harboring sin in your heart and living in rebellion.
Second, a spirit of love must be active and evident in your life.
“Since you have purified your souls in obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brothers and sisters, fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22). This is easy when people are lovable, but Jesus tells you to also love those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28). That’s only possible as the Holy Spirit enables you to look beyond their hurtful actions to see their pain and the need for the Savior. Then God’s love can flow through you.
Third, you need patience.
It’s one of the Christian graces mentioned in Colossians 3:12, “As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” The conflicts, disagreements, and misunderstandings that accompany strained relationships may not change, but your attitude can be transformed as these virtues take root in your life.
Fourth, you must have a forgiving spirit.
“Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Anger, bitterness, resentment, and grudges destroy relationships. Forgiveness sets us free from these sins so we no longer desire revenge.
You may not be able to restore every strained relationship, but “if possible, so far as it depends on you,” you’re to live at peace with others (Rom. 12:18).
God knows there are some people who will refuse to be reconciled no matter what you do. But by forgiving them, you’ll have God’s peace in your heart.
We hope Dr. Stanley’s wise words have helped you today. If you’re struggling to connect with others, we’re here for you. We have a collection of biblical resources for navigating difficulties and working through challenges so that your relationships are healthy and joyful. Let us know how we can help. Till next time, God bless you.
For His Glory,
Your Friends at In Touch Ministries