I have debated writing this post. It is an area of my life that I do not like….and I cannot change. I love people. I have always loved everyone getting along. I love approaching every single person with the idea that they are my next friend. So what do you do, when you want a good relationship but you are shunned or given conditions for how that must happen?
I am not alone in this. I hear stories of parents who want relationships with their children. Children who want it with their parents. Siblings who want it with each other. Pastors with church members. Church members with pastors. Spouses with each other. The list goes on and on. I apologize in advance for the length, but this is a painful issue for many people and cannot be answered in 500 words or less.
Did you know that we were created by God to be relational? We were not created to be dependent or independent. We were created to be co-dependent. I depend on God, but those who live their lives only waiting for God to give to them are missing a key part of their Christian lives. We give back to God our lives and service. Not because we “earn” His love, but because it is good for us! It is the key to a joyful Christian life. Proof: look at Christians you know who seem to cause the most trouble in churches or who just seem miserable. I guarantee, that in most cases, they do very little serving outside of their own little world. So, we desperately need God, but He also loves to use our lives as we serve Him. He needs us on this earth too!
There is a situation in my private life where there are people that I love deeply that will not have anything to do with me. I have tried to talk to them and ask them if we can just agree to disagree and not discuss what we do not agree on. We agree on more things than we disagree. But the answer is no. I have cried. I have begged. I have sent gifts and messages on special days…no answer. In one instance, I was even kicked out of something I had invested a lot in! Stories have been twisted and lies have been told about me and my family. A few people, who were told some of these things, wrote me privately because they cared and asked if it was true. It was not! And I was so hurt that things had been said.
What do you do? Get bitter? Get even? Get lost? I would like to share what God has helped me with and maybe it will be a help to someone in a similar situation.
1. Stopping communication is poison.
You have to be humble enough to seek reconciliation…even if you are mad! Of course we all like to be right. We all have our opinions. We feel strongly about what we believe. There is not problem with any of that. The problem is when we let pride stop communication. If I look at someone and say that unless you agree with me, we cannot have a relationship, I have just cut off my nose to spite my face. Can you imagine if God acted like this? Do you think He agrees with everything we do? NO!
Adam and Eve were hiding, naked and ashamed, in the Garden of Eden after sinning and God came out to walk with them anyway. Did God say, “Hey! Whenever you want to make things right and agree with me, I will be on my throne. You know where to find me!”? He did not!
Peter denied Jesus – not once, but three times! Peter was back out on the fishing boat away from the ministry. My resurrected Savior went to the seashore and made supper and called Peter right back to Him! Did Jesus say, “Oh there you are you wicked, backstabbing, yellow bellied coward! What kind of friend leaves another in their hour of need? Don’t ever talk to me again. For all I care, just drown out there!!!” No, He did not.
2. Don’t wait on an apology.
In the above examples, where were all the apologies first? Where were the tears of sorrow? When did they come?
The point is that IF we think we are right, then we especially need to keep relationships open. I believe turning my back is just one more door slammed before they get right with God. And that is the ultimate key. Am I more worried that they are right with me or with God?
IF we know we are the ones who are wrong, then nothing moves me quicker than when someone shows me unconditional love when I am being a jerk. Jesus gets me this way every time. When I have been ugly, He has been wonderful. That breaks my heart and tenders me quicker than anything. To be like Christ, I owe that to others. (Eph. 4:32)
Jesus, hanging on the cross, redeeming the world, looked out on a jeering and mocking crowd and said, “Father, forgive them.” We have asked forgiveness since then, but His love happened before we asked.
Do right. Even if they do not apologize.
3. Relationships are more important than being right.
I would rather be quiet on a subject, than lose a relationship with someone. I do not have to agree with someone to stay quiet. My positions are not less because I respect another’s right to their own opinions. Someone does not have to agree with me to be my friend. If your opinion is so high that you are willing to lose a relationship, something is terribly wrong with that picture. I assure you that there is no moral high road in that decision.
A verse was quoted to me that “two cannot walk together unless they are in agreement.” This is Amos 3:3 and is talking about Israel and Egypt. His people vs. those who were not His people. Jesus said to go into all the world. He said to go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in. He said to do good to your enemies. If we are not to talk to those who are not His people how can we even fulfill these great commands? So, this cannot be the way.
As far as how to treat someone who is a brother or sister in Christ, that passage has zero bearing. I am reminded of when Jesus’ disciples told him that someone was casting out demons in His name and was not doing it right, and Jesus said, “He that is for me is not against me.” (Luke 9:49-50) We are on the same team.
Many times, the loners you find on a team, are the ones who are sitting on a bench. There is a giant world who needs Jesus. We do not have the luxury to sit on a bench, all by ourselves, licking our wounds because someone doesn’t agree with me. Get out in the game, get over yourself, and put your arm of encouragement around others trying to do the same thing! We should not be sulking over how we do things differently. We should be seeking those who love Jesus and encourage them as a fellow journeyer! It is not about you. It is not about me. It is about the Kingdom of God and His righteousness! When we let “being right about the things of God” become more important then the relationships we can have with God’s people, we have just taken the emphasis away from God Almighty and put it on my preferences. That, my friend, is idolatry.
4. Compassion and care do not equal compromise.
I was told that if my loved one had a relationship with me, that everyone else would see that he agreed with me on a choice I had made. I tried multiple times to explain that others knew his position and they would not think that of him. No matter how many times I tried to explain, he would not budge. So, the relationship has stopped. He cannot go further less he feels he will be a compromiser.
I know from others who have written me that this has also been the mentality they have faced. Why is that? Why is it, that there is a thought that for me to continue to be kind and love someone, it means that I agree with them? I have friends that are liberals, atheists, gay….and I do not agree with them. If they ask my opinion, I share it. If they start a subject that I can add my opinion too, then I do. I try to be respectful as I share my beliefs. However, you could line them up and ask them if I believe what they do and I believe they would each tell you exactly what I think. I also believe they respect me back…although they do not agree with me. I have gleaned much from these relationships. If I am right, and they are wrong, how will they ever be challenged to further their own thinking if I never talk to them? This cannot be the plan of God. Jesus said that we will be known as His disciples by the love we show one another! (John 13:35)
Is it any different amongst those of us who claim to share a similar belief system? Many times, I think the greatest reactions of anger and shunning come from those who must be insecure in what they believe. I KNOW whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed! If I am solid in my beliefs, I need not be shaken by the belief of others. I am to love the law of God…and nothing shall offend me. Nothing. If I am offended, I do not have my eyes on the God who can work and change a heart. It is His Word that pierces a heart – not mine! Once again, whose kingdom are we building?
Now….what do you do when you have been pushed away?. What do you when you desperately want reconciliation but the other party does not?
All communication should first go to God. Ask for wisdom. Ask for opportunities. Ask for guidance. Ask for peace.
- You can keep your doors open.
Find ways to let them know that you still desire them whether they desire you or not. It can be a text, or a gift in the mail. You have to be careful if they have shut the doors of verbal communication, but you should try. Do not do it because you expect results. If that is your goal, you will get hurt and discouraged when you do not get them. Do it because it is right before God to be a peacemaker. It is right before God to live in a spirit of reconciliation. We are to have a ministry of reconciliation! (II Cor. 5:18)
- Do not have a list they must follow to get right.
Relationships take the good and the bad. It is opening your eyes more to the good and closing them a little more to the bad. If we all were treated how we deserved, no one would love us. I am thankful for those who love every part of me and I should give that to others. If they are willing to reconcile, drop the hoops.
- Do not get bitter.
It is a poison meant for them that kills you. It is very hard, especially when you feel repeatedly rejected.
There is no greater relationship than the one with Jesus Christ…Who will never leave you or forsake you. Be thankful for that, cling to that, and treat others like that!
May God help each of us as we strengthen and build relationships in our lives! And may God help us to do right by those who will not let us.
There are cases where individuals are toxic. There are also Scriptures that say to make no friends with an angry man. There are times when people are manipulative and cruel. They can wreak havoc in a family. There are boundaries that must be set at times with these kinds of people to protect yourself and your loved ones.
To know how to handle these situations, I highly recommend Leslie Vernick’s book called Emotionally Destructive Relationships and Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s book called Boundaries, but I would also recommend almost anything they write!