Tucked into the back half of the New Testament is a one-chapter letter written by the apostle Paul. The letter is only 25 verses, and it is curiously unconcerned with presenting theological or doctrinal concepts, church instruction/correction, or a treatise on any specific issue.
This letter was, in fact, written to one person: a Christian brother named Philemon.
I get lost.
Before the invention of GPS, I made some of the most foolish driving decisions in the history of mankind. As a result of my abysmal sense of direction, I typically like to follow other people when I don’t know where I’m going, which is pretty much all the time.
Over the years, though, I have observed a very specific driving scenario:
This week, we will conclude our study on “dealing with people” with 2 final practical/biblical suggestions that will help us as we navigate our way through human relationships:
3. BE HONEST ABOUT MOTIVES – Since the beginning of time, we have been “kicking God off of His throne” and “putting people on pedestals,” haven’t we? The honest question that we need to be asking is, “Why do we do this?” Here are some suggestions that go a bit deeper into the reasoning behind some of these decisions:
a. In general, we don’t like being told what to do, but when we DO allow it, we would prefer that it be on our terms. When we de-throne God and elevate people, it seems to “soften the blow.” Why? Because…
b. We know that people can be controlled, manipulated, purposely misunderstood, critiqued, or even disregarded whenever we choose, which – in our minds - gives us the “final word” (see Exodus 32 for an example of this). We also know that God CAN’T be controlled, manipulated, purposely misunderstood, critiqued, or disregarded whenever we choose. We know that HE has the “final word,” and we often reject this idea. This is the reason why Israel preferred a king instead of God. This is the reason why the Jews preferred their own leaders instead of Jesus. This is the reason why the Corinthian Christians preferred Paul, Apollos, and Peter instead of Christ.
c. Have we replaced God with people so that we can maintain the illusion of “control” in our own lives? When God no longer sits on the “throne” of our heart and people become our highest standard, we will quickly fall into a multitude of sinful approaches and attitudes.
4. FORGIVE QUICKLY & GENUINELY – If we are to make the most of our relationships with other people, we must realize some important things that God has to say about forgiveness:
a. We are ALL in need of God’s forgiveness – Rom. 6:23; Col. 2:13 – We simply cannot survive, spiritually, without God’s forgiveness. We were “weak,” “ungodly,” “sinners,” and “enemies” of God before Christ died for our sins! We should NEVER forget this (2 Pet. 1:9)!
b. We are ALL supposed to extend forgiveness to those who sin against us – Lk. 17:3-4; Mt. 18:35 – There is no LIMIT to how many times we should be willing to forgive those who sin against us, and there is no “faking” this!
c. We are ALL EVENTUALLY going to need the forgiveness of others – Lk. 17:3-4 – We often focus on our forgiveness towards those who sin against us, but the flip side of this equation is the fact that we constantly find ourselves in need of someone ELSE’S forgiveness! How do WE want to be forgiven in those situations: gradually and reluctantly, or quickly and genuinely?
d. These issues of forgiveness are inextricably intertwined, according to Scripture! Col. 3:13; Mt. 18:23-35; etc. – Time does not permit us to go into every detail of this issue, but it seems very clear in Scripture that God’s forgiveness is CONDITIONAL upon whether or not we are willing to extend the same forgiveness to OTHERS!
So, in addition to having a “realistic/healthy” approach towards people, we would do well to have a “biblical” approach towards them as well! There is no doubt that dealing with people has been – and will continue to be – one of the most difficult parts of this life; but there is also no doubt that God’s Word has given us everything we need to do this in a way that pleases Him!
Let’s conclude this brief study with some helpful tips:
1. If my relationships with other people have become difficult, strained, or a source of sinful thoughts and behavior, it is past time to revisit my relationship with God.
2. Prayer, meditation, perspective, and Bible study are powerful tools against Satan’s attacks in this area of our lives. Let’s use them!
3. We are ALL imperfect, flawed, and in need of grace and mercy from one another. We would do well to include this powerful and constant truth in our assessment of our relationships with other people!
4. Don’t EVER give up on people! God has/will never done that, and we shouldn’t do it either!
May God bless us as we strive to order our lives according to His will!