Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:10 NLT
The easiest times to love others are the holidays, with gatherings galore, or being snowed in together, with all the opportunity for quality time and fun memories, or planning a wedding, with all the showers and celebrations of the happy couple.
The hardest times to love others are also the holidays, or being snowed in together, or planning a wedding.
It’s impossible to talk about family and relationships without recognizing the conflict that is inherent with close relation and proximity. Longstanding hurts, unfulfilled traditions and unmet expectations act as heat and pressure on relationships until it all boils over into critical confrontations that leave deep cuts and can fracture families for generations. Children walk away, parents forsake children, and siblings deny one another. Halfway apologies after the fact only place Band-Aids on the wounds, and the ripple effect of one yelling match or door slammed in anger can be felt decades later.
Even Christ felt the sting of confrontation and criticism from family, as we read in Luke 4 when the people of His hometown rejected Him as the Messiah, after decades of relationship. These are the people who would have helped raise Him from boyhood and most likely would have included cousins, in-laws, and other kin among those pushing Him out of town.
Scripture does not record many details of these interactions, but we do see Christ practice self-restraint—it would have been easy for the Lord to reveal His divine nature through some major miracle or smite them all down in a fury. He did not force them to believe, nor did He smite them. He showed grace by speaking the truth of scripture and peacefully walking away from their attempt to push him over a cliff.
As in everything, Christ is our foundation—our example in living according to the truth of the Spirit rather than the passions of the flesh. Paul builds out the playbook for this paradigm shift in Romans 12 where he discusses the immense diversity of giftings and culture in the early Church, knowing full well that these vastly different talents and backgrounds would result in strife and spats. Thus the call for genuine affection, brotherly love, and honor. A call to move from critical confrontation to crucial conversation.
In a time where anger and broken relationships seem to always be lurking right around the corner, families and friendships have been strained over arguments or small issues building up to the breaking point. No one is immune.
As my own relationships experience moments of reckoning, Christ, in His immense grace, has been pressing my heart with questions to ponder and assess myself, to see if my actions align with my Heavenly Father or human desires:
-Is getting the last word in during a heated conversation more important than the relationship?
-Does my need to be right outweigh the need for this relationship?
-Am I keeping the ‘peace’ out of a fear of confrontation?
-Am I taking time to listen for the ‘root’ cause of the ‘fruit’ of frustration that is showing, or am I just planning the next point I want to make?
-Am I acting out of a desire to be perceived as a force to be reckoned with, or a force of reconciliation?
Every time I feel the Lord putting these questions on my heart, I have to pause. Usually, the Lord reveals that I am contributing to the confrontation, and He reminds me to walk in the Spirit rather than my own frustrations. Sure, my frustrations might be logical, or well-merited, but Christ has a higher calling for believers than being justified by human reason. I am called to move the conversation from critical to crucial, sharing gently rather than forcefully and listening rather than plotting my next comment. This doesn’t magically ‘fix’ relationship challenges, and of course an argument takes two people, and I can only control my own reactions. However, taking the small step to move away from being motivated by anger or getting my own way moves the relationship miles closer to an agreement or a respectful boundary.
Sometimes an act of genuine affection is remaining quiet when a conversation heats up, thus honoring someone by allowing their anger to burn itself out.
Sometimes an act of genuine affection is having the courage to speak up with much humility and gentleness, thus honoring someone by cultivating better understanding or boundaries for the relationship.
Our country, our culture and our cities and towns are made up of parents, aunts, cousins, neighbors, and in the Church, we are brothers and sisters, co-heirs with Christ—all recipients of the immense grace that covers our multitude of sins.
Could you join me in prayer?
Lord Jesus, I love You. Thank You for paying my sin debt so I can be a co-heir with You and adopted into the family of God. You perfectly exemplified being a peacemaker and graciously facing confrontation from close relations. As the ultimate teacher, show me how to love my biological and spiritual family with genuine affection. Turn my tendency for critical confrontations into a Spirit-led move toward crucial conversation. Lord, fill my heart with humility to best honor those around me. Give me the strength to let go of my need to be right, the courage to speak up in love and the discernment to know which response a situation requires. In all things, I desire to represent Your love. In Jesus amen.
Peace and blessings,
Communications Coordinator, National Day of Prayer Task Force