There have been millions of pages written about what wives wish their husbands knew and what husbands wished their wives knew. Books written on what kids wished their parents knew and unlimited blogs written about what parents wished their kids knew. There is no limit to writing on the subject. Here’s something crazy that I have found. All of the really, truly profound wisdom about relationships was written thousands of years ago in the Bible:
- Wives want their husbands to listen and not solve. It’s in here.
- Kids want their parents to not yell at them. It’s in here.
- Parents want their kids to value how much they do for them. It’s in here.
- Husbands want their wives to be available for intimacy. It’s in here. (Guys, you’re going to want to make sure your wife reads that chapter).
We are going to be looking at several different passages in the Bible during this post because the Bible has a lot to say about relationships, but one place we will come back to over and over is the book of Ephesians. Ephesians has some great wisdom and theology but it is also a relationship manual. Most of that is found in two chapters. Let me give you some quotes just from Ephesians chapter 5 and 6:
- “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.”
- “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands.” (“Submit” means to put his needs first.Guys, you want me to read that again?)
- “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Looks like we all have to put others needs above our own.)
- “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” (You’ve got hate that one right, kids?)
- “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” (But it’s so fun.)
The last two chapters are filled with specific wisdom for husbands and wives and parents and children. We will come back to these verses in the next few posts, but right month. I want to give some general wisdom on relationships that we find just one chapter before.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”– Ephesians 4:2-3
There is a lot of relational advice in that one verse. Be humble. Be patient. Bear with one another; “bearing” by the way means tolerance. To tolerate. To put up with. Because sometimes that’s all we’ve got. There is one word that always jumps out at me when I read it. It’s the word gentle. This verse challenges us to be completely humble and gentle. To be gentle through and through. If we are going to be good in our relationships we need to…
1. Develop Soul Gentleness
I think I know why this word jumps out at me every time I read it. It’s because I struggle with it. I find myself being less then gentle with my kids or my wife or with the folks at the DMV. Although, getting frustrated at the DMV can hardly be considered sin. I don’t decide to get angry or frustrated I just slide into it.
Several years back my wife and I were running late to my daughter’s soccer game and we had an important role that game. In recreational soccer, we had what most people would consider the most important role. No, we weren’t coaching…we were in charge of snack! There is no more important job at a rec soccer game. So we dropped my daughter off to warm up then ran to the grocery store. I made it through that store in record time. I got grapes, Sunny Delight, and donuts…the breakfast of champions. All in under two minutes. So I race my cart up to the front and there is one person in front of me. Perfect. I’ll still make it in time for kick off. Then all of a sudden my plan fell apart. First there was a price check. Then the printer ran out of paper. Then there was a paper jam. Then lady in front of me pulled out a check book. It was at that point that I let out an audible groan. This was no ordinary groan. This groan was very obviously a groan of frustration. I felt bad so I apologized. As I let out that apology the lady in front of me who had her back to me turned and said to me, “Pastor Jack?” I don’t remember seeing that woman at church before and I don’t think I’ve seen her since.
Gentleness is a great relational trait, but how often is that trait pushed out of the way by anger and irritation and frustration? How can we commit to being people who lead with gentleness? Let me show you how. I want to point to one line Jesus said when he walked this earth. He rarely described himself, but in Matthew 11:29 Jesus gives us some insight into his soul:
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”– Matthew 11:29
Notice how Jesus describes himself: He’s gentle and humble in heart. The heart was considered the center of your being in Jesus day. Jesus was able to be gentle not because he decided to be gentle, but because he developed soul gentleness. Have you ever heard someone described as “a gentle soul?” It’s a common phrase. Look, there is no other way to be gentle. You can’t decide to be gentle or make yourself be gentle or repeat “gentle, gentle, gentle” and magically become gentle. Gentleness is a reflection of your soul. It comes from your heart.
- Gentleness doesn’t come out of a busy soul
- It doesn’t come out of a competitive soul
- It doesn’t come out of an angry soul
Gentleness comes out of a gentle soul. So the question is, how do we develop a gentle soul? The spiritual answer is walking closer to Jesus. He was gentle in heart and we can learn that by walking with him. Getting more time with him. That is the right answer, but it feels like a Sunday School answer. So let me give you one more:
We can learn to be gentle by talking closer to Jesus. Jesus loves us, is gracious to us, believes is us. Our God is this great supportive father. He loves you. The picture you drew in art class when you were in third grade is on his fridge. Are those the words that are rattling through our mind? Or are you hearing other words? When you make a mistake are you hearing the gentle forgiveness of Jesus or do you get angry with yourself? Are you hard on yourself? Do you criticize yourself? How do you respond to your own failures? Do you call yourself a loser?
One thing that leads to success in every relationship is gentleness. Let’s start by being gentle with ourselves. I think we can develop a gentle soul by changing the way we speak to ourselves; if the way we spoke to ourselves was more the way our God speaks to us.
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”—Ephesians 4:14-16
God gives us some great relational advice in these verses but I want to focus on one line. Speaking the truth in love. Let me give you some wisdom that works in every relationship:
2. Lead With Love Before Truth
“Speaking the truth in love.” Those 5 words could be a sermon series. I wish I could help all Christians understand the truth of those words. The reality is, people will not hear your truth until they feel your love. This is one of the biggest reasons why the world doesn’t want to listen to us. We’ve spent so much time trying to convince people that we are right that we’ve neglected efforts to prove that they are loved. Not only does that hurt our reputation in the world, it separates us in our relationships. Let’s talk for a second about how this works in one important relationship: the parent-child relationship.
I want to start with a common mistake that almost every parent makes: overusing the teachable moment. Parents, not everything is a teachable moment. Do I hear an amen? This is what it sounds like:
- You got a C on your math quiz? Better study harder. If you don’t get good grades, you’ll never get into a good college and your life will be over.
- Casey got in an accident? Make sure when you drive that you keep one car length for every 10 miles an hour your driving.
- Don’t forget to brush your teeth. You don’t want to lose your teeth do you?
Do you know how I know what it sounds like? Because I do it. A lot. Just ask my daughter. Life is filled with teachable moments but life is not just one big teachable moment. Family coach and author Tim Smith puts it like this, “Listen to connect not correct.” So often we turn everything into a teachable moment. We have to get our truth out. Parents, do you have any idea how much we repeat ourselves?
I have to force myself to stop beginning conversations with, “So how did you do on that test?,” “Did you do your homework?,” “How’s math?” Parents, maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s the truth. Maybe your kids need reminders. But if all you give are reminders and teachable moments, your kids will stop listening to you. Have you ever asked yourself, “Why don’t my kids listen to me?” The more important question is not “Why don’t you listen to me?” The more important question is, “What did you say so often that the people close to you got tired of hearing and stopped listening to you?”
Okay, I’ve bashed on parents long enough. Let me give you the kid equivalent to the teachable moment: “My parents just don’t get it. Life has changed so much. My parents are so out of touch. They just don’t get me.” Kids have you ever made those statements? Heck I’ve heard my Youth Director at Canyon Springs say those things about me. In that moment, what you are saying is that parents don’t know the truth about your life; that they don’t know what you’re going through.
You know what? You’re right! We don’t get it. We don’t know why your jeans have to be ripped. We don’t understand rap. Life has changed. It’s been forever since we walked down that path and the path looks different for you than it did for us. That’s the truth. But are you going to focus so much on that truth that you don’t take the time to love your parents? We don’t need to get it. We just need to know that even though we are out of touch that we are loved. That we are valued and appreciated. We don’t really care about your truth until we feel that love.
It’s love that holds us together. Look at this cool line in these verses:
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love.”–Epshesians 4:16
Love is the ligaments that hold us together. Ligaments are these short band of tough, flexible, fibrous connective tissue that connects bones or cartilages together. Did you know that ligaments also support our organs and keeps them in position?
Love holds our relationships together. Not reminders. Not lectures. Not warnings. Not telling someone who cares how out of touch they are. We are drawn to environments of love. Figure out how to lead with love in your relationships.
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”–Ephesians 4:25-27
I believe these words are the most profound words ever written on anger. “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” If you want to destroy your relationship keep your anger in. Get passive aggressive. Go into hiding with your hurt. But if you want to find success in your relationships:
3. Be Open With Your Wounds
What’s the reason we are angry most of the time? We are wounded. We get hurt. Our feelings get stepped on. It may be intentional or accidental but it happens and it happens a lot. If you want those wounds to fester keep them inside. Don’t talk about them. Hold onto that hurt.
But if you want them to go away it you have to talk about them. You have to confront them. You have to begin the conversation. That conversation will get ugly if you start with blame. Blame sounds like this:
- You make me so angry.
- You’re so annoying.
- It’s obvious you don’t care about me.
A healing conversation sounds something like this:
- I was hurt when you said that.
- I felt embarrassed when you did that.
- I got angry when that happened.
- This may not be true at all, and maybe you didn’t mean it, but when you said this I felt like I wasn’t important to you.
Brennan Manning said this about our wounds. Let these words sink in for a second.
“If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”
One thing that leads to success in every relationship is leading with love:
4. Look for an Opportunity to Encourage
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”–Ephesians 4:29
Look for the opportunity to build one another up. Find something good they have done. Point it out to others. When you see something good inside someone tell them. Don’t wait. You might not have another opportunity.
These are the kind of things that are typically saved for a funeral. Garrison Keillor put it like this:
“They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad to realize that I’m going to miss mine by just a few days.”
When you have the opportunity to say something nice, take it. I’m going to practice what I preach right now:
Seven and a half years ago we were in desperate need for a new worship leader. We looked and looked and looked and we had no luck. We even hired a recruiting firm to help us. We had a few guys come out a but no one fit. Then we brought in Kyle. After his first Sunday we all looked at each other and agreed, our search was over. Kyle is so stinking talented. We thought we were hiring a big voice but we got so much more. Kyle came in and quickly made his mark. He re-did our website. He learned out to make incredible videos to tell the stories of Canyon Springs. He jumped in when we took our first trip to Haiti. I thought I was hiring a worship leader to play on Sundays but what we hired was a friend. Kyle is leaving our congregation this week and before he goes I don’t want to miss this opportunity to Thank him from all of us here at Canyon Springs: Thank you Kyle. Thank you for your talents. Thank you for your heart for Jesus. Thank you for showing me it is possible to eat 50 McNuggets in one sitting. Thank you for being my friend.