Believers and Difficult Relationships

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Facing Conflict in Relationships

Recently I’ve been wrestling with what to do about a relationship with a relative that has become more and more dysfunctional. It’s new territory for me as a believer, because my old, worldly self would have deemed the relative as toxic and resolved to simply end any contact or communication with said relative. The old Lacacia would have no problem never speaking to them again. It’s a seriously deep personality flaw how quickly I can go from liking or loving a person to absolute silence between myself and the offending party once I’ve picked up on a trait or habit or secret of theirs that I don’t want any part of (you could even say it is a toxic trait and very dysfunctional, much like said relative!) So the Christian’s challenge of loving my brothers and sisters in the Lord as well as turning the other cheek is basically counter to any inherent sensibility of mine. Ending a relationship? Simple. Building up or repairing a relationship? That sounds… difficult.

But alas we grow in Messiah and He requires we grow in relation to one another. These sticky, emotional and inconvenient encounters make the first Great Commandment of Love the Lord your God with all your heart seem much easier than the second; Love one another. I can love God, trust God and obey God since he is perfect and in his great plan, there is no fault or flaw. But other people…? Heaven help us. Sometimes it seems like all we are are faults and flaws, sans any perfection. But as image bearers, we are endowed with the ability to see our creator in one another, especially in those who have come to the Lord no less flawed than ourselves.

The Sweeping Woman

I was comparing my struggle to the fruits of the spirit I lack; patience, kindness and love. The thought had occurred to me of the potential fruitlessness of any efforts to try to change the way this person acts and treats me. I thought of the story of the woman searching for her lost coin and the potentially fruitless efforts she embarked on in a determined effort to find her money. Jesus’ incredible storytelling abilities are unparalleled in that they can brilliantly convey a point and in this case, refute an accusation, while effectively making the hard-hearted audience (us) think.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10

In the first verse we are presented with a problem, in the second verse a strategy and in the third we find resolve in the happy ending. Jesus’ point wasn’t “Wow good for her she found the money she lost,” but rather the work she committed herself to and the following celebration when it paid off. She didn’t fret over the lost coin, she didn’t weep or give up. She swept. She worked hard until she found it. In most interpretations of this parable (based on the previous parable in Luke 15:3-7) the money symbolizes the lost but repentant sinner (sheep) and the woman is Christ (our shepherd) but the beauty of parables is they are multifaceted in meaning.

We were worth working for. We were worth dying for. Christ did a lot of “sweeping” to find us and now we are his and nothing will change that. I personally need to remember this fact when I’m tempted to write off another believer because of something that has deemed them unworthy in my eyes, because they are worthy in someone else’s sight: the Lord’s. And if God loves them who am I to be unloving towards them? If I choose to cut them off, pride wins again and basically, we all lose. But I still feel stuck at the receiving end of dysfunctional behavior, affecting myself and my family, which feels wrong. I want resolution but I can’t force somebody else to change. What do I do?

Finding Fruit in a Sour Field

In prayer and in faith, I’ve resolved to do as our Savior did and start sweeping. I think the first step is recognizing the pattern, then perhaps (gently and in love) calling out the pattern and presenting some kind of resolution. Since I have no idea what could fix this, I’m praying for guidance and the words to speak when the situation presents itself. I’d like to hope that just as in the parable my efforts are fruitful in finding resolution with this relative. But if they are not fruitful at least I will bear fruit in that I didn’t fall into my old habit of silent treatment as a solution, and at least there’s some growth. Who knows, maybe as the woman and her neighbors celebrated I too will be able to celebrate in the end.

 

What do you do when conflicts arise between you and other believers? I’d love to hear from anyone who has dealt with similar situations, leave a comment below and share this article!

 

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Featured image by Jordan Rowland

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3 thoughts on “Believers and Difficult Relationships”

  1. Thanks for this post, Lacacia! I haven’t thought of the parable of the lost coin in these terms before. I’m looking forward to applying this idea of sweeping to the difficult relationships in my life.

  2. I enjoyed reading your article. The reference to sweeping brought instant association (especially this time of year) to sweeping the chametz from our homes (especially our spiritual tabernacles) in preparation for Pesach (Passover). And, like the feather and the wooden spoon, the Holy Spirit is equally gentle and firm in helping with this ‘chore’.

    I am enjoying your new site, and hearing of your journey.
    Virtual hugs and very real blessings,
    Beth

  3. Thanks for writing this article. I have been dealing with a difficult relationship with my parents. I have raised my children to respect their grandparents in spite of behavior on my parents side that was poor. I have prayed, set boundaries through the years, but this past year I began praying and asking God if this was the best for my family. My anxiety piqued every time I even saw their name on my phone. The Lord has released me from them-very peaceable after several instances of deceit and lies. He gave me the instruction that he gave Abraham to leave his family and go forth in Genesis. My husband and I made an agreement that my husband would handle anything with my parents. It has been 6 months now. I can’t say this has been easy as my parents are up in age-and I think and pray for them often. However, the peace and learning I have been setting my mind to has been encouraging. I rely on the scriptures to guide me-and a few select friends who speak truth to me. I pray someday things will be different, but I do believe that there is a time when confrontation, exhortation, multiple times addressing issues and continued bad behavior has to be carefully evaluated. We don’t want to be teaching tolerance to a fault. It begins to erode what you are setting as an example to our children-and what they should expect from relationships. Even Yeshua took out a whip in public when it was appropriate. I needed to take off the “God Hat” and forgive so that the Lord can do the work in them and me.

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