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Number of Pages: 288
Vendor: New Growth Press
Publication Date: 2012
Dimensions: 9 X 6 (inches)
Availability: Available to ship on or about 10/15/14.
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I think there are two aspects that account for our relational miscues. First, in times of stress or difficulty in a relationship, we fall back on what we ourselves have experienced from other people (family, friends, neighbors, etc.). Even if those experiences don't feel right or we know they're unhealthy, they are familiar and so we are inclined/tempted to reproduce them in our present interactions.
Second, we lack positive patterns and experiences that we can imitate. Many of us are not wandering around with a list of alternative things we could try in our relationships - if we had such a list then we would try the things on it.
That's when a relationship with God becomes really practical. As I focus on the various ways that he loves me in the present, I am learning to develop new relational approaches to the people in my world based on what I've experienced from him.
What are some ways that we can promote unity in strained relationships?
Everyone who lives on this planet is already intimately familiar with suffering and with sin. Therefore, if I'm going to learn how to love people well, I will have to develop my abilities to relate to sufferers and to sinners. When people suffer, they need someone who will comfort, sympathize and simply be with them. When someone sins he needs friends who communicate that they know what it is to be a fellow sinner, who can forgive and who can endure patiently with that person (with a smile!). Both sufferers and sinners need people who will pursue them gladly to connect with them in their lives. Those elements alone will bring people together.
Another critical element in helping ease the tension in a strained relationship is learning how to communicate to the other person: I am for you - I am not against you; I'm not interested in using you - I want what's best for you. Therefore you learn how to serve other people because they need you to. You learn to engage people in conversations. You learn to think about what other people need even more than you think about your own comforts. You learn to create a climate that mimics the one that God creates with you. He moves toward you so that you learn to trust that he has your best interests in mind, and now you move toward others in similar ways.
What should our attitude be towards those who we reach out to, but they continue to hurt us?
Sometimes people hurt us because they're intentionally trying to do so; often, however, they're just clumsy. When a person is unintentional, it still hurts, but I learn to give an experience of grace to the other person who sins against me. Instead of being surprised, I expect to be hurt by people (which is different from asking to be hurt!). I then seize those moments as opportunities to show kindness in the same way that God has - you only know the depths of his kindness because you've needed it. I remind myself that the way God treats even hardened enemies is not by giving them what they deserve; instead he acts to turn them into his friends.
When someone is intentionally trying to bring hurt, then I remember passages like Romans 12:18, where Paul says, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Paul realizes that it is not always possible - you can offer someone a peaceful relationship, but you can't force them to accept it. In that case, you recognize that their unwillingness is the limiting factor on your friendship and you walk away unless they're willing to relate differently.
How can we create new patterns for God - honoring relationships?
New patterns begin with realizing how God relates to me. The Bible is not simply filled with truth propositions, but every truth, including the ways he calls me to live with others, is a direct reflection of his heart and attitude. He calls me to live with others the way he lives with me. Therefore, new patterns with the people around me grow from a present, active experience with Jesus that over - rides the negative experiences I've had.
For instance, as I think about how God has treated me for the past forty - plus years, I am amazed at how patient he is. He is now showing me parts of my character that I have not seen or taken seriously enough that have needed to change all those years...and he's been willing to live with me anyway. He has lived with me just like he was willing to live with so many in the scriptures - loving them, caring for them while all the time continuing to grow them to be like himself. As I reflect on his patience, I find myself both grateful and changed so that I am less impatient with my coworkers and family members than I have been. His patience with me develops patience within me.
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