Many people have talked about how divisive the past year has been. We’ve seen families split over politics. We’ve seen mask arguments break out in stores. It seems like there’s a fair amount of gossip, slander, and overall relational negativity in the air lately. Things are tense between us humans. I remember an archeologist who once told me that in all his studies his most consistent observation is that we humans love, more than anything, to divide up into groups and fight!
Everyone says they hate drama. Everyone wants deep and meaningful relationships. Yet few are willing to pay the price to attain and maintain healthy community.
As I continue my walk through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we come to a few verses that give us a practical plan to build rock-solid relationships. Jesus demands a no-drama relational landscape! Paradoxically, maintaining this drama-free lifestyle will lead you into dozens of painfully awkward conversations. However, if you’re willing to courageously follow His advice without wavering, you will enjoy all the incredible benefits of rewarding and lasting community. Those awkward conversations will pave the way toward trust, admiration, and depth of friendships that will bring a sense of joy and fulfillment that few people know.
It all comes down to one teaching from Jesus: Mathew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
There it is- the teaching that will lead you into 1,000 awkward conversations but will also build a depth of friendship that few get to experience.
If you follow Jesus, you are not allowed to ignore any rift for any reason.
Jesus says that you are to immediately pursue clarity and reconciliation as soon as you hear or think that someone may have an issue with you! Immediately! No matter what! Even if it’s during a church service, you stop what you’re doing! DO IT NOW! It’s clear. If you follow Jesus (beyond just believing stuff about Him), you have to do this. All of the time.
You heard that you offended someone? You have to follow up. You heard that a neighbor is mad because you were too loud around the fire pit? You have to go talk to them. You heard that someone is mad because you corrected their kid? You have to go talk with them. You heard someone called you an awful name? You have to go and clean up the mess. I’m not talking about a, “Hey! I heard you were talking about me!!!!”, kind of conversation. I’m talking about a, “I’ve heard that there is some tension and I have to make sure we’re OK, really OK.”, kind of conversation.
If you follow Jesus, you have to work out your differences immediately. It’s not an option. I’ve noticed this practical advice does a lot of good things in the midst of the awkwardness.
One great result is that once people realize you’ll pursue reconciliation no matter what, they will be a lot slower to complain about you. I’ve also noticed that after you go and work hard to make things right, your relationships deepen significantly. People are used to avoidance, not a commitment to peace and reconciliation. This sticks out. This increases your respect in the eyes of others. This also shows people that you care about the relationship.
Think about it. Most people, upon hearing that someone has an issue with them, say, “The heck with them!”, or some other variation of that response. Many often begin defending themselves while tearing down the other person. It’s a whole different kind of response to say, “Really? I need to go make that right!”. Then, you go and start an awkward conversation. You work through the person’s initial reaction which is almost always to minimize and deny. You apologize or clarify if necessary. Just work it out.
If you don’t know what to say, blame Jesus! I do it all the time! “I try to follow Jesus and He says that I absolutely have to follow up with anyone who has something against me. I know this is awkward, but I have to know I’m doing the right thing.” You can also say, “This matters to me and I want us to be OK.”. Regardless, very rarely does this path not lead to deeper respect and stronger friendship. It just works. Imagine that, Jesus gives some contrarian advice that works!
I should insert a side note. All you can do is try. “In as much as it depends on you…”, is the Apostle Paul’s language. Do your best to reconnect, and then if the person can’t meet you where you’re at, at least you’ll know you were obedient to Jesus. Sometimes there’s just no fixing the problem. Sometimes they were wrong and there’s nothing for you to do. Often times, the relational rift is quickly repaired and something great is nurtured that would have otherwise ended. Think about that! How many relationships have come to an end just because there was no attempt repair things? That’s why speed is important! Jesus says to go immediately. Don’t let it fester. Have the conversation right away. First, you get it over with. More importantly, you won’t settle into a new groove of life without the friendship. The longer it sits, the more the narrative is accepted, the harder it is to reconcile. Make it quick!
You have to do this if you say you follow Jesus. So who’s out there that you know has a problem with you? Where is there relational tension in your life? Will you trust this divine wisdom from Jesus?
It’s time to go have the first of a thousand awkward conversations. I promise you’ll be glad you followed the relational advice of the Founder of the greatest community this world has ever known.