What Builds Relationships and What Destroys Them 40 Days of Community Part 3
October Joshua 22:1-15 James 1:18-25
October 6th 2013
We are in week three of our series of 40 Days Of Building Community. In our first message we saw that we need each other just to help each other make it through life. Last week we saw that we need each other as partners, in order to take the message of Christ to the world. Today we are going to see how we can build positive relationships. Is there anybody here who is in a not so good of a relationship with another person, and you would like to have a better relationship with the person. It could be with a parent, a child, a co-worker, a church member, a neighbor or a boss.
When a relationship goes bad, how many of us assume it was because of the other person’s fault. If only they had of just listened to me in the first place. Let me tell you of a true store that happened with a family in our church. This father who loved his daughters very much and the daughters who loved their dad very much were playing having a good time in the basement. When they had stopped for a moment and was talking with each other, all of a sudden the iron fell off the ironing board entirely on its own, hit the floor and broke. They looked at each other and thought that was weird. It was spooky kind of weird. You know how when something like that happens you look at each other and just try to laugh it off to keep from getting scared. Well that’s what they did.
Even though the kids forgot it. The father did not. The father was thinking, “what if I had not have been down there when it happened”. I would have yelled at the girls from upstairs when I heard it break. I would have demanded an answer as to which of them broke it. Chances are both of them would have been put on punishment until one of them told the truth. I knew they had been playing around, so telling me that it just fell by itself would not have cut it. I know irons do not fall by themselves. I would have messed up my relationship with my daughters by trying to get one of them to confess to a lie that would have been acceptable to me.
One way to destroy a relationship is to try to force another person to admit to something that the person did not do. Quite often it’s not that the person didn’t do something, it is the motive we insist that the person had. Why did I not call you back. You say it was because I didn’t care. I say, it was because my battery was dead. Why is the dinner burned. You say, its because I was angry. I say, I lost track of the time? Why was the chores not done. You say, its because I am lazy. I say I was going to do them at 6, because I went to help somebody.
Part of our problem is that many times we want to believe we are psychic. We genuinely believe we can read somebody else’s mind. Have you ever said something like, “I know what you’re thinking.” “I know exactly why you did that.” “I know how your mind works.”
Let me ask you something, If a mother tells her five year old son John, not to eat the cupcake on the table and she comes back and the cupcake is gone, why did John eat the cupcake. 1) John is a bad kid and never listens to anybody. 2) John was hungry, and his mother usually lets him eat when he’s hungry. 3) John knew if he ate the cupcake, his mother was going to yell at him, but the cupcake was worth the consequences of being yelled at or 4) John did not hear what his mother said because he was watching TV at the time.
Now the only one who really knows why John ate the cupcake is John, and John might not even understand it himself. However the relationship between John and his mother is going to have some stress in it. All kinds of things we do, produce stress in others which in turns produces stress in our relationships to them. Which makes us angry with them and they with us. For our youth, stress is that stuff when we feel look grrroooh.
We forget, the most important thing we have to offer each other is not that I am right and you are wrong, but rather a good relationship. Jesus said, “this is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” Our new purpose statement tells us, in response to God’s love, our purpose is to love others. We are all too eager to throw this simple commandment to the wayside and still choose to try to be psychic in dealing with each other when misunderstandings occur. It’s easier for me to guess your motive for what you did, than to actually listen carefully to what you’re tying to tell me and love you in the process..
The reality is, we are all going to do something that’s going to hurt somebody feelings. That means, somebody is going to do something which is going to hurt our feelings. Where there is hurt, anger comes following close behind as an emotion. We can become hurt in our families when we feel misunderstood, ignored, or unloved. We can become hurt at church when we feel unnoticed, overlooked, or unappreciated. We can become hurt at work when we feel slighted, overworked, or harassed. We can be hurt by our friends when we are left out of their plans. We get hurt and then we get angry.
Now in the book of James in the Bible in verses 1:19-20, we are given a three fold plan to help us get along better with each other. He said, “first of all be quick to listen.” Part of this is the idea of listening for God in each situation. The second thing is to be “slow to speak.” Have you ever had your argument all ready to go, so that you were just waiting for the other person to stop talking so that you could set them straight. Well this is a violation of the first principle which is to be quick to listen.
Slow to speak is a warning for us to think about what we are saying, before we say it. Our words can turn a good situation into a disaster in a moment of seconds. Wisdom is not always having something to say. It means thinking and speaking quietly. Our mouths get us into more sin than probably any other part of the body. It’s possible to say the right thing, but to say it at the wrong time. Being slow to speak means we take into consideration the other person’s condition or circumstances before we respond. Otherwise we have to get used to saying, “my mistake, I’m sorry.”
The third step in the plan is to be slow to anger. Anger closes our mind to the spirit of God and God’s word. When anger comes to the forefront, the only thing we can think about it is ourselves and getting what we want. That is why James tell us, rarely does our anger lead to the righteousness of God. We do not make good decisions when we’re angry because we usually do not care about the consequences of the decisions at the time we’re angry. Somehow the more angry we become, the more convinced we are that we can read what’s going on in somebody else’s mind.
I want you to meet 2 and ½ tribes of the twelve tribes of Israel. They were Gad, Rueben and half of the tribe of Manasseh. Now when these 2 /1/2 tribes were under Moses’s leadership, somehow they had accumulated a large flock of animals. Now Moses had led the 12 tribes into a major battle with nations on the east side of the Jordan river. Keep in mind the promised land was on the west side of the Jordan River. In the battles, the nations in the east were defeated and to the victors went the land. Now this land was rich with fertile ground and valleys for grazing large flocks.
Moses was going to abandon the land, because He knew the promised land was on the other side. But the leaders of Gad, Rueben and half of Manassah came to Moses and asked him if they could stay in the land they had conquered, because it was just what they needed for their flocks. It had plenty of water as well.
Now at the time, the book of James had not been written, so Moses did not know that he was to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Moses immediately jumped to conclusions and tried to become psychic by reading their minds. Moses said, “don’t you know if you stay behind with your warriors when there is more fighting to do for us to get the land you will discourage the other tribes.” “
How dare you even think about taking it easy when your brothers will be risking their lives in battle? Why on earth are you trying to turn away from God so quickly. Don’t you know your rebellion will cause God to be mad at all of us? You bunch of cowards ought to be ashamed of yourself. You brood of sinners are going to be the cause of our destruction.”
Have you ever tried telling somebody off without hearing everything they had to say? Moses went straight from listening a little bit to being angry a whole lot, and then shooting out words at record speed to get the maximum impact. Imagine his shock when the 2 ½ tribe leaders said, “We have no intention of disobeying God or discouraging the people. All we want to do is to leave our families and our herds in the land, but all of us warriors will continue to go with the armies, and we will not go back home until every tribe has received the land God intends to give them. We will not ask for any of the land we help to conquer.”
Moses then said, “oh so that’s what you mean.” Have you ever had one of those “oh” moments. Those “oh moments should cause us to humble ourselves and say “my mistake, I’m sorry.” Moses went on to say, “why there’s nothing wrong with your plan at all, as long as you do what you say you’re planning to do. I give you this land on the east side of the Jordan.”
This incident with Moses and the 2 ½ tribes tells us, sometimes we are fighting battles that do not need to be fought. We just see two different ways of getting to the same place. Don’t take it personally that your plan was not chosen this time. If the goal is the same, and the end product is the same, then flow with the plan of others. Even if you had the better plan. It’s called teamwork. We are merging and forming a new congregation. New Life At Calvary is about teamwork and giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. Before you say nobody spoke to me, ask did I greet them warmly in the name of Jesus.
Suppose after Moses had lashed into the leaders he would have said, “I’m the leader here and that’s the end of this discussion.” Can you imagine the stress it would have created. The 2 ½ tribes would have probably crossed over, but the stress and anger would have existed for years.
When Christ is at work in our lives, we think less of ourselves and more of what’s best for everyone concerned in this situation. After Jesus told us to love one another, in John 15:13 he said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Each time we are willing to say, “my mistake, I’m sorry” and change our actions, we are living out a little bit of this verse. These are words of repentance, and repentance means turning and going in the opposite direction. If your behavior is not changing, then you haven’t truly been sorry. Moses went from a full scale blasting of the plan of the 2 and ½ tribes to giving them his full support.
Well, Moses dies and Joshua takes over. It is under Joshua that the children of God cross over the Jordan River and begins to take on the powerful nations in what was to become the promised land on the west side of the River. They run into some tough situations, but ultimately they prevail. The land is divided up among the 10 ½ tribes.
Joshua calls Gad, Reuben and the ½ tribe of Manasseh and tells them, “Fellows you did a great job of keeping your word all these years. You fought valiantly among your brothers. It’s time for you to go back home now that the war is over and celebrate with your wives and children. I give you my blessing.”
I’m sure that soldiers from all the other tribes were hugging and embracing each other as they said goodbye to the 2 and ½ tribes as they returned to cross the Jordan River and be with their families on the east side. The soldiers could barely wait to get home. Many of their kids had now grown up. They had stories to tell of all the great things God had done.
One of the things that’s amazing in life is how something can be going so well in a relationship and out of the blue, things just begin to fall to pieces. Now as the 2 ½ tribes soldiers are marching home, when they get to the Jordan River, they build a massive altar on the west side of the River, and then they cross over to the east side of the river and have a joyous reunion with their families.
Sometimes, we will do things in life, that will cause a lot of stress and anxiety in others that we never intended. The reason being, we will do things and not explain to others why it is we have done them. We leave ourselves open to the misunderstandings of others. This is when we expect them to be psychic and some how know we had good intentions.
Some of the people of God on west side of the Jordan, saw this large imposing altar built by the 2 ½ tribes before they left. Word spread like wildfire, that the 2 ½ tribes had forsaken God. You see God had told the people, to destroy the altars that they found in the land of Canaan. All of them were to offer sacrifices on the same altar in the land of Israel. No one was to build a separate altar for offering sacrifices.
When the people found out the 2 ½ tribes had built this altar, they jumped to conclusions. One look at the big altar and the first thing to come to our mind is, “Oh my goodness, they have started to worship some other God. The land they went to live in is demon possessed. They must get out of that land and come over here and be with us on the west side, or we will have to destroy them all.”
They were not quick to listen, slow to speak or slow to get angry. That got angry first, they did not even bother to talk to the 2 ½ tribes and they spoke so vigorously, the nation was being rearmed to go to war against the very people who had fought side by side with them in battle just a few months earlier.
Changes in relationships can happen so quickly. When we start to question the motives of each other, things simply go down hill because we can no longer communicate. Love involves trusting the motives of what somebody else has done even though you may not understand it or even like it. Do you think God expects you to love every song, sung in our church? I don’t think so, otherwise the Word would not have told us to bear with one another in love. But he does expect us to try to understand, what is God is saying to me about me in my reaction.
Now to be fair to the 10 ½ tribes, they were ready to fight, because in past experience, when one of the twelve tribes disobeyed God, all the other 11 suffered in the punishment. They wanted to bring Gad, Reuben and the ½ tribe of Manassah back in line, before the judgment of God hit them.
Some thought a pre-emptive strike would be best. Let’s go and get them right now before they can even prepare for battle. Somebody however did think, maybe this would be a good to time to listen to the 2 ½ tribes, be slow to speak, and slow to get angry. They reached a compromise between the groups. Look, we will not launch a war until after we have told them what their options are.
The 10 ½ tribes sent Phinehas the priest and 10 other men who were leaders of the tribes to speak with the leaders of Gad, Reuben and the ½ tribe of Manassah. But Phinehas almost blew the conference before it got started. Instead of listening to the 2 ½ tribe be began pointing out their failures. Phinehas followed right in the footsteps of Moses.
Phinehas said, “how could you turn your backs on God and break faith with Him and with all the other tribes. You built this altar in rebellion to God. You know how God punished us all when one of us chose to sin. Now look, if the land you have chosen is defiled with wickedness, you can pack your bags and move over to the other side of the river with us. Just don’t rebel against the Lord or against us by building an altar for yourselves.”
Now how many of you would have responded well to Phinehas? Imagine someone walking up to you and saying, “Look here you no good backslider. What you have done is just plain and simple rebellion and sin. We think living in the house you live in has messed up your mind, and we think there might be demonic forces working on you that you do not know about. You either pack your bags and move out or face God’s judgment at our hands.”
Most of us would have told Phinehas back off, or get out of my face and blamed the whole thing on his rotten stinking attitude. But the reality is, the 2 ½ tribes had as much to do with this misunderstanding as did the 10. The building of the altar was not a good idea in view of God’s word regardless of what their motive was.
To their credit, they responded, “God Almighty knows what our motives were. He alone is to be praised. If we have done what you said we have done, then we deserve God’s punishment and more. But we did not do what you have said. We did not build this altar to sacrifice on it, or to worship another God. We built this altar simply as a witness.
We were afraid that in many years to come, your children might tell our children, you have no part in worshipping God, because the Lord has made the Jordan River a boundary between us. We want our children to be able to say, “See that altar on the other side of the river. Our fathers put it there as a witness to indicate that we all worship the same God and come from one people even though the river divides us. We built that altar to remind our future generations to be true to God. The last thing on our minds is turn away from God.”
All of sudden Phineas and the 10 men had an “Oh” moment which would allow them to rebuild the relationship they had torn down. Here a nation is preparing to go to war, and all that was necessary to prevent it was a ten minute conversation. Just as quickly as the relationship had disintegrated it was restored by both accepting the sincerity of each other’s motives in this situation.
What a tragedy it would have been for the 2 ½ tribes to have said, “we know we haven’t done anything and we know what our motives are, and we don’t have to explain anything to you. When we love each other, we really do have to explain our motives and we have to be willing to accept the motives of others. This is at the heart of communication. If you find yourself saying, “I don’t have to explain myself, there’s a good chance you’re walking outside of the will of God for your life, and you’re choosing to destroy the relationship.”
Both groups needed to have said, “My mistake, I’m sorry.” They both contributed to do the breakdown in the relationship. You see rarely are our strains in our relationships are as completed one sided as we want to believe. We do need to ask the question, “God how have I contributed to this present situation, and what should I do to change?
As we share the Lord’s table this morning, we are reminded of the cost Jesus paid to remove the stress out of broken relationship with God. Jesus said, His body was broken and His blood was shed on our behalf. Allowing Christ to live through us involves being willing to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. In the midst of our disagreements, let us not tire of saying , I’m sorry for my part in this situation because I want us to have a good relationship.” It is in becoming more like Christ, that we find the peace in relationships that He desires for us to have.