Monday, December 2, 2013

Grace And Relationships by Martin Wiles

A. Have you noticed that building and maintaining relationships is difficult and takes effort?

B. I recall one emphasis Southern Baptists had entitled Building Witnessing Relationships.
1. It emphasized building relationship with unsaved people so they would know we actually cared about them and not just about sharing the gospel.
2. Through the relationship we earned the right to share with them.
3. It reminded us people don’t care what we know until they know we care. 
4. So we became friends and through the friendship we’re able to demonstrate our faith in Christ and share as we have opportunity.

C. Think of the many elements involved in building and maintaining relationships.
1. It takes time to get to know someone. While some date only a few weeks or months before marrying, most take months and even years. 
2. Just when we think we have someone figured out, they act in totally uncharacteristic ways. 
3. It’s good for people to figure this out before the vows are stated. 
4. Think of the relationship with parents. They treat us like a child, no matter how old we are, and when they get older, chances are we will have to treat them like children.
5. Moms never quit being moms no matter how old the children get.
6. And the road is not always smooth with our children and grandchildren. 
7. In spite of our best efforts, our children grow up and don’t learn how to parent like we taught and demonstrated. So as a grandparent we have to step in and remind them how to do it right.
8. And what about our relationship with our spouses? Twenty or fifty years of marriage doesn’t remove the challenges of getting along. There are still differences and peculiarities we have to tolerate. 
9. Then add to the mix friends, employers, employees, and social acquaintances, and we conclude that building relationships is difficult work indeed. 

D. In the remainder of this chapter, Paul deals with elements involved in building good relationships as well as elements that will destroy relationships. 

E. We can compare the art of building good relationships with building blocks. 

F. I recall the blocks I had and my children had with letters on them. Not only could we build things but letters, the alphabet and even words could be taught in the process.

I. Blocks That Enhance Relationships (vv. 9-21)
A. Love
1. Several types of love are mentioned in the Bible.
2. Sexual love between a man and woman as well as perversions of God’s original intent of this love. (Eros)
3. Love as demonstrated between friends. (phileo)
4. The most commendable is agape’ and represents the type of love God had and has for us. 
5. Good relationships cannot survive without love whether they are sexual in nature or just casual friendships.
6. Unfortunately we have a twisted definition of love and what it entails in our society.
7. It is most often equated with sex whether between a married couple or not. 
8. Paul warns against pretending to love others and instructs us to really love them.
9. We’ll save the pretending to love for later and deal with the really loving now. 
10. What characterizes real love, whether it relates to a sexual union or friendship?
11. The definition is found in another of Paul’s epistles: I Corinthians 13:4-8.
12. Listen to the definition: love is patient, kind, not jealous, boastful, proud or rude, doesn’t demand its own way, doesn’t keep records of wrongs, doesn’t rejoice over wrong but rejoices when truth wins out, it never gives up or loses faith but is always hopeful and endures through all circumstances. It will last forever.
13. I’m afraid it will take us a lifetime and more to master the list. 
14. We’ve heard the statement; “Patience is a virtue.” It is. While patience might have been a normal part of the human makeup initially, sin has certainly tainted that. We tend to be impatient. Things and people get on our nerves. Circumstances aggravate us. 
15. Depending on what type of personality we have, patience will be easy or difficult for us. But don’t blame God by saying, “Well you gave me this personality so I can’t help it when I lose my temper.” That’s not an acceptable excuse.
16. Genuine love expresses itself in kindness. It can’t help it. It just naturally happens. And the kindness will be genuine not motivated by an ulterior motive that seeks recognition or compensation.
17. Kind people look for opportunities to help others. They have the ability to just naturally see opportunities to help. They don’t have to be motivated to be kind.
18.  Nor is true love jealous. While God is jealous in that he guards his relationship with us and will not let anything damage it, he is not jealous in the sense the Bible warns against. 
19. Selfish jealousy is forbidden. It would be foolish for either spouse in a relationship to allow the other to do whatever they wanted with members of the opposite sex, maintaining their failure to care or act was based on not wanting to display jealousy.
20. True love is not boastful or proud. Life is not all about the person who truly loves. They are here to serve God and others and are not concerned about accolades or compensation for doing so. 
21. The opposite of pride is humility, and this is trait is praised numerous times in the Bible. 
22. Let others praise you and not you yourself. Proverbs 27:2
23. When others praise us, we in turn give the credit to God realizing that without him we are nothing but in him can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. 
24. The opposite of kindness is rudeness, and love is not this. We have all known rude people or people who have been rude on occasion. But rudeness and love don’t mesh. 
25. Love is not selfish; it does not demand its own way. It is not after revenge or vengeance but realizes this belongs to God. 
26. Nor is love irritable. Life has a way of making us irritable, or so we maintain. But remember it is not life that does this. It is our response to circumstances. Just as no one can make us angry, so no one can make us irritable nor can circumstances. We choose irritability. 
27. Then the biggie: love keeps no record of wrongs. It is forgiving. 
28. Forgiveness must be instantaneous and continual. It is not the same as trust. In his discussion with Peter, Jesus reminds us we are not to put any limit on our forgiveness. 
29. And this is not simply with our enemies, for it is probably our friends, children and spouses who wrong us more than our enemies. 
30. Living with unforgiveness is a sad and miserable existence which places us at odds with others and affects our relationship with God. 
31. Love enjoys seeing right triumph over wrong; justice win out over injustice. 
32. When we truly love someone, we will never give up on them. It is the picture of a parent who never gives up on their child even when they are rebelling against everything they have been taught. Just as God never gives up on us when we go astray. Think of how Jesus taught this very concept in the parable of the Prodigal Son. 
33. Love will endure through every circumstance. I think of those spouses who have taken their vows seriously and maintain commitment and service to spouses who have become incapacitated by health issues. 
34. Love maintains hope no matter how difficult the circumstances are because it knows who is in control. 
35. It takes great effort and concentration to show this trait. It will involve time and money as well as personal sacrifice. 
36. We can’t demonstrate this type of love to everyone individually (in the sense we can do it alone), but the entire body of Christ can do it together.

B. Honor
1. Recognize we all have the same Creator and in that sense are all children of God made in his image.
2. We should especially do this with our fellow believers. 

C. Serve the Lord and each other enthusiastically.
1. God gives us time, talents, abilities and opportunities.
2. Don’t go at God’s work half heartedly. 

D. Rejoice that God has a plan for you. 
1. Find out what it is and go after it. 
2. Encourage your children and grandchildren to find future spouses who want to share in God’s plan. Otherwise conflict will result.

E. Patience (dealt with in our characteristic of love).

F. Pray
1. We’ve heard the saying; “The family that prays together stays together.”
2. Pray individually, with family and collectively with other believers.

G. Help fellow believers who are in need and also unbelievers. 

H. Pray for those who persecute you for your faith. Love your enemies. 

I. Share in the emotions of others. Express empathy not just sympathy. Walk a mile not for a Camel but to understand their situation.

J. Try to get along with others, and verse 16 gives a key: Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all. (NLT) Seek peace not conflict.

K. Don’t seek revenge or vengeance.

L. Overcome evil by doing good. This does not means pursuing peace at any price. We don’t pursue peace if doing so means evil will triumph. 

II. Blocks That Disturb Relationships 
A. These blocks are found in doing the opposite of all Paul says in these verses as well as in the opposite of what he defines love as in I Corinthians 13.

B. Appearing to be interested in others when really we aren’t.

C. Only pretending to show compassion or doing it with ulterior motives:
1. Buttering up our boss for a raise or preferential treatment.
2. Buttering up our employees so they will work harder.
3. Being nice to get a political vote or church vote.

D. Only offering hospitality when it’s convenient. 

E. Pretending to forgive but continually reminding the offender about their offense or bringing it up in every argument.

F. Taking revenge or allowing animosity to simmer in our heart. 

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