Here is the bad news: Relationships are messy.
Last week, I was praying with a friend. As we talked about life, he shared with me about how he was once again in court with his ex-wife. We reflected on how our vow before God of “until death do us part” is something even after divorce. Relationships are messy.
Later in the same day, I ran into a guy who used to work for me. His leaving was a little messy. I love him and his family, but we had some things left unsaid. After we talked about these things, we realized they were not major just left undone. Relationships are messy.
A few days later, my wife, Beth, and I saw a young lady we have been praying for. She was a little embarrassed when we overheard her telling another friend about her live-in boyfriend. Relationships are messy.
In the world relationships are disposable, but in the Kingdom of God they are the top priority.
The Good News is God helps us work through the messiness of relationships!
At Discover Point, the church we are planting, we are creating a community where religion takes a backseat and relationships are the priority. For sure, our relationship with Jesus is the most important relationship. Our culture is being driven by our core values:
- A Passion for People – we love because God first loved us
- Authentic Relationships – being real in an artificial world
- Accountable Grace – living in the tension of love and truth
- Transparent Leadership – leading from the trenches of life
In Philippians 4:1-3, Paul calls upon two of his co-workers to find a way to get along. He also challenges the church to come alongside them and help them find unity. Here are three biblical principles of unity:
- Unity is possible in Christ – Jesus prayed for unity. Unity is critical to the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Paul begins his teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5:21 by saying, “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Also see Philippians 2:1-4. This is counter intuitive to the world. In the world relationships are disposable, but in the kingdom they are the top priority. God helps us work through the messiness of relationships.
- Unity is dependent on all parties – In Romans 12:8, Paul writes to his friends in Rome, “be at peace with everyone so much as it depends on you.” Relationships are messy. You cannot control others. You are only responsible for your attitudes and actions.
- Unity is built on truth and held together by love – Again in Ephesians 4:15, Paul writes, “speak the truth in love.” And to the Colossians (3:14) he writes, “beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of peace.” Accountable Grace is living in the tension of truth and love.
Most of the time, we get instructions on how to give others healthy criticism. But I want to take a moment and share how I process the criticism I receive.
How you receive and learn from criticism will make a difference in the joy you experience in your life!
Open Your Heart to God – Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts. And see if there is any hurtful way in me. And lead me in the way everlasting.” I will tell you, I don’t like to be criticized. It hurts my feelings. But when I am criticized, I do my best to lean into what God will teach me in it.
He is the One who commands the storms. If He can speak to a storm and quiet it, then there must be something in the storm He wants me to learn if He allows the storm to rage in my life. Why? Because He loves me and is always good.
So, I begin processing the criticism by praying Psalm 139:23-24. I ask Him to search me. I point out how anxious I am about what was said. But I want to know if there is any hurtful attitude or pattern of behavior that I need to be aware of. I want to know if I am operating in the world’s way or Jesus’ way. Then I ask Him to show me His way.
Put Others Ahead of Yourself – I don’t like criticism because, I struggle with my own sinful nature. When I put the biblical principle of putting others first into practice, I want to learn from what has been said, so I don’t hurt others. Rather I can serve them and help them discover God’s love in their lives.
Find the Truth of Criticism in Community – We all have blind spots. We just don’t see what we do and how it affects others. So we need help from others in examining our life to learn from the teachable moments in life.
Make Necessary Course Corrections – Gaining information and insight is only valuable if it brings change to our life that improves it.
At Discover Point, we teach Jesus’ process of discipleship: Come & See | Follow | Train | Go, to help us process teachable moments like criticism. Let me share briefly what we mean by that:
Come & See – Jesus invites us to observe what is going on around us. Watch how He handles truth and life. See His way.
Follow – Jesus also invites us to follow Him. We have to make a decision. We have to choose Him, His Kingdom and His way to navigate the human experience.
Train – The Bible says that physical training is of some value, but that spiritual training is valuable for now and eternity. Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of the human experience. He created life and He lived it perfectly. He not only models for us how to live, but gives us the best practices for living life well. We have to train in these practices to do build them into our lives.
Go – A powerful principle in scripture is the idea that we are blessed to be a blessing. What we receive from God, we are to share with others. We not only help others follow the the discipleship process but we continually repeat it ourselves.
I share all of this to help show how I uncover what God is teaching me in the criticism.
Come & See – After reflecting on what was said and the circumstances around it. I write down a list of general biblical principles that apply to my life as it relates to the criticism. Then I write down possible lessons that are specific to me. For Example: I have been criticized for something I said from the stage. Biblical Principle: “Be slow to speak and quick to listen.” Specific Lesson: When I lead from the stage, I need to stick to what I have prepared and not go down rabbit trails that I have not prayerfully considered.
Follow – I choose to follow Jesus’ way. My sinful nature is my default way of doing things. I have to choose to go down Jesus path. From my lists, I choose the things I think are what God wants me to work on.
Train – To allow Jesus to build these new attitudes and behaviors into my life, I begin by sharing what I am learning with others. Listen to what they think. Draw from their experiences. As people give me feedback, I can refine what God is saying to me and begin to renew my mind. And I can practice these new thoughts and actions.
Go – Once I have had some success in implementing what I am learning, I begin to share with others what God has taught me and how it is changing my life. I, also, am ready to go through the process on the next opportunity that God gives me to grow.
Accountable Grace is living in the tension of truth and love.
Anyone can be a critic. How you receive and learn from criticism will make a difference in the joy you experience in your life!