Sometimes in the Body of Christ we encounter hard relationships. Bonds in the church are close and rewarding, but sometimes in their closeness there can be personality clashes and head-butting. I think we can all recall that one person at church that we just don’t enjoy or always end up rubbing us the wrong way. The question is: What do we do with people that are hard to get along with?
“Lord, give me wisdom to handle this person.” It’s a prayer I am well acquainted with – often prayed through gritted teeth and less-than-generous thoughts. Really, all relationships take wisdom. I recently found that the book of James is one of the best resources to learn relational wisdom.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him…” (James 1:6, NKJV)
Good promise. We can all use more wisdom. But read on…
“…But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord…”
(James 1:6-7 NKJV)
First thought: Faith is shown by obedience. The completeness of my obedience is the measure of my faith. And on the inverse side, disobedience shows my great doubt. Before you start learning about wisdom, you should know one thing: If you are not willing to do what you learn, you had better not even ask what is wise. Once you know the wise thing to do, you will be responsible for doing it.
That settled, let’s get on to the “learning wisdom” part.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
(James 3:13-18 NKJV)
There are two types of wisdom, God’s and the world’s (and the world’s wisdom is from Satan, if you want it given straight).
Godly wisdom is shown by good behavior in meekness. Meekness, in turn, is defined as great strength tamed by self-control and reigned into the boundaries of the Holy Spirit. It often goes against our natural reactions, our idea of justice, or our sense of self-protection. Meekness lets God be the judge.
Worldly wisdom, on the other hand, is sensual and demonic. It shows itself in selfish motives and envious practices. It comes naturally to the proud and worldly. It is “sensual” or consumed with what makes me feel good instead of by what is right. It is taught by the devil himself to those unwilling to restrain their sinful passions. With this worldly wisdom (reasoning, and self-seeking logic) comes every evil thing.
NOW LET’S GET PERSONAL
How do I apply the characteristics of Godly wisdom to my own life?
“The wisdom from above is first pure…” This must precede all. Right standing with God will cleanse my motives and pave the way for right relationship with others because my relationship with God is the foundation of every other relationship. I cannot expect to begin restoration with a person unless all is whole and pure in my relationship with God. Impurity in any area will taint every other aspect of my life if I let it remain.
“…then peaceable…” Godly wisdom does not look for arguments. Godly wisdom does not “accidentally” get caught up in useless arguments. When arguments do arise it goes to great lengths to quiet them. Peace comes from God and those that are His make peace. Do notice, the word is “make” not “keep”. This doesn’t mean I don’t stand up courageously for what is right; it means that I recognize when I am arguing for argument’s sake. Anyone can argue, but blessed are the peacemakers for they will be easily recognized as God’s own (see Matthew 5).
“…gentle…” Gentleness looks like careful words and a tongue restrained. Gentleness will have no double meanings or hidden barbs. It is considerate of others’ feelings and forgetful of its own. It will be evidenced in both demeanor and words. It starts in how I allow myself to think of others and it shows itself in my countenance long before I open my mouth.
“…willing to yield…” Wisdom doesn’t have to be right. In fact, this wisdom doesn’t even have to always present its side of an argument. Think about “yielding” to some stranger as you walk through a door. You would stop, smile, and bid them pass through first. Yielding is far from passive in this form – it is the first to take proactive actions of humility.
“…full of mercy…” Mercy is the action at the front of a heart of forgiveness. Mercy must begin with deep forgiveness because it must be shown to the undeserving. In fact, mercy is not mercy unless the object is undeserving! If I only had to love and forgive those who are deserving, then God would never have had to command me to be merciful to people. Mercy begins with me understanding where I came from, my own sinful nature, and God’s great mercy on me. Once I grasp this I can be greatly merciful (Luke 7:47).
“…full of good fruits…” Ask yourself: What comes as a result of my actions? That’s its fruit. Is the result love, joy, and peace? Or is it anger, discord, and frustration? The Spirit of Wisdom is another name for the Holy Spirit. So, if the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) are not evidenced in my actions then I am not walking in true wisdom. A good measure of this is how my heart and conscience feel as I reflect on my actions later. If I was walking in the Spirit in good conduct I will be filled with love, joy, peace, and so on as I remember. If I am edgy, confused, or ashamed later, it is a sure sign that I probably did not act in wisdom.
“…without partiality…” Here is where the rubber hits the road. This is a test of my heart between myself and God because no one else can judge my inner motives. Do I make decisions based on this person? That is a simple definition of partiality. Do I think of them in a different light than others? Do I avoid them? Do I shun them? Partiality is a great divider within the Church because by it we begin to identify people as something other than who God made them to be. Partiality makes me call enemy who God made my brother. Or consider as a stranger one who I should be unified with. Just as favoritism breeds bitterness in families, so partiality brings great wounding and division in the Family of God. Divisions that cannot be afforded if we are to reach our full potential as a mighty, earth changing unit.
“…without hypocrisy…” No hypocrisy means without a pretense of good covering a real evil. This does not mean that if I despise someone I should show it to the world. It DOES mean that I should be, in my heart of hearts, as pure and kind as I would want the world to think I am! I must lay my heart bare before God so He can deal with the envy, the bitterness, and the offense. I wouldn’t cover a wound with the wounding object still in it. That would serve only to poison and destroy my own body. So, why, in the spiritual, would I clutch a wound and not allow the offense and bitterness to be cleaned out of it? I must let God wash my wounds. I must let it be a clean and final work. The love of God can rinse me out, fill me up, and leave no room for the bitterness to creep back in. At that point, kindness will come easily. There will be none of the stress and strain of trying to be nice while seething with anger inside. Those who are full of the love of God have love spill out of them – like an over-full glass of water – every time they move or speak.
That is wisdom. If we choose to have the faith enough to obey it, walking in it will change our lives. Our relationships can – by the power of the promise of God – be restored. When we all get along we can all be in our place, working as we were made, in unity, not jostling or picking at one another. We will value each other’s gifts, and be thankful for each brother and sister. And so the Church will be able to move forward as a single unit, knocking down the gates of Hell, and netting souls into the Kingdom of Heaven.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT:
I don’t have to handle the burden of changing someone else. If I allow the Lord to change and shape my reactions I can walk in peace, close to God, and showered in His Presence no matter what decisions another person makes. God gives us freedom to use His wisdom even if no one else does.