This is our first week away from Revelation in months and I have felt for weeks now this had to be my next topic. Because the unusual pressures of the recent months is causing enormous stress on relationships; because we are all saturated with the world's ways and attitudes; and especially in our handling of relationships and society today teaches independence and selfishness over commitment and care for others; because Satan is hell-bent on destroying marriage and family—which is the cornerstone of the foundation of society. A great marriage is very hard work. It is designed that way. It is not a fairy-tale relationship where all your needs are met perfectly and you are made to feel happy and complete forevermore. It is the God-created relationship designed to help us learn to love as God loves us. It is the place where we learn to truly put others above self; it is the place where we find out what forgiveness means and costs; where we learn to love through sins and faults even when undeserved; where we learn self-sacrifice and servitude over selfishness. Through these things true happiness and oneness can actually be achieved, not by having our needs met alone, or by always having our way, or always having a perfect spouse. True, deep love is only found through weathering the difficulties; proving our love in hard times and failures; showing the worth of one another even in faults; being there when I have a right not to be anymore; giving a place of security, acceptance, respect and love that is steadfast and unbreakable. It is learning to show the true love of Christ in the deepest and most intimate way. I am a simple hometown pastor, but the lessons you can take from today are rich and powerful. 1) Because I have lived it for 35 years and am the champion of every mistake we will discuss, and this is where God has me refocusing right now. 2) Because I have had the privilege of being a part of many marriages in troubled times and I have learned much from them. 3) Because this is God's plan and God's way. And since He created you, and He created marriage, and He is the author of love, I think this information is pretty much full-proof. Don't you?
Today, we are going to look at the Scripturally based way in which we can deal with conflict, arguing—flat out fighting in a relationship—because it is in these moments that a relationship most often dies or thrives. So, we need to "Fight To Win!"
Conflict Is Inevitable. We somehow get the idea that a loving, healthy relationship should not have disagreements or conflict. Obviously if that’s all you do, there’s probably an issue. But I've heard people say things in good relationships like, "I wish we could be like so-and-so, they never argue." Get this” The first and biggest point to grasp in dealing with conflict within a marriage is this: there is nothing inherently wrong about conflict and disagreement. There is nothing wrong with being angry. Anger is normal, it is not sin. Even Jesus got angry when on earth. Scriptures simply say: Ephesians 4:26-27. Conflict is natural and even necessary when two individuals are sharing life together and striving to become one. If there is never conflict or disagreement, you can guarantee that someone is being dominated or ignored; someone is unhappy and unfulfilled; someone is not being honored. Many people—especially if they come from abusive/dysfunctional homes are absolutely mortified by any conflict in a relationship because they fear it symbolizes their rejection, their low worth and the potential loss of love and relationship. Does Christ love us? Does He want the best for us? Is He devoted to us entirely? But are the Gospels not filled with moments of conflict between man and Christ? Conflict does not always represent rejection or lack of love. It is often the moment we can use to prove just the opposite, in the most concrete and powerful ways. Conflict is where we can prove the worth of another; conflict is where we can remove fears of rejection or abandonment. 1 John 4:17-19: We can have boldness in His Love for us. We can have complete peace that He will never give up or leave us because even in our greatest failures before Him, He has proven His steadfastness and acceptance, no matter the cost. That is a picture of marriage.
The second thing to grasp after realizing that conflict is not sin, but actually inevitable and powerful in building worth if handled properly, is realizing what causes us to act irrational—so overly intense, unbending—when we do have a moment of conflict. One reason—pure and simple—is just plain selfishness. We are focused on what we want, what we deserve above anyone else. And that first must be addressed in our relationship to Christ. It is not a marriage problem, but a Jesus problem: 1 John 4:20-21 ; Philippians 2:3-4: if this is true for all men, how much more for the mate you are to bond with as one before God? They are to be your first and foremost concern after Christ, no matter the cost to self. But the second enormous and most often missed reason we are irrational and intense in our conflict with our spouse very often originates from the fears and insecurities we carry within ourselves that we often do not even recognize or acknowledge. Insecurities of past abandonments, low self-worth from emotional abuse, guilt from mistakes or sexual abuse of the past, our expectation of the same from our spouse, our low self-esteem and undeserving attitude in the relationship, or our overreaction to never be seen that way or treated that way again—cause us to: over-control everything in an effort to prevent more pain, or to withdraw completely—avoiding conflict/intimacy, lash out illogically in self-defense, take the simplest statements or actions completely wrong, or expect unrealistic behavior—thus becoming the biggest, most deadly obstacle to having peace, trust, security and real intimacy in a relationship. Pray and let God help you realize your own unrealistic fears and expectations which cause you to have unrealistic views, or mistrust, or to stay angry, or to be cynical, or to act possessive and controlling, or withhold intimacy and communication, or quick to let go again—even if some of these scars and fears were caused by them, there must come a time when trust and vulnerability are given to them again or true intimacy will be impossible. We all at times have cheated on Christ; been completely indifferent to Him, mistreated Him, abandoned Him—and yet, not only did He not give up on us, He opened Himself to us intimately again because we are so loved by Him. And realize that the often believed and used phrase, "Well, that's just the way I am, get used to it," or, "Just let me be me," is too often a copout for being selfish. True selfless love will bring change when necessary for the one who is supposed to be your everything. Jesus Christ changed His Body, His Residence, His Nature, His Style of Living, His Peers, His Social Status, His Reputation, His Comfort Level, His Pride—and for a time His Self-Image (Became Sin)—even though Nothing about Him needed changing—because He wanted to relate to us, become intimately One with us and help us. If you truly love someone more than self, it is a powerful act of that love to change what causes pain or division. On the flipside, there are some scars and fears which people experience which are so deep and painful they may never go away. And it is one of our most precious and important responsibilities as a spouse to learn these things about our beloved, remember, and protect them from these deep rooted fears and pains in our arguments and our actions. We need to learn to love them in the most unique and precious way—adapting our behavior to those scars, lovingly changing what needs changing—to give them security in their fears, rather than ignoring or even manipulating these scars for our benefit. That is the heart and soul of an intimate oneness. And remember this: the most seemingly perfect mate you may see outside of your marriage will have a similar mess of baggage with them as well—just as you do. And if your selfishness will not allow you to love your current spouse in their faults and scars, you probably will not love the next one any better.
There is a "way" to argue which is built on Scriptural principles. First, remember that your relationship with this person and especially Christ, is far more important than just getting your way or doing it your way; than showing that you are right; than proving yourself innocent or superior. Protect the honor and worth of your mate; honor and obey God when you address the issue. Address how you were made to feel, or how you were hurt, or what you disagree upon—not how bad, mean, dumb, or odd they are. Address the issue—the pain—not the person. They need to know they are loved, accepted and respected in your disagreement. Christ hates our sins, but He shows us unconditionally that He loves and wants us even in our sins: Romans 5:8. Be angry at the act committed, but remember the worth of the one behind the act. The first few moments of any conflict will set the tone for how it will play out every time. Which would you be most likely to admit wrong to? "Honey, I love you and I know you love me dearly, but can I share something with you that really made me feel insecure and worried?" Or: "What kind of a jerk comes home an hour late without calling, after I cooked dinner for you? Who were you with anyway?" That is not manipulation, that is expressing your fears and pain rather than attacking their character and doubting their loyalty. Next, shut your mouth and stop long enough to really listen rather than thinking of your next comment or working on IPAD / TV/ Computer / Project. Second, whether they are communicating effectively or not, remember this always: your greatest goal in any conflict with your spouse is not to defend, justify, or win. It is to understand what is in their heart and mind; to understand what they are trying to express; to understand their pain, fear, or point of view. Stop preparing what you will say before they even finish speaking. Stop what you are doing on the IPAD, TV, or project, and focus 100% on what they are saying. Then truly hear where it is coming from—not just what is said. Ask questions if you don't understand, if it doesn't make sense to you, until you really understand their mindset and heart behind the conflict (repeat it back in your own words if necessary). Do not come back with an answer until you do. Third, validate their feelings or view, even if you are not in agreement. Let them know you at least understand why they are feeling this way. Often your mate simply needs to know you see how they feel—why they were hurt, that you do care. Or they want you to know what their view of things may be—their thinking—so they may be understood or appreciated; so they don't feel insecure, ridiculous, stupid or weird; but accepted and validated in their feelings. Woman in general often have fears in knowing they are treasured, loved and secure in your spouse. Men in general often have fears they are inadequate, being controlled, or are not respectable in your eyes. And then, based upon their individual past of experiences and scars, they may have a completely justifiable opinion or reaction that is completely different from your own. It is your job above anyone else in the world to first understand and confirm their view/feelings as valid. Otherwise, you may argue forever and not address the core issue. Even in your conflict, show that you are on the same team together, not enemies who have drawn battle lines. Lastly, just be honest if you are in the wrong. Nothing gives you more love and respect from your spouse than admitting it and simply asking forgiveness rather than defending yourself inexhaustibly: Proverbs 28:13. And not only will you draw closer, they will probably be a bit quicker to admit their own wrongs when the tables have turned later. If they are wrong, be quick to forgive and do not gloat or use it against them: 1 Peter 4:8; 1 Corinthians 13:4. And if you cannot agree on something—which will sometimes be the case when two people become one—put love for your spouse above your desire when possible as Christ did, and become one in your surrendered will: Luke 22:42. If you simply cannot agree, agree to disagree respectfully—not in ridicule or anger: 1 Corinthians 13:4.
Arguments, disagreements, selfish moments, flat out wrong doings will occur in relationships. Stop thinking your relationship is bad or abnormal when they occur. And stop acting like the world when you have moments of sin or disagreement, and be like Christ in His Love for us when we fail. Use these moments as an opportunity to show the reality of that love by showing them honor and love even in conflict; by desiring to understand and relate to their view; by protecting and comforting them through their fears; by recognizing your own fears and insecurities and working to change them; by choosing them and intimacy with them above any disagreement or wrong committed. These are our greatest proving grounds and opportunities to draw closer as one and prove our love to Christ. This is when love actually costs you something. Is it real at these times? If not, it probably never was. If you have to fight, "Fight to Win... the heart of your beloved!" This is just the first part. The tree of this vitally important topic. Next week, we put the leaves on the tree. Without leaves, what happens to the tree? Come back next week!
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