Week 5: Our Attitudes Towards Others Can Reveal Our Hearts in Ways We May Not Like

Get ready for another challenging week. We are going to move into some real-life areas centered around our relationships.

The key is understanding that this is not primarily an exercise in improving our relationships, but rather is a framework to help us honestly examine areas of our hearts with which we may have become very comfortable. On further examination of these areas, we may find that they contain toxic thinking and selfish values which need to be addressed in order for the Lord to bring us to the humility which allows Him to work through us. If it helps your interpersonal relationships, so much the better.

Day 29: What if Jesus Were Really Serious in His Warnings About Anger, Judgment, and Reconciliation?

Read Matthew 5:21-23
Ouch. Can this really be taken at face value? Is Jesus really telling us that anger toward a brother in Christ is equivalent to murder? Is He really telling us that reconciliation with our brothers and sisters is more important to Him than our acts of corporate worship? If that is true, we may have found one answer to what has been hindering God’s work among us.

This is serious stuff my friends. Reread these three verses as if Jesus were saying them directly to you, which in fact He is! There is a treasure of healing and peace of mind available to us in our own lives and as a church body, if we truly face and accept these words

Day 30: You Mean, I Might Be the Problem?

Read Matthew 7:1-5
In any difficulty that we have, any disappointment that we feel, or any relationship that we may be struggling with, our first and strongest reaction is to protect ourselves and blame the other person. Even a simple look at ourselves will tell us that this is true. We cling to beliefs about ourselves and our needs that make us comfortable, and we find fault with others when they do not agree with us, or do not do things as we believe they should be done.

Can you see the shadows of idolatry in all of this? Our own view of the world, of our lives, and others, is shaped by our own experience, fears and insecurities. We cling to the things that we feel we need and we demand that others provide them.

As we might expect, Jesus tells us that the solution is the exact opposite of the problem. This is another place where we have to make ourselves realize that Jesus is serious and that these things are true.

Take a serious look at your life and identify several important relationships. In each, where are the points of stress, disagreement or conflict? What have been your demands or expectations of others? How has it been going? Again, we are right in the middle of the subject of idolatry: our self-created images of life and others become the things that we worship, and we demand that others worship us by complying with those things. Be gentle on yourself, but be honest. You will find things that might open your eyes in an uncomfortable but encouraging way.

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." -Matthew 7:1-5

Day 31: What is at Stake in the Matter of Forgiveness?

Read Ephesians 4:29-32
It doesn’t get any easier does it? Now we are being told that we are commanded to forgive others, and we must take this seriously because, as the text says, it involves nothing less than the Holy Spirit’s ability to minister to us and through us.

There is not enough space here to discuss the topic of forgiveness adequately. Here are a few important things to rest your thinking on. Forgiveness does not excuse an offense or state that it didn’t hurt. It releases the offender (and yourself) from the burdens of judgement, the quest for justice, and even punishment. Forgiveness is not forgetting or pretending that it didn’t happen, although you probably will never get to the place of forgetting without honest forgiveness. Finally, forgiveness does not mean that you continue to allow yourself to be misused or abused. But, when an offender who is otherwise a valuable and ongoing part of your life needs your forgiveness in order that the relationship prosper, we are told that it is our duty to forgive.

There are two questions that can be of great help in this effort:
  • What if God forgave me in the same manner that I feel I am entitled to use in forgiving others?
  • If I really understand what I have been forgiven of in Christ, how can I continue to bear bitterness or judgement toward another person?

Day 32: Looking Beyond Ourselves

Read Philippians 2:1-4
As we might expect, this is another challenging passage, but it is simple in its content. We are being told to step beyond our natural tendency to see every situation by how it affects us. We are being told that the other person has feelings, fears, and needs that are just as real as our own. Often, a large step toward healing can occur when a person believes that he is actually being heard and respected, instead of being overlooked, diminished, or excluded.

If you’ve come this far with us, you’ve already allowed the Lord to plow some significant ground in your heart. Take it further as you review how this passage speaks to your way of dealing with others, and what you might want to change.

Day 33: Love is Not What We've Been Told it is

Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
As you study this passage, you will see quickly that characteristics that God uses to describe love have very little to do with the emotional mush that our culture has defined it to be.

This is another passage that we have to force ourselves to take seriously. Chew on each word or phrase that defines love. Ask yourself if you have ever really thought of it that way, and you will probably find that you haven't. What we are being called to do is challenging, perhaps frightening, and certainly needing effort beyond our normal feelings. This is not easy stuff. But again, it is an opportunity to reveal the idolatries of pride, fear, and self-pursuit that may be hidden in the corners of our hearts. The spotlight of the Holy Spirit will take you there if you allow Him access.

Day 34: What Really is the Good Life?

Read James 3:13-18
As he often does, James exposes here the error and futility of many of our thoughts and actions by addressing our motives. This is another passage that will require time and honest submission to the Holy Spirit in order to understand and put into practice. As you chew upon each word or idea, the Spirit will reveal pockets of envy and selfish ambition in you if you allow Him the time and honesty to do so.

Day 35: Praise Him and Reflect on the Week