May 10, 2013
The Three Rs
By Skip Heitzig
A few years ago I asked my fellowship to write down topics or issues they wanted me to deal with from a scriptural perspective. It was a fun idea, and it was fascinating. I was sure most of their questions would be on eschatology or things like that. But do you know what 90-plus percent of them were? They were about “How do I fix this or that relationship?” And I was shocked to discover that there's a lot of people in God's family who aren't handling their relationships responsibly.
We all have relationships with other people; some of them are great, some of them aren't so great…and some of them are downright bad. And a lesson to be learned is “Be careful how you handle your relationships.” Though they're precious, they can be very fragile. One incident, one word spoken in wrath or anger, one action, can sever a relationship. And the consequences can last for years, or even a lifetime.
We must think before we speak or act. James said “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). God gave us two ears and one mouth. I wish we would function in that equation—listening twice as much as we talk. We have to think through what this action or these harsh words will do to the relationship in the long run.
Let me give you my three Rs of relationships. Number one is repentance. Humble yourself and repent for what you've done wrong in the relationship. Number two is responsibility. You need to take responsibility for your part of the mess. And number three is results. Repent of the wrong done, take responsibility for your part in it, and you'll see results. I've heard many people say, “Oh, you don't understand. My situation is so bad, so dire, such a ‘can of worms’”—that's the descriptive phrase. OK, so take one “worm” out at a time, and soon you'll have an empty can. Do your part in emptying it out.
I often get asked, “How can I get the other person to understand or to do such-and-such?” Answer: You can't. You can only do your part. Remember, you’re not responsible for what the other person says or does, only for yourself. You can’t repent for what they've done wrong, and you can’t be held responsible for them not fulfilling their part of the relationship.
I remember many hospital situations, both when I worked in radiology and later as a pastor, where a person died and the family arrived just minutes too late. They didn't get there in time. And so often I heard the deep, remorseful cries: “I never forgave her.” “I never let him know that I loved him.” “I held a grudge for so long and now it's too late.”
So don’t fail to do your part in healing your precious, but very fragile, relationships. If they’re like a “can of worms,” apply those three Rs and see what happens.
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