“All this is from God, who…gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18)
Today I was reading one of my daily devotionals, Word for You Today. There are four days of thoughts on “You must get along,” from 1 Corinthians 1:10 in The Message. This led me to think about a question I’m often asked, “How do you and your sisters (there are four of us) get along so well?”
It’s a good question. We’re four strong women with plenty of our own thoughts, opinions, and sometimes, judgments. We’ve got the usual baggage from our upbringing, which was played out amongst the backdrop of a marriage fraught with tension and anger, eventually ending in divorce. And in the course of our 54 to 47 years together, we’ve hurt each other a lot, sometimes deeply.
So what is it that helps us to keep loving?
1. We agree to love - Through church, the bible, songs, all our lives we’ve all heard “Love one another,” “Love your enemies,” (sometimes we’ve acted like enemies), even “They’ll know we are Christians by our love,” we take these principles seriously. We agree that we are to love one another, so when we act in anger, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, and we definitely do, we know and agree that it’s not really acceptable. So we have to find a solution.
2. We share our faith – Knowing that God’s two greatest commandments are “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37-39) keeps us accountable. Whether or not we always act lovingly – patient, kind, not envious, boastful, or proud, not self-seeking – we’re aiming for it.
3. We speak the truth in love – This can be a real tough one. We have definitely loved each other enough over the years to speak the truth. Sometimes that means confronting one another. And that can lead to defensiveness, angry words, a battle. For example, in the wake of a very difficult time, I said to a couple of sisters, “Well…I think I’ve come through this pretty well.” I definitely detected a look that passed between them. “What? Don’t you guys think I’m doing well, considering?” I stammered. “Well…Actually, you’ve been pretty angry…” they nodded in agreement. I was not happy and reacted with defensiveness and surprise (being a little dramatic, it was probably expressed as shock). I’m sure I walked away from that encounter pretty upset. But I did think about it. And their comment led me to regroup, watch for that anger, and work on changing it (this included counseling and prayer).
4. We forgive – This is such a key. Surely, I have hurt each one of my sisters with a harsh word, a selfish act, a sarcastic comment, and worse. I have neglected to include a sister, or been unavailable at a critical time of need, I have wrongly (or rightly) accused. And definitely I’ve been at the receiving end of all the above. If you have sisters, you know the drill. BUT, eventually I have had to come to my sister(s) humbly, swallowing my pride, even if I didn’t think I was wrong. I’ve had to ask for forgiveness for my part and expect nothing in return. Believe me, this has started with loud fights, and the occasional day or two of ignoring one another, but we just can’t get away with this for too long. And so we forgive, and we move on, and we do our best to try to forget. (To be honest, I believe forgiveness can require supernatural involvement, so God and prayer are essential components here!)
5. We agree to disagree – This seems to have come with “maturity.” Sure, I want to prove myself right. We all do to some degree. But some of this stuff is just not worth the wrestling. So we don’t agree…I still love you!
Regardless of the relationship, whether marriage, friendship, or family, these five steps can probably help us all get along a little better.
How about you? What do you do to keep the love in your relationships? What have you done to keep peace, especially in the long term? Is there someone you love you just need to forgive?
* If you aren’t familiar with The Word for You Today, a little daily devotional by Bob Gass, check it out at www.bobgass.com.