Why Do We Have Problems with Relationships?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
There’s something that destroys most husband-wife relationships, the same thing that destroys most father-son relationships, most mother-daughter relationships. The same thing that destroys roommate relationships, same thing that destroys team relationships, same thing that destroys church relationships. What is it that destroys most close relationships like husband-wife or business colleagues or friends? It’s the desire to make the other person what you think they should be — that’s it.
Finally, over the years, that’s what destroys these relationships. It’s your desire to make the other person what you think they should be. That’s why so few of us have deep friendships and so many of us have superficial acquaintances because we won’t extend to our closest friends and our dearest partners, the same freedom to be themselves that we extend to casual acquaintances. We won’t. We demand that they be what we think they should be and the result is we destroy our close relationships and this is what the power of evil in the world is after. He doesn’t want close relationships. He doesn’t want loving friendships. He doesn’t want husbands and wives or fathers and mothers or sons and daughters that are close to each other. He wants them to be separated. He wants only superficial acquaintances so that he can continue to divide and conquer.
So the thing that destroys most of our close relationships and friendships is simply this desire that we have that the other person should be and will be, and it is our job to make them what we think they ought to be, that’s it. It obtained in the Bible days. Moses, you remember had a brother called Aaron whom God had given him to be his spokesman because Moses was not eloquent and through all the plagues in Egypt, all the troubles with Pharaoh, Aaron and his sister Miriam were close to Moses. When the Israelites defeated the Amalekites, it was Aaron that held up Moses’ hands for hours so that the battle would prevail for the Israelites and yet there came a time in their relationship when they too fell into this old evil. You’ll find it in Numbers 12:1.
“Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman,” — that was it. So they was very close to Moses and went through all kinds of trials with him and yet there came a time in their relationship with Moses when they fell into the old trap that spoils our relationships. They started to talk to one another about Moses and they started to point the finger at him.
Now you might say, “Well, yeah that was obviously wrong. I mean Moses could marry whomever he wished. They had no right to do that, that’s plain and obvious”, but actually no, from Abraham’s day, God had forbidden the Israelites to marry anybody but an Israelite, and certainly forbidden them to marry the Cushites. So, actually, the strange thing is Aaron and Miriam were right in what they were pointing at, it was wrong. What they were saying was wrong with Moses, was wrong according to what God had shown the Israelites and according to their law, and isn’t it strange that still God struck Miriam temporarily with leprosy?
Not only because they were opposing the leader that God had appointed Moses, but also there was something wrong in their spirit. Loved ones, you see that in that next verse in verse 2, “And they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?’ And the
Lord heard it. Now, the man Moses was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth.” There was something wrong in their spirit. That’s what destroys a relationship.
Actually you can be right. You can be absolutely right in what you see to be wrong in your partner or your friend or your roommate or your colleague at business. You can be absolutely right in what you see, but yet God regards it as a leprous thing for you to begin to point the finger at them, for you to take to yourself the responsibility for making them what you think they should be. Now it was the same with Joseph’s brothers, if you look at Genesis 37.
Genesis 37:3, “Now Israel”, the father, “loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they only hated him the more. He said to them, ‘Hear this dream which I have dreamed: behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf arose and stood upright; and behold, your sheaves gathered round it, and bowed down to my sheaf.’”
I mean it was a pretty dumb thing to say even if he had that dream. You can see, that in a way, they were perfectly right, I mean the favoritism in the family and it wasn’t right of the father, we all know that in psychology. It wasn’t right of the father to have a favorite and it certainly was dumb of Joseph to tell that kind of a dream, even if he had it. But do you see that God still prospered Joseph and you remember, eventually brought the brothers to the point in their disastrous lives where they actually apologized to Joseph for doing that, because they could not speak peaceably with him.
Have you tried to change them by the way you speak to them? Have you? Have you tried to compel them to change by the way you don’t speak to them? You know it. We take to ourselves this responsibility and it’s what destroys the relationship. Doesn’t matter whether you are talking about husband-wife, father-son, brother-sister, woman and woman, man and man, doesn’t matter. That’s what spoils our relationships. We subtly, by our own psychological pressures, take it upon ourselves to make the other person what they should be. I’ll give you a subtler example of it. You ladies, I think will understand it but we men also.
2 Samuel 6:16, “As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal”, who was David’s wife, “Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.” She didn’t even do anything. She just despised him in her heart. She looked down on him. She thought how undignified for the king to do that. She began to judge him and set him aside as somebody light. Somebody that wasn’t worthy of her respect, that’s it.
See, you and I, we don’t even need to say anything. You know we don’t. We don’t need to say anything to our friends or our partners or our sons or daughters. We don’t need to say anything. We just, in our hearts, determine that our job is to make them what they should be by our subtle pressures and none of our relationships were meant to bear that burden. Do you see that? Our close relationships are not made or meant to bear that burden, they aren’t. They are not made to bear that burden that we put upon them.
Do you see why? The moment we start to take upon ourselves the responsibility of making our son or our daughter or our husband or our wife or our roommate or our business colleague, what we think they ought to be, we cease to be their husbands. We cease to be their wives. We cease to be their fathers, we cease to be their mothers, we cease to be their sons, we cease to be their daughters, we cease to be their colleagues, we cease to be their roommates and we become their judges and their gods, that’s it. We do, we do.
I know we think, “No, no you don’t need to do that, you can mix a little in it”, no you can’t. You do become their judges and their gods and you begin to take upon yourself a responsibility that you have not the wisdom or the power to take that of a God and a judge. Some of us say, “But isn’t that our responsibility?” I mean our responsibility in a close relationship is to try to help the other person to be such that they will get to heaven, and indeed to get them to enter into their full potential as human beings. God answers that very clearly for us loved ones, in a piece in I Corinthians 1:21.
I Corinthians 1:21, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” “Since in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom”, that’s what you exercise when you try to make your partner or your friend be what he or she ought to be. You use wisdom. You use the best of the world’s wisdom and world wisdom in the human sense is usually knowing right and wrong, knowing the difference between good and evil and laying that on the other person and that wisdom, God says, does nobody any good. Indeed, all it does is burden them with a sense of oughtness that they probably have already, but that doesn’t help them at all.
Now, you may say, “But don’t we have a responsibility to make them aware that they’re missing God or that they could be different or that they’re missing some of his life?” No, God appointed somebody far more divine than you to do that difficult and that very delicate task, and that person is doing it continually. He keeps on doing it even when you’re asleep. He is doing it all the time through myriad different ways and you need to leave it to that person. Here he is, he’s in John 16:8.
John 16:8, “And when he comes,” the Holy Spirit of course, when the Holy Spirit comes, “he will convince.” And you see the x, if you track it right down to the bottom left hand side of the page and the top of the footnotes there, it says, “or convict” because the Greek word is actually ‘convict’. And when the Holy Spirit comes, “he will convince,” or convict, “the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;” not sin because they do not do something that you think that they should do, but “concerning sin because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” The Holy Spirit will do that.
All you and I can lay on our friends in trying to correct them is innuendoes, innuendoes that make them feel they’re being got at and compulsive psychological techniques which just bring pressure upon them, that’s all. That’s all we can do. We cannot give them real insight into what the trouble is, nor can we give them the life to live above it. All we can do is give them little innuendoes, our subtle little innuendoes you know, that make them continually uncomfortable and that drive them away from us, and that spoil our relationship as friends or as colleagues or as partners or as fathers and mothers and sons and daughters. Or we exercise compulsive psychological pressures upon them from being late with the supper to something more subtle. But all we do is bring pressure upon them and strangely enough, all we do is destroy our relationships. That’s all we do.
You know, it must make our father weep when he sees some of us take beautiful relationships that are so dear to us and upon which we depend so much. And he sees us deliberately cutting them up, just cutting them up because we are beginning to take to ourselves a responsibility that isn’t ours, that isn’t meant to be ours, that we can’t exercise and that all it does is destroy the good relationship we have.
Now, if you say to me, “Well, I mean what are we to do in these close relationships? What are we to do then in these situations?” Oh, the Bible is very plain in this verse that we’ve been studying for several weeks, it’s Romans 15:5, “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus”. And the words that Bible says, “May the God of steadfastness” or you remember the word is patience and encouragement, “May the God of patience and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another in accord with Christ Jesus”.
We are meant to stop being God in the relationship. Stop giving our imitation of God to the other person and instead let God begin to impart his own nature to us, his own Spirit so that we will be to each other what God has been to us and He has always been to us. Will you look at it over the years? Look at the kind of person you have been through the years and look what God has been to you? He has been a God of patience and encouragement. He has been a God to you of always kindliness and tenderness and compassion and the God who kept on trying with you again and again and again, that’s what we’ve to be like to be to each other.
We’ve to let God impart his nature to us so that we are constant, patient and encouraging to our partners, to our friends, to our roommates to our sons to our daughters. And we’ve to let God continue the work of making them what they ought to be, that’s not our responsibility. We’ve to be to them what God has been to us. Loved ones, I’d remind you of a very vivid example of what God was to the apostles through Jesus, if you look at Matthew 26:67.
Matthew 26:67, “Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him saying, ‘Prophecy to us you Christ! Who is it that struck you?’ Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a maid came up to him, and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the Galilean.’ But he denied it before them all saying, ‘I do not know what you mean.’” And that was the scene. They spat in Jesus’ face and they struck him and slapped him and jived at him saying, “Prophecy to us you Christ”, and Peter at the same moment said, “I do not know what you mean”, when they charged him with being a follower. Now look at John 21:15.
John 21:15, “When they had finished breakfast”, this was after the resurrection, “Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’”
That’s Jesus. And you know that’s what he has been to you. I mean, you and I know that’s what God has been to us. I mean we have slapped him in the face, we have denied him and he has kept coming back to us with patience and encouragement encouraging us to go on. That’s what we’ve to be to each other.
Let God do the work of making our friends and our colleagues and our partners what he wants them to be. Our job is to be to them what God has been to us, always patient and encouraging. Why? Oh one plain reason. Second Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced
that one has died for all; therefore all have died.” And then verse 16, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” Because they’ve been changed, they’ve been changed.
The problem is not that our son or our daughter’s not been changed, the problem is not that our roommate has not been changed, the problem is not that our husband or wife has been changed, they were changed in Christ. They were crucified with him and they were resurrected in him and they have been changed, they don’t know it. They need help to know it. They don’t need you bringing a cross that will only destroy them, the cross of your bright little criticisms or your bright little insights or your bright little innuendoes, they don’t need that cross. That cross brings them only death. They need to enter into the cross in which they were included in Jesus. They need help to get into that.
That’s why they need your patience and your encouragement. You’re on a precipice almost vertical. It’s slippy. There are few footholds but there is a rope hanging down and you know all your friend has to do is hang on to that rope. And then that rope will pull him up the cliff and then pull you, but the person in front of you, your friend above you, is kicking and scraping the dust and kicking the stones and dirt back in your face. Not for one moment do you yell at them and start telling them what they’re doing wrong. You put your hand up under one of the feet that is kicking dust and dirt in your face and you endure it, and in patience you do it, and you encourage them. You say, “Reach up to that rope John, hold on to the rope and that will pull you up free”, that’s where we are. That’s what we have to do with each other.
We’ve to help each other to see that we’ve been changed. You’ve been changed. That’s great. What you’ve done that’s great! That was good, and really meaning it in your heart. Not just doing it as a trick, but really meaning it in your heart. Believing that your friend has been changed and encouraging them to see they’ve been changed and helping them up and sometimes the dirt and the dust and the stones will hit you in the face. Sometimes like Jesus, you’ll have to put your hand up because of the spitting and the beating and the blows, but with your other hand, you’ll have it under them reaching up and helping them, “Come on, get up, you’ve been changed”, that’s it loved ones.
What destroys our relationships is our determination to make each other what we should be by our subtle pressures. And all we need to do is let God give to us his patience and his encouragement for our friends and for our partners so that together we will live in unity in accord with Jesus. You’re meant to enjoy the relationships that you have. You’re not meant to correct the other person, you’re not made to make them like God, you’re not meant to give them all your deep insight and wisdom about life, you’re not. You’re meant to enjoy each other and to delight yourselves in each other and to have fun living together and to pray for them and encourage them and be patient with them and have a good time together in God’s world and trust God’s Spirit to put them right.
Would you think of the relationships where that applies to you and would you relax now this morning? You know, you know it as well as I know it. Would you deliberately now relax about those relationships? Would you just relax and let the burden go. And begin to enjoy the privilege that you have in having your husband or your wife by your side. Or having your mother or your father by your side. Or having your son or your daughter or your roommate or your colleague at business or your fellow student in the class would you just start enjoying each other? And letting God impart his patience and his encouragement to your heart so that you can show that patience and encouragement to
them. And then as you do that and begin to exercise faith for them, they’ll begin to realize they are changed, they have been changed and God’s Spirit will begin to make that change real in their lives. Let us pray.
Dear Father, we thank you for the great privilege so many of us in this room have. Of having friends, of having relatives who love us, of having husbands and wives, of having roommates, colleagues. Father, we ask your forgiveness for the way we have tried continually to make them what we think they should be. And Lord in that way to forfeit our position as their friend and to begin to take upon ourselves a function that we cannot fulfill, that of God and judge.
Lord, we now repent of that. We turn resolutely from that whole attitude. We give up all our armory of weapons and strategies by which we have tried to fulfill this purpose. And we let the strain drain away from our face muscles and from our head and our heart and we relax into this good relationship that You’ve given us. And Lord we put them in the hands that are alone safe and secure. We put them in your hands. And we thank you for them. And Lord we commit ourselves to allowing your patience and your encouragement that we have so often received — to allow that to express itself through us to them so that they’ll again enjoy us and be secure with us and be happy that they know us.
So Lord, we ask you to rebuild all the broken down fences and all the broken down walls so that again, these dear relationships will be safe and secure from all alarms. We ask you this in Jesus’ name. Amen.