The second descriptor for our second value, Loving Well, is:
We recognise that we all get things wrong at times, and so we handle frustration, conflict and relational breakdown well so that fear is overcome by love. We do this by taking responsibility for ourselves and by honest and healthy communication.
In the difficult task of genuinely leaning to love well, we will often fail. We can too easily fall into frustration with one another, then anger, judgement, blame-shifting and even gossip and slander. These are issues that the New Testament writers often had to address in the early church. They can lead to conflict, breakdown in relationships, fragmentation and even to total ruin of churches. Sadly, church history tells this story far too often. So if we are going to go for much better than this, we must create a culture in which we learn to resolve conflict really well.
It starts, first of all, by us being aware of what is going on inside of us, beneath the surface, which is why emotionally healthy spirituality is so important. And then we have to deliberately prepare our hearts so that we are predisposed to love well. Paul describes this as ‘clothing ourselves’ with the virtues of grace:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.Col.3:12
Because people are going to hurt us, let us down and challenge us, essential among these qualities are two frequently encouraged in the New Testament – forbearance and forgiveness:
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Col.3:13
And of course love:
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.Col.3:14
One reason why putting on love is so essential is that it deals with one of the main causes of our reactions, anger or withdrawal: fear. The Bible says:
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.1 John 4:18
Love is the antidote to fear. We may fear not being accepted, or being controlled, being devalued, overlooked etc. by another. But knowing that we are totally loved by God and determining to keep our love on no matter what undercuts that fear. We cannot control what others say and do. We can only take responsibility for ourselves and control ourselves, keeping our love on despite what others do. By us keeping our love on, it also begins to affect the fear in the other person.
If you want to cast out all the fear in your relationships, then you need to leave no room for doubt in people’s minds and hearts that you truly love them.Danny silk
So let’s create a culture like that.
Father, thank you for loving us unconditionally. And thank you that you love us enough to insist that we be honest and real about what’s really going on in our hearts. Give us the wisdom to deal with conflict really well. Help us not to try to control others, but to control ourselves and then simply love others. Amen