Communication is perhaps the most important of all human activities. Nearly everything that we do communicates. Even our silence communicates. People evaluate us based on our communication. They make decisions about future interactions with us based on our communication. As much as we communicate, it is amazing how often we don’t communicate well. Our message falls short. Our words are misinterpreted. Their meaning is often misunderstood. As a result communication gives way to conflict. Conflict is inevitable. However, the word of God prepares us for the conflicts.
Proverbs 15:1 state, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” How we respond to conflict determines what happens next. Intense rage can be cooled by a fitting word. A gentle response stops an erupting volcano. It is both the words themselves and how those words are communicated that bring calm to the chaos of wrath.
When we respond to the anger of others with abrasive or painful words, we are adding fuel to the fire. By matching word for word and tone for tone, what starts off as a lit match turns into a forest fire. We often end up having to apologize for what was said. And even after the apology, there is still a strain on the relationship because you cannot unsay words.
It is important to respond in a way that is consistent with who we are in Christ. People often have unresolved emotions in our lives that impact their interpersonal relationships. When a person’s anger is triggered, their response is often deeper than the situation that triggered their anger. For example, when your spouse gets upset about the way you say something, it can be tied to how their parents used to speak to them. So when you told your spouse, “You need to do…” that stirred up those feelings from their childhood. It took them to a place long before the two of you got married. The argument is more about your spouse and their relationship with their parent than it is about you. You never know what you represent to people.
When seeking to have a soft answer, give people the opportunity to be heard. Validate them as an individual. Let them know what you understand them to be saying. Clarify any miscommunication on your part. Be sure to own your role in the conflict. Even if your intentions were good, acknowledge the negative impact your words or actions had on the person. When people are heard, validated, and know that you take responsibility for your role in the conflict, it helps to turn anger away.
There is a fish market in Seattle whose customer service philosophy has been shared throughout the corporate and organizational world. The FISH Philosophy is a simple approach that has significant impact. This model can be beneficial beyond the boardroom. This approach can help parents prioritize what is important in a child’s life.
As a parent, it is easy to be overwhelmed by all there is that must be done, should be done, could be done, and would be nice to do. It is impossible to do it all. Try simplifying your parenting by doing these four things with your children and for your children.
Be There. Be emotionally present for your child. It shows your child that he or she is valued. Don’t just be in the same room or the same house. Be engaged and attentive. This strengthens your relationship with your child and communicates a very powerful message to your child: “You matter to me.”
Play. Tap into your natural way of being creative, enthusiastic and having fun. Dr. Calvin Bowers once said to me that having children gives you an excuse to play like a child. Try making home a fun place where children can escape the madness of the world. Play reduces stress and increases creativity.
Make Their Day. Find simple ways to serve or delight your children in a meaningful, memorable way. It’s about contributing to your child’s life—not because you want something, but because that’s the person you want to be. Teach them service by your example of serving. Remember, Jesus served the disciples. You can serve your child (see Matthew 20:28 and John 13:1-10).
Choose Your Attitude. Take responsibility for how you respond to what life throws at you. We decide how we will respond to crises, disappointments, hurts, success, and victories. Our choice affects our children. Our response to our children will be the most impactful example that they have on how to respond to their children. Ask yourself: “Is my attitude modeling Christ for my children? Is it helping me to be the person I want to be?” Remember to allow the attitude of Christ to be your attitude (Philippians 2:5).
Last week, we looked at God’s instructions to His people regarding those who are foreigners and strangers. An examination of scriptures shows that Christians should seek to build bridges, not barriers. We live in a time when emotions regarding political and social issues are running high. Undoubtedly, you will encounter someone who holds a different view on the issues than you. It is important for God’s people to manifest the Spirit of Christ in dealing with those with whom we differ. Here are some considerations as you interact with non-Christians who may hold view that is different from yours.
Seek to understand their perspective. When we strive to understand the other person’s point of view, it makes that person less defensive. Try asking more questions and making fewer statements. Make sure you understand what they are actually saying, and not what you think they are saying.
Do your homework. There is virtually no news source that is unbiased. There are ideologies and agendas that shape what is reported in the media and how it is reported. When possible, get your information directly from the source. If the media is referencing a proposed bill, city ordinance, or executive order, try to read the document itself. You will be able to have more than just a sound bite knowledge of the issues. Your perspective should be informed by the facts. When you examine the facts, you may discover that you actually agree with some of the proposed legislation.
Agree when there is agreement. We begin to build bridges by finding common ground. When you look for agreement, you can build trust and remove barriers. When you start with agreement, it is easier to listen to one another when you disagree.
Have realistic expectations. We do not live in a Christian culture. While scripture shapes our view of the world and morality, that is not the case for everyone. Do not expect people who are not Christians to hold biblical viewpoints. Additionally, don’t expect the government to be an extension of the church.
Remember that Jesus was neither a Democrat nor a Republican. If Jesus came in the flesh to live in 21st century, I doubt that he would endorse either political party. He would likely challenge the moral views of Democrats, while at the same time challenge the hypocrisy of Republicans. He would probably commend the Democrats for their concern for the poor, and the Republicans for their concern for the unborn.
As our nation becomes more and more divided, Christians should serve as peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). We can help facilitate meaningful conversations that remove barriers and build bridges. We should be voices of reason and truth in a world that so desperately need both.
[Part 1] Immigration is a hot button topic in America. President Trump’s recent executive order that temporarily restricts entrance into the United States for travelers from certain countries has further added to the feelings and fury. The executive order calls for a 90 day halt entry into the U.S. from those living in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also calls for a 120 day suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. The stated purpose of the temporary ban is to allow time “to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.”
This purpose of this Reflections is not to argue for or against the executive order. The goal is to begin to explore the question, “What guidance, if any, does the Bible give on the issue of immigration?” Any view that Christians hold should be informed and shaped by the Word of God.
In the Old Testament God gave Israel both religious and civil law. Those outside of Israel (referred to in scripture as strangers and aliens) were not to be mistreated or oppressed. They were to be welcomed and loved as though they were part of the people of God (Leviticus 19:33-34). God’s people were even told to assist them with their daily needs (Leviticus 19:10).
Outsiders were allowed to participate in the religious ceremonies of Israel, as long as they adhered to God’s law. God’s people were not to change God’s law to accommodate outsiders (Exodus 12:48, Numbers 15:14-16). Additionally, there were religious laws placed on God’s people that were not imposed on strangers (Deuteronomy 14:21).
In Numbers 35, God gives His people instructions for establishing cities of refuge for natives and for strangers. These cities were to be safe places for aliens.
God’s expectations regarding the treatment of outsiders did not change after Christ died. The principles in the Law are reinforced in the New Testament. Christians are commanded to be hospitable. The Greek word translated as hospitality means to be friendly to strangers. We are also instructed to love others as we love ourselves and to do good to all people (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 6:10).
The verses above suggest that Christians should seek to build bridges, not barriers. We must remember that we are Christians first, and then Americans. Whether we identify ourselves as Democrats or Republicans, our politics and patriotism must be shaped by the Prince of Peace.
Minister Ross' creativity, wisdom, and insight have inspired community, church and corporate audiences throughout the United States.