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No one notices when you keep your cool, but when you don’t, everyone feels it... especially those closest to you. In the message, we explore what to do when emotions are high and it’s your move.
Gods Plan to Restore
The Heat of the Moment
Dealing With Our Crazy Problem
Good morning, everyone. I'm so glad you're here. We'd love to welcome you back again. It's so fun to see everybody engaging together. All of the research in church world says everybody's least favorite part of church is the meet and greet. Well, it's our favorite at Watermark. I think most places may have trouble getting people to actually talk to each other. Here we have trouble getting you to stop, which is a great thing to have happen.
My name is Garrett. It's great to see you this morning. If we've never met before, I serve on staff with our young adults ministry here. It's called The Porch. It meets on Tuesday night. What we get a chance to do there is see lives change consistently, and it's all due to God. It's great to be hanging out with you on a Sunday morning as a Fort Worth family.
We're in the second week of a three-part series on conflict. I'm going to start with a story. My sister called me not too many months ago, and she was absolutely outraged. She was angry. She said, "Somebody stole $300 from me." I said, "Oh no. Not that. That's terrible. I hate that. What did you do?" She said, "Well, I went to my bank statement and looked to see where it happened, and it was a gas station ATM."
I was like, "Oh, somebody got your debit card. What a bummer. You should really shut that down. You should do something." I said, "Well, what did you do next?" She said, "Well, I went to the gas station and asked them to see the tape." I was like, "That's pretty intense. I'm impressed." She said, "And guess what!" I said, "What?" She said, "It was our cousin!" So I hit the "mute" button and laughed and said, "It was our cousin." Then I took it off "mute" and I said, "That's terrible. I'm so sorry that happened."
By the way, if you're worried your family might have too much drama or you're like, "I don't know if we're going to fit in at church," I would like to welcome you home to Watermark, where we won't steal your money but if somebody does we may talk about it in public. So I said, "Oh no. That's just terrible. Are you sure it was her?" She said, "Yes, I'm sure." These were best buds. These are friends. These are tight people, first cousins and everything.
She said, "Yes, I'm certain it was her. It was clearly her. I remembered I let her borrow my debit card, like 'Go get gas' or something." I said, "Okay. Well, what are you going to do now?" She said, "Well, I'm just going to end the relationship. I'm done. If you cross me like that, I'm just done." I had to hit "mute." You know how you used to have to hold the phone away from your face and kind of muffle your laugh a little bit? Now you just hit "mute" and go to town.
So I muted it and laughed again and unmuted it, and I said, "All right, look. Let's just think about that. What percentage of your friends are going to disappoint you at some point in your life?" She said, correctly, "100 percent." I said, "Okay. If 100 percent of the people you're in a relationship with in your life are going to disappoint you and as soon as they do you just end the relationship, how many friendships or relationships do you actually end up with?" She correctly said, "Zero."
I said, "Look. I know for two reasons there is probably no chance you're going to listen to me, and I know I am way removed from the situation. I know in the heat of the moment… I hear a lot of heat of the moment coming out in what you're saying. I know you're frustrated, and I know I'm your older brother, which means you're not going to listen to me, and I know I work at a church as a pastor, so you hear this kind of stuff all the time.
I know I'm the last person you're going to listen to, but I just would like to say before you end the relationship in the heat of the moment I would love for you to reconsider. The same thing is true here that's true in every relationship in your life. When the heat of the conflict gets turned up, you have two choices with the relationship: you can keep it or you can lose it. I would love for you to think about that."
Thankfully, they did choose to reconcile. My sister, to her credit, did choose to forgive. They did move toward each other, and their friendship is back on. Thick as thieves, you might say. They're back. I'd love to talk this morning about one little specific part of conflict, one little narrow part of the conflict experience. I'm not going to try to cover the whole conflict experience. I'm going to try to talk about one little narrow but very, very important part of the conflict experience.
If you win in this little part of conflict, if you win the battle against yourself in this one little part of conflict, the victory will seem small, but if you lose the battle I'm going to talk about today, the losses will be huge. I'm going to talk today about The Heat of the Moment. What do you do in the heat of conflict? The heat of the moment is when your emotions go high. The heat of the moment is when you're really frustrated. The heat of the moment is when you're angry.
The heat of the moment is when somebody has been wrong. Maybe somebodies have been wrong. Maybe somebody has been wrong for a long time and it is high time for you to be right. You have a case, and you are correct, and there is no question about it. You are justified, and you're putting your foot down. The buck stops here, and you are just there. That's the heat of the moment.
What you do in those moments matters a lot. If you win the victory of keeping it together and staying composed, the victory seems really small and maybe nobody would even notice, but if you lose the battle against the heat of the moment, if you become engulfed in the flames yourself and the anger or the emotion takes over, the losses can be absolutely huge for you and your relationships. So I'm going to talk today about the heat of the moment.
We've all seen in our own lives and for others what happens when that battle for self-control, when the frustrations are high… We've seen what happens. We've all sent that fiery email we should have waited on. We've all said something to that boss or that friend, like, "I probably should have waited that one out. I should have slept on that one." We've all seen that happen. Those cases are pretty easy. You walk in, you apologize, you say, "Hey, I shouldn't have done that; it was a moment of frustration," and then you just get back on track.
But the stakes sometimes can be much higher. Some of you may have grown up in a situation where you saw your parents have these massive meltdowns, these explosive, huge arguments. It felt like the heat of the moment… It almost felt like, "When is there a cool moment? There's just constant turmoil." As a child, you could see it so clearly. Even as a kid you could tell, "Hey, the problem here is not the content of the conversation. The main problem is it's just explosive. The heat of the moment has completely taken over."
Sometimes entire marriages are not just affected but sometimes they're lost, not because the good times aren't great but because the heat of the moment was too much, too often, too frequent, too hot, and nobody could seem to manage when that frustration would rise up. Nobody could seem to do the right thing next. People end up in court, in prison because of the heat of the moment. Think about this. How powerful is this? Some of the moments you regret most in life, some of your biggest relational mistakes that you think about when you get the lowlight reel going…
Some of those things are things you said that you don't even believe anymore. In fact, you didn't even believe them an hour later, but they came out, and now you're having trouble convincing someone you care about most that you don't really think that, that it was just a moment of frustration, because when you lose the battle in the heat of the moment you convince them you finally said what you've always thought when, instead, you said something you have never thought. That's the power of the heat of the moment.
I want to hear today from someone who is the brother of Jesus. His name is James. At some point, James became convinced his brother was God, which is a great defense for the Christian faith if you think about it. What would your brother have to do to convince you he was God? James became convinced that his brother Jesus was God, and he became a follower of Jesus and a leader of the early church.
He wrote many letters to the church. We have one of them, and it is called the book of James. (They got creative when they titled it.) So, we're going to read from the book of James today and hear what he has to say. He has a lot to say about helping the church with all kinds of things, including…you guessed it…the heat of the moment in the midst of conflict. I can't wait for you to hear it. Here's what he has to say. This is James 1:19.
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this…" Some people are notetakers. Some people aren't notetakers. James says everybody is a notetaker on this one. "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…" Here's the thing about the heat of the moment: it just comes right out. It's the hardest thing you could possibly do to actually stop and listen rather than to speak, but James says, "Be quick to listen, slow to speak." Very slow.
I have to confess before I go any farther. I don't like slow anything. I don't want to be a hypocrite up here. I would just like you to know I get in trouble when I rush. I don't like slow anything. I don't like slow restaurants. I don't like slow drivers in the left lane…or any lane. I don't like slow anything. I don't like slow conversations. Speed as much as anything has gotten me in more trouble than anything else in my life. I don't like slow. I just want to let you know I am a struggler when it comes to this text.
James says be really, really, really slow to speak. Why would he say that? I think it's because slow gives you time to study. Slow gives you time to learn. Slow gives you time to gather information, gather perspective.
My dad loves golf. He watches a lot of it. I can't watch very much of it. It's a little too slow for me. What I've noticed is… I don't know a lot about golf. I've played a little bit, but I know this is the pattern. They hit the ball hundreds of yards, not very precise. They whack this ball forever, but then finally the ball lands on a green, which is like a landing area maybe the size of this stage, maybe smaller, sometimes much bigger.
When the ball lands on the green, all of a sudden the game slows down and becomes a lot more studious. Here's what they do. There's a little hole in the ground they're trying to gently tap the ball into. (I'm just speaking as if you've never seen a game of golf in your life.) There's a hole in the ground. Say it's right here. Then let's say their ball lands about right here.
Well, they'll just do something amazing. They'll come back behind their ball and they'll look, and then they'll look more. Then you look up and you need a new haircut, and they're still looking at the ball. Then they'll squat down, and then they'll get their friend to come look at it, and then they'll have a conversation about what they see.
Then, most interesting, they walk on the other side, the entire other side. It takes a long time to walk. There's not even a ball over here. The ball is on the other side of the hole, and they do the same thing. They just sit here and look and study. Now why would they walk from here to there? Not because the first information wasn't true but because the first information wasn't enough. It's not that they necessarily disbelieved what they saw from the first perspective. They just knew their information wasn't complete until they saw from the other end.
The problem with the heat of the moment is not your information or your narrative or your frustration or your point or your case. The problem with the heat of the moment is not that it's no longer automatically false. Just because you get frustrated, your point still might be true. The way you see the situation, the way you see the conflict might still be completely true, and just because you're frustrated doesn't mean it's not true anymore.
The lie of the heat of the moment is that you start to believe your information is enough. That's the problem. Not that just because you get frustrated you're automatically wrong. It's that we start to believe our information is enough, and there's somebody standing on the other side who believes their information is enough, and you can imagine how that goes. Listen to what comes next. You already know.
"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…" Then here's the next step if that doesn't happen. "…slow to become angry…" Of course, because anger is the voice of the unheard. If you have two teachers and no listeners, if you have two speakers and no listeners, if you have no learners in the room, then you're going to get two people who are completely and utterly frustrated at each other.
Here is how you get two perfectly sane people driving each other crazy, maybe even calling each other crazy. It's when one person has a little piece of truth they are committed to with their whole being, and then another person has a piece of truth and is committed to it with their whole being. They might even both be right. They might even both be reasonable. They might even both be true, but what happens is no one is heard.
What happens is we want to feel sane; therefore, after a few exchanges that are ineffective, where I'm talking about my point and you're talking about your point, all of a sudden you get two sane people who in order to feel sane have to convince themselves the other person is insane. You start to say things like, "Well, he's just crazy" or "Well, she's just crazy. Well, that's just irrational. That's just off the wall." Well, it might not be. It might be that you haven't yet taken the time to walk around and see from another perspective.
It might be that your truth, even though true in a conflict, is not exhaustive. No matter how true your frustration may be, no matter how justified it is, the truth is your information is not enough. Does the other person need your perspective in a conflict? Yes. Do you need theirs? James says you need their perspective first. You need to gather more information, because if you get angry… Here's the big because: "…because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires."
This is what you sacrifice. When you get into the heat of the moment and the heat of the moment kind of wins and you want to be right worse than anything else, ironically, it says you lose the rightness God desires for you. I think it's interesting he uses the word righteousness. Isn't that how the conflict starts? Isn't that where the heat of the moment comes from? We want to be right. We want to feel right.
The thing that continues to get us amped up and get that emotion going is we want to be right and we feel right and the other person is wrong, and the more time goes on the more you're convinced they are just a boat of wrong floating through your sea of right. God says if you let yourself get angry, what's going to happen is you're going to lose your rightness. Sometimes when you feel the most right you might be the most wrong because of your anger.
If you feel unheard, that's the reflex you're all going to feel, but James is trying to warn you. If you're quick to speak and not quick to listen, the other person might do the same thing. If that happens, then you're both probably going to be quick to become angry. If that happens, you both lose, and you already know that. You lose what God wants for you. Ironically, you lose the rightness you want for you right in the middle of a conflict. That's the power of the heat of the moment. Quick to listen. Slow to speak.
I want to make a turn here for the rest of the message. I'd love to speak really practically about what to do next, because some of you are very practical and are thinking, "Okay, what do I do now?" Quick to listen. You can't listen forever. You have to eventually say something in the conflict. You have to push the ball forward. You actually have to make moves. You have to make decisions, and you actually have to start to speak.
What I'd love to do is turn the next few minutes together into maybe even a little bit of a TED talk format or a workshop. I'd love to just offer everything I can offer you over the next couple of minutes, and you can take what's helpful and leave the rest. Quick to listen is certainly the first thing you need to do whenever the heat of the moment has struck, but what do you do then? I'm going to give you three things, and that's how we'll finish our time. First, sort the conflict; second, contain the conflict; and third, reconcile the conflict.
1._ Sort the conflict_. What does that mean? It means decide whether it's too small to be a real conflict. First you have to decide, "Hey, is this even big enough to really matter? Is this even big enough to really bother or is this the small stuff?" Nobody wants to do the small stuff. Nobody wants to invest all their energy and all their relationships and all this effort into the small stuff. None of us want to do that. In fact, that's how we insult each other in a conflict. "You're just being petty. That's just petty." Nobody wants to be petty.
The Conflict Field Guide at Watermark is a document we've been using for years to help us with this, and it says it this way: "Don't sweat the small stuff." If it's small stuff, don't even sweat it. Before you move forward in the conflict, first just make sure it's a real conflict, because if it's not, you don't want to waste your energy on it. You don't want to be that petty person who is bothered.
You're like, "What's a small offense?" A small offense would be like they're five to ten minutes late to a meeting, they go five miles an hour over the speed limit, or they make Community Group go a little bit too long. Now, repeated, that can be an offense. I'm just going to let you know. But if that just happens to happen every once in a while, that's small stuff. What the Bible says to do with it is actually to not address the small stuff. Can you believe that?
Proverbs 19:11: "…it is to one's glory to overlook an offense." It is to one's credit to overlook an offense. The Bible says if you're a person who goes around and is easily bothered and every little thing bothers you and you just find yourself easily frustrated at the little things people do around you, it is not to your credit, but if you can be a person who gives other people wide lanes of grace to run or walk or drive in, that's to your credit, because people are going to throw little small annoyances at you constantly. It's no different in church.
Some of you are new to Watermark and you're like, "Is that true here too?" Yes. Every human being eventually is going to throw little things at you. The Bible says if you can overlook it you should. It's to one's glory to overlook an offense. Don't sweat the small stuff. But as you sort the conflict, sometimes you're going to find it is not small stuff. Sometimes it's dishonoring to God, which automatically puts it in the "big stuff" bucket.
Sometimes it hurts relationships. Sometimes someone is doing something that's hurting people around them, maybe even hurting you, and that automatically puts it in the "Hey, that's significant" side of things. Sometimes people are doing things that are actually harmful to themselves in the midst of all that, and that automatically sorts the conflict in the more significant side of things, not in the overlook category.
As you sort the conflict, you really have two options. You can either overlook it or you can move toward number two and number three, which is to contain the conflict and then reconcile the conflict. Here's a way you can think about sorting the conflict. It works a little bit like bad food. Most of us have had bad food at a restaurant, and there are some consequences to that down the road. There are kind of two ways that can go.
One is it's kind of uncomfortable for an hour or two, and you're like, "Oh man. I think they did something wrong. Do you think it was the food? It must have been. That just doesn't feel very good, but I think I'm going to be able to ride it out. It's going to be okay. I think it's just going to be some discomfort." Then there's this entirely different category. That's where you eat the food and you immediately know, "That is coming back up with conviction. This food…I'm going to see that again. It feels bad. It's going to come out."
When you feel that, you automatically know… Think about this in terms of conflict. Sometimes people will bother you and they'll do something that's just frustrating. If that happens and you go, "You know what? Yes, that was not the most considerate move. Yes, I feel like I should have been invited to that. Yes, I feel like they should have been a little more polite…" If it's small like that, it might be the hour or two thing, where you're like, "Okay, it's a little uncomfortable but it's going to end up okay," but if it's something big…
If it keeps coming back up again and again in your mind, that's the big stuff. If you're wondering if that's the big stuff, it is. If it keeps rising to the surface in your mind, if you're driving down the road and having imaginary conversations and winning awesome arguments with everybody watching, that's the big stuff. If you're driving down the road and you're like, "Well, she deserves it. Well, somebody has to say something…"
If you're driving down the road and having this conversation with yourself, that is the big stuff, I promise. All the time, 100 percent of the time. If it is affecting you, if you tend to avoid… You're like, "Oh, they're here? I'm going that way," that is the big stuff. There is a problem there. It's hurting their relationship, maybe with you. So the first step is you have to sort the conflict. Is the conflict overlookable, truly? If it is, you should overlook it. It'll be to your credit.
It it's not, if it's coming back in your mind and you can tell there's a little bit of energy there and some angst there and the heat of the moment kind of comes up every time you think about it, then that's the big stuff and you should move on down the road of the conflict resolution process. So, first, sort the conflict. First decide.
2._ Contain the conflict._ This is so big. Please listen to this. If you don't listen to anything else today, you should listen to this. Contain the conflict. That means do not talk about it to uninvolved people. Do not address your grievances with a person to a person who is not them. I don't know why this is, but there's something in all of us that wants to do this.
I don't know what it is. I don't know what to call it, but there's some reflex inside all of us that when person A offends us we go to person B and we're like, "Can you believe person A? Unbelievable." There's just something in us that we don't naturally respond back to the actual offender. When someone frustrates us, it's natural for us to go to everybody else or maybe just one other person (your safe place, if you will) and talk to them about it.
We all have it, but it is crucial not to spread our conflicts. We want to contain the conflict. You don't want it to spread like wildfire throughout a room or throughout a church or throughout a family or throughout an organization. That just doesn't work well. Contain, contain, contain the conflict. Why? Because the Bible says "A whisperer separates close friends." A whisperer, or a gossip, separates close friends.
You're going to actually separate people if you do that, because you're going to affect what person B thinks about person A while they're not even there, and that's not fair to them. You wouldn't want somebody to do that to you, and you're actually going around hurting relationships. Did you know a church is nothing if not a web of relationships? You show me unhealthy relationships and I'll show you an unhealthy church. You show me healthy relationships and I'll show you a healthy church.
If you run around whispering your grievances and don't contain your conflicts, you are going to weaken not only your relationships, because you affect other people's opinion of you, but you're going to weaken the church itself. That's the power of gossip and whispering. The biggest defense (I hear this one) of someone who is a committed gossip is they say, "Well, I only speak the truth."
Listen. Proverbs 16:28 doesn't say a liar separates close friends; it says a whisperer separates close friends. Your whispered, suggestive truths are separating close friends. That's the problem. Think about this. It's worse that it's true. You're secretly saying people's worst about them. How powerfully discouraging to say the true things about someone that are negative. That sounds more like Satan than God. Satan is called the Accuser of the brothers. Don't join him.
Don't speak evil or suggested frustration and spread your conflict. Contain the conflict. Here's a good rule of thumb: do not discuss a problem to someone unless you are making them a part of the solution. If you need to go talk to a third party, don't discuss the problem with a person unless you're going to make them a part of the solution. That could be from a counseling you perspective or from a coming with you perspective, but do not invite someone into a problem that involves someone else unless you are making that third party now a part of the solution.
Here's the problem on this one. We're really sneaky about this. We cover up the way we spread conflict really, really, really well. Nobody ever just comes out and says, "Hey, I'm about to whisper, and I'm going to separate some close friends here." Nobody does that. Nobody throws a warning sign out there. "Hey, I'm about to gossip." Nobody does that. That's not the way we work. We have a variety of ways we cover this up. Here a few of them. You might recognize some of these.
One is the prayer request. That's the laughter of the guilty right there. The prayer request. "Guys, please pray for my wife. She's super disrespectful and curses at me. I think she has an anger problem. Please pray for her. She's really struggling." That's not a prayer request. That's you not containing your conflict. Did you know that when you do that you're actually shaping what other people think about your wife and you're going to regret that later? Guess who's going to find out: her. You lose. You can't do that. Don't spread your conflict in that way.
Here's another way we cover it up: false concern. "I'm just really concerned." It sounds like this: "Hey, I'm worried about my roommate. He just eats up all my food and then disappears for days on end. He's super antisocial. I'm really worried about him." You're not worried. You're frustrated. You're spreading the conflict. He's eating all your food and is super antisocial, and you don't like it. You're not concerned. That's gossip.
Here's another one: false pity. Here's how we cover up spreading conflict. I also call this one nasty nice. Nasty nice is whenever you say, "Bless their heart" and that's your permission slip to say whatever you want to about them after that. "Oh, bless her heart. She's just a little slow." You can't say that. You can't say, "Bless their heart" and then say whatever you want to say. That's not your permission slip. You cannot do that. That is gossip. That's not concern.
Here's my least favorite one: self-therapy, also known as the vent. "Hey, I just needed to get that off my chest. Thanks for being a safe place for me." Sound familiar? "Hey, I just needed to vent to someone." I would love to share this with you. The Bible uses the word vent about people twice. Sometimes it uses the word vent about God venting his frustration onto evil people, but it uses the English word vent about people venting, in the way we normally use it, twice.
I want you to see both of them. This is super important. This is a street worth walking down. We're talking about sorting our conflicts and then containing our conflicts. I know the vent has made its way somehow into Christian reality when it's not. So I would love for you to interact with both times the Bible talks about venting. I'd love for you to see them for yourself.
The first is in the book of Job. If you happen to know the book of Job, Job was having a really bad time in life, and he had some friends around him who were no friends at all. They had bad theology and gave him bad counsel. The youngest and dumbest of the friends around Job who was giving the worst counsel kind of gave a little warning that he was about to speak. This is all the way in Job, chapter 32.
If you've read Job, they kind of kick it around the circle a bunch of times. It's a conversation between about four people. The youngest and most foolish is getting ready to speak, and here's how he announces himself. Listen to this. "I also will answer with my share; I also will declare my opinion." Why? Because your opinion is good? Nope. Look at what's next. "For I am full of words; the spirit within me constrains me.""I just can't help it. Everything inside me just says I have to speak. I'm full of words."
"Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins ready to burst." We don't do this anymore because we've invented glass bottles, but a long time ago they would put wine in a skin and it would actually expand. What this young man is saying… This is not Job's voice. This is a young foolish man who's about to give counsel when it would be better to be quiet. He says, "My opinions are expanding inside of me. I have to say something. If I don't say anything I'm going to explode."
Have you ever felt that way? "Oh, I just have to get this off my chest. I have to say something." Then he says… Listen to this. This will show you something is wrong. "I must speak, that I may find relief…" Not "I must speak to help the situation." Not "I must speak in order to actually do something productive." Not "I must speak in order to build up the body of Christ." "I must speak that I may find relief." Do you hear that? This is self-therapy for him.
"…I must open my lips and answer." Then comes out a bunch of foolishness. He just can't help himself. His opinions are rising up. This is not a compliment in the Bible. This is an example of what not to do from the Bible. "I must speak, that I may find relief." That's the first time the Bible says the word vent. The second time is more direct. Proverbs 29:11: "A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back." This version on the screen says, "Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end."
Those are the only two times the English word vent appears in the NIV or the ESV. The only two times. I would love for everybody to answer with conviction, a one-word answer. Super easy. Is there such a thing as a Christian vent? No. It absolutely does not exist. It is nowhere in the Bible. There is no such thing. It causes harm, and you are going the way of the fool if you just have to get your spirit out there.
There is no such thing as cornering someone and saying, "Hey, can you just be my safe place? I need to get some stuff off my chest." That does not exist anywhere in the Bible other than to say fools do that. The Bible warns against it. There is no "Thanks for being a safe place for me." In fact, if you go around saying, "Thanks for being a safe place for me" in terms of venting… I don't mean in terms of a healthy relationship. We all need safe places when it comes to healthy relationships and good conversations.
But if you vent about others and call that your safe place, you are unsafe for the relationships in the church around you, because you're separating close friends. Don't do that. Contain the conflict. I can hear some of you in my head saying, "Is that even healthy? That can't be good. I should not keep this to myself." I'm glad you said that, and I love when your questions agree with my outline, by the way.
The next step is to actually reconcile the conflict. You shouldn't keep it to yourself. I agree. God agrees. You should not keep your conflict inside. You go, "Well, what's my alternative to venting?" It says it right there in the Scripture. A wise person quietly holds back their spirit. In an act of self-control, hold back the heat of the moment until you cool off, and then decide with your brain what to do next. Wait. Quietly hold it back. Finally, you're going to need to act.
3._ Reconcile the conflict. You actually take steps. Go and reconcile the conflict directly, lovingly, and soon. _Directly (right to the person), lovingly (kind-hearted)… "Hey, there's something between us right now. You might not have even known about it, but I would love to talk with you about this, because I care about our relationship. Let's talk." Directly, lovingly, and soon. Why soon? Listen to Jesus in Matthew, chapter 5.
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar…" Meaning, if you're doing the most sacred, uninterruptible thing you can possibly think of. "…and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you…" Or assumedly, if you have something against them. "…leave your gift there in front of the altar."
Stop the worship service. Stop church. Literally walk out. Leave what you were doing there. Leave your religious rite. Leave your quiet time. Leave your Community Group. Do whatever you need to do. What God is saying is he wants you to relate well with them before you relate well with him. That's massive. I've had people come up to me in this room, in fact, when I was standing in worship in those songs we sang earlier…
People in that moment of the church service have tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hey, because of what Jesus said, I'd love to invest a couple of minutes in our relationship. Could we step outside the room for a second and just talk?" I say, "Yes, that would make me joyful," because I don't want to be in here lifting my hands singing songs to Jesus while it's not well with me and the people in this room. I don't want to do that. Jesus tells us not to do that.
So go directly, go lovingly, and go soon. Reconcile the conflict. First, sort the conflict. Don't sweat the small stuff. Secondly, contain the conflict. Don't spread the big stuff. Thirdly, reconcile the conflict. Go directly, go lovingly, and go soon. I know that was plenty of content. Can you imagine for a second if you started to practice that what would happen in your life?
Can you imagine how different it would be, Dad, in the house if Dad did that? Can you imagine how different it would have been if your dad had done that? Can you imagine how different it would be, Mom, in your marriage if you started to practice this? If you're a boss or you have employees, how different would it be in your office if you chose to sort your conflict? "Hey, I'm not going to give huge reactions to small things."
If you chose to contain the conflict? "Hey, I'm not going to go down the hall and turn into the wrong office and start to share this. I'm going to turn into the office of the person it actually affects." Can you imagine how different it would be if you directly, lovingly, and quickly went to the people around you? It would change everything. It would change the culture of your relationships. This is powerful, powerful stuff.
There are new people in this room every single week, and I want you to know we know you're here. We're glad you're here. By the way, if you've been away from God or away from church and this is not really your thing and you're here this morning, I would love to tell you, particularly, that this is a great way you can kind of plug and play with what the Bible tells you to do. You don't even have to sign on yet to be a Christian if you don't want to.
If you're still kind of testing the waters and you want to see if this is for you, why don't you take these things and try them in your life, in your relationships, and see what happens? People are going to notice. People are going to start to come up to you and go, "Hey, what happened to you? What's different? Are you turning over a new leaf? What is the deal here?" Here's the thing. You don't even have to give church any credit. You just say, "I've been thinking." You don't have to give anybody any credit. This will change everything around you.
It'll change your relationships, it'll change your marriage, it'll change your office…if you decide, "I'm not going to give full vent to my spirit. I'm not going to look for a safe place where I can destroy another person. What I am going to actually do is wait quietly and hold my spirit back. I'm not going to lose the battle to the heat of the moment. I'm going to decide with my brain what to do next. I'm not going to let my opinion swell up inside me." I'm going to be quick to listen, slow to speak. I'm going to sort my conflict, contain it, and then reconcile it.
I'd love to finish with this story. My wife and I just went to do a wedding in California last weekend. The wedding was on a Sunday. We flew out on Saturday, so this was about eight days ago. We got to San Francisco very early in the morning, and our bag was not there. I know some of you have had this happen.
So we went to the armpit of the entire galaxy, which is the lost luggage counter. There was a very nice woman behind there, and she said, "We will deliver your bag to you. Are you within 250 miles of San Francisco?" I said, "Yes, we are." She said, "We will deliver your bag to you between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m." I said, "That is fantastic news. We will look for the bag between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m."
She said, "What's the address?" I looked at my wife, and she said, "Well, between 7:00 and 9:00 we're at the rehearsal dinner, so give them the address to the restaurant." I said, "Are you sure it will be between 7:00 and 9:00? Because I'm going to give you the address to the restaurant." She said, "Between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. it will be there." So I said, "Okay. Well, here's the address to this restaurant."
She said, "Between 7:00 and 9:00 it will be there, but you should still call your delivery company," which was a different company, which is super convenient. (That was a little vent right there. Sorry about that. A little fire right there.) She said, "You should definitely call the delivery company still at 3:00 p.m. just to make sure everything is confirmed." I said, "We will absolutely do that."
So 3:00 p.m. rolls around. We still have not gotten to check into our little bed and breakfast. We've been in the transportation system all day. We're tired and not in the best mood. You know how it is when your possessions have been taken away from you. It shouldn't matter, but then all of a sudden it starts to matter. You're like, "She's going to have to wear the same clothes she flew in to the rehearsal dinner," and all of a sudden it starts to matter, and you get tired and frustrated. Some of you have lost a bag and know how this is.
So my wife calls the delivery company at 3:00. She says, "Hi, my name is Gabi, and you guys have one of my bags. I just wanted to call and make sure you guys are going to have the bag to this address between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m." This guy starts going off for reasons we still don't know and are mystified by, frankly. He just starts talking, and his tone goes up. I can kind of hear him, and she kind of goes like that. Her face is first appalled, but then I can tell she's upset, because it has been a long day, and that just makes me like, "Oh!" I'm so over-the-top frustrated.
So I held out my hand for the phone. She handed me the phone, and this guy… I can hear him. He's talking, and he doesn't know he's talking to a different person at this point. He says, "We don't even have the bag. You don't even know what you're asking. You're making this hard on yourself." He's at about an 8 out of 10, just because we did exactly what we were told to do. So that's where he's at.
A miracle of God happened, and I quietly held my spirit back. I had this message ringing in my ears. I kind of had a free pass because I knew I was going to get up here and say this stuff. I knew I couldn't blow up on the guy and then come up here and preach this message, so I kind of had a free pass because I was thinking about this. I just thought, "Okay, quick to listen, slow to speak."
So, he's talking, he's talking, he's talking. I said, "Sir, this is Garrett. I'm Gabi's husband. I would love to handle the phone call from here. What are you trying to communicate?" Stop. I was proud of that. Then he said, "What I'm telling you is…" He lowered his tone. It was amazing. I didn't know that was going to happen. He lowered his tone and said, "Hey, between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. is when we get the bag, not deliver it."
I said, "That's new information to us, but we can accommodate that, no problem. Let me give you a different address." He said, "Okay." I gave him the different address. He said, "Your driver is going to call you between 7:00 to 9:00 p.m." At this point I'm ready for Jesus to come back between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. This is crazy. He said, "Your driver is going to call you between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. If you don't miss that call, you will have your bag tonight." I said, "We will not miss that call. We will not miss that call, I guarantee you." And we hung up the phone.
Then at midnight a man named Ernie whom I had never met before called me from a California phone number. I woke up and he said, "Hey, man, I'm outside with your bag." I looked out the window. There were headlights there, and some man was there with my possessions at midnight. Guys, we won. We got the bag. That was it. But I want to tell you this. Why was it important to control that original phone conversation? The answer is because he had something I wanted. Think about that. He had something I wanted.
If I get mad and lose a battle in the heat of the moment… It was plenty heated. Gabi is heated. He's heated. California is heated. I'm heated. It is hot. The people in the restaurant are looking at my wife crying. They probably think I'm the problem. That's bothering me a little bit. The whole thing is just bad. Right there in the moment I'm thinking, "You know what? I've got to be quick to listen, slow to speak, because if I cloud the communication line with a bunch of anger I'm not going to get what I want."
I could have been totally right. We could have gone "war of the words," and I would have been totally right. "This is my wife you're talking to, and you need to lower your tone. You are way out of bounds. Who is your manager?" Blah, blah, blah. I could have gone down all of those roads, but then I might have lost the bag, and the bag was most important. Here's what I want to tell you: when you are in conflict in the heat of the moment, the other person always, always, always has something you want; namely, a relationship with you.
Anytime you are in a conflict with someone you care about, the truth is you care about them and want them to care about you. Behind the curtains of any conflict, lurking in the background, which we're so quick to forget in the heat of the moment, is that we want a relationship with this person. If we mismanage the heat of the moment and cloud the conversation with all this anger and angst, we might actually lose what we want most. We might forget we're talking to someone we want a good relationship with more than anything else. Not to be right…to have a real relationship.
That's what we want most, but the heat of the moment says, "You know what? The relationship is less important than being right. This is the hill I'm going to die on. That's what's most important." The truth is here's what you already know: if you argue like you have nothing to lose, eventually you may wind up with nothing worth keeping, with no relationships that are in a healthy state, with no relationships that are enjoyable, with no relationships that are joyful, with nothing but regret.
The truth is there's always something you want that's more important than you being right, and that is love and relationship and peace between you and your son, between you and your daughter, between you and your husband, your wife, your boss. The thing you want is at stake in the heat of the moment, and I don't want us to miss it. Quick to listen, slow to speak. Let's pray together.
God, we admit that our frustrations seem sometimes to demand to come out of us. We find ourselves angry. We find ourselves forgetting what we want. We find ourselves forgetting what you want for us. Sometimes we find ourselves in the insane position of trying to be right when there is a better way. Being in relationship peacefully with the people who matter most somehow, in the heat of the moment, doesn't matter most anymore.
It seems like it goes down the priority list, and maybe something else comes up, a resentment or an anger or a frustration, God. We know that if we are angry it will not produce the rightness you want for us. Not really. So, God, I pray for our families here. I pray for our friendships here. I pray for our Community Groups here. I pray that we would sort our conflicts wisely in our heads, contain them thoughtfully, and then appropriately give an outlet for relief, which is relationship and reconciliation directly.
God, I pray we'd be a church more like you. I pray we'd be the church that will be in heaven where everything is happening by open statement of the truth, nothing hidden, no resentments piled up over time, but we're existing in harmony. I pray that we'd be that in our city, that we'd encourage the people watching, and that we'd relate to you well, God. In Jesus' name, amen.
When relationships exist conflict is inevitable, but the way we face it is up to us. This series calls us to abandon the approaches most of us take - withdrawal, avoidance, aggression to name just three - and consider the approach God has laid out in His Word. You'll find that working through conflict from God's perspective will actually be a source of constant opportunity instead of a constant source of discouragement and frustration. An opportunity to glorify God, serve others and grow to be more like Christ. You'll be amazed to see how honest God's Word is about conflict and how powerful His plan is to deal with it. And if you'll apply it, you'll be even more amazed to watch this plan bring healing and health to your relationships.