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Pointers along the way #115

Reckoning with others
- Jacob Ninan

What is our usual reaction when we have a problem with someone? We think about how bad he/she is, how unreasonable, how unwilling to listen, how callous, how without understanding, etc. As we think like this we get worked up, and start talking to others about it - trying to justify our own position and put the blame on the other person. This runs its usual course and ends up in worsening the relationship.

But can't we rise above this type of behaviour that the Bible refers to as that of mere men (1Co.3:1,3)?

When we behave in the usual manner what we are really trying to do is: 1) Place the blame on the other person. 2) Try to convince the other person (directly or through others) that he needs to change. 3) Wait for the other person to change. We think that our happiness depends on the other person changing. This is silly because the more we try to change the other person, the bigger the problem becomes, and the more frustrated we become.

What did God do when He had a problem with a sinful world? He found a way of reconciling us to Himself. One of the main factors in His approach was to accept us as we were, not counting our sins against us (2Co.5:19). If He were to keep sending us prophets to tell us how wrong we were and waited for us to change, He would still be waiting!

By accepting us God was not saying that we or our behaviour were 'acceptable.' It was His mercy and largeheartedness that were being displayed. His Son had to die in order to cancel the punishment that was due to us. But when He did show us mercy and accept us, that broke our resistance and we started loving Him and obeying Him.

What approach can we take? We too have been given a ministry of reconciliation. This means first of all that we act as God's ambassadors to reconcile people with God (2Co.5:20). But doesn't it also mean that we take the same reconciliatory approach in dealing with others that God has taken with us? In other words, without waiting for others to change, shall we not accept them as they are? When we 'accept' them like that, of course it does not mean that the others are OK or that the problem has gone away. We are just reckoning with the fact that so and so is like that!

The fact that our old approach has not worked shows that we need to find a different strategy. 1) Identify what the real issues are. This means looking at things deeper than what appears on the surface. 2) Understand why we and the other person are behaving the way we both do. What is driving us, what are we looking for, what are the specific factors that are causing us problems? 3) Accept the person as he is. Let us stop trying to change him, and just recognise that he is like that. 4) Change our strategy in dealing with him.

When we take this approach we are able to see things more clearly and deal with them better.