Maybe your home is different, but we’ve got problems and sin in our family everyday. Raise your hand if you’ve got problems everyday. Yep, we do too. Anybody got sibling problems in the family? Sibling conflicts? Are there you and your siblings? Any sibling conflicts? God built our families as a small group, like a discipleship small group and the intensity of your family relationships bring out a lot of junk in your heart. The intensity of your family relationships really bring out the things in your life that need to be sanctified which is why. Okay, how many of you ladies, how many of you ladies go to women’s ministry stuff every now and then? Alright, anybody gone to a lot of women’s ministry things in your lifetime? Okay, let me miss right here in the black and the polka dots. Yeah, okay tell me your name again. Susie. Okay Susie, you did I pick a wrong volunteer victim? All right, we’re going to try this, Susie. Okay? Stay with me. I’m nice, I’m not gonna do anything mean. Don’t worry. Okay, so I just need someone. You’ve gone to women’s ministry stuff, you have. When was the last time you stormed out of a women’s ministry event in a fit of anger? Okay, Susie. Susie, this is a safe place. You don’t have to put on the Ms. Church lady thing here. You know what I mean? It’s a safe place. You can be honest. You’ve really gone your whole life. You’ve never stormed out of a women’s ministry event in a fit of anger?
Okay? You are a Saint. Amen. No, You’re like, leave her alone. No, Susie, you did great. I believe you, you probably never have, but when was the last time you stormed out of, not you, your house or a room in your house in a fit of anger? Right? You’re like, oh, that was this morning when we were late for this stupid thing. Okay. My point is, is that the intensity of our family relationships bring out the real issues of our heart. We send it at home more than we send anywhere else and because of this, the Christian family has to become an absolute expert in giving and receiving forgiveness. We are going to mess up at home a lot. So we’ve got to learn biblical principles for healing relationships and that’s what we’re going to do this morning, we do a crash course on a few basic principles for healing family conflicts.
None of these are magic formulas, none of these are quick fixes. The first scripture that I want us to look at comes from Hebrews chapter 12, verse 15, and is what it says, “see to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and to defile many.” See, when someone in our family does something to hurt us, our natural inclination is to hold on to that hurt like a seed of hurt gets planted to hold on to that hurt to put up a wall of coldness and anger or strike back. Now God’s using an agricultural analogy here, a planting analogy here for this whole thing that when we get hurt, a seed gets planted. If we don’t deal with that seed, roots are going to grow. Roots of bitterness and roots of bitterness, if they’re not dealt with, are going to grow up and they’re going to do two things. What does God say roots of bitterness are going to grow up to do? What are the two things? They’re going to grow up to cause trouble and defile many. In other words, they’re going to spread. Anybody have a friend that struggles with bitterness? They just hold grudges, they’ve got their list of people they don’t like. You spend enough time with them, what do they want you to do?
They want you to add all those people to your bitter list and not like all those people. So bitterness spreads. Now again, God’s using a planting analogy here. I was preaching a few years ago in Malaysia and in Malaysia they have what the internet says, gotta be true, is the fastest growing tree in the world. It’s called the Albizia Falcata tree. It’s part of the bamboo family. You take this seed, you plant it in the ground, you water it for a year. Nothing happens. Two years, nothing, three years, nothing, four years, nothing. In the fifth year, in the growing season, it grows 30 feet in 90 days, 30 feet in 90 days. Hopefully you didn’t give up on it and put your gazebo there. Cause that thing, that thing is coming out. Now, for those five years, while nothing apparently is happening, what is actually happening? Roots, right?
That seed got to work right away and it’s growing its roots hundreds of feet in all directions, gathering strength, gathering nutrients, getting ready to blast this thing up out of the ground and seeds of hurt, seeds of unforgiveness work the same way in our lives. Something happens in your family and you take the nice Christian approach. Well, time heals all wounds. I just won’t deal with that. We’ll just sweep that under the rug and pretend like it never happened. Fine, that’s like planting a seed and walking away. You plant a seed and you give that seed time. What’s it going to do? It’s going to grow its roots and one month later, one year later, 10 years later, something’s going to come blast and out of your life. Anger, depression, discouragement, violence, addiction, all sorts of things. Now, I’m not saying that every ugly thing that comes out of somebody’s life is always tied to bitterness and unforgiveness cause there’s a lot of different root causes for serious things that happen in our character.
But what I am saying is that hurt that is not dealt with in a biblical way, hurt that’s not addressed in a Christian way intentionally, that those seeds are going to get planted, roots are going to grow and ugly things are going to come out. The Disciples and Jesus were talking about this issue of forgiveness because when a family member does something one or two times to hurt us, you say, okay, I forgive you. Okay, I forgive you. Well, what if they just keep doing it over and over again? How many times are you supposed to forgive them? And you may remember a conversation that Peter had with Jesus. This is Matthew 18:21 to 22, “then Peter came up and said to him, Lord, how often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Peter offers what he thinks is a pretty generous number.
Okay. Being quite spiritual here, you know, Jesus. Do you think I should forgive him up to seven times? And you’re familiar with Jesus’s answer. Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but 70 times seven.” Now Jesus I don’t think is giving us a specific number here of 490 so that you say, okay, 488 489. Thank you Lord, 490! Aha! I’m done with you! I think it’s more of a like a lifestyle, a continual, ongoing choice to forgive. I once heard a seminar from Jerry Root from Wheaton college. He really emphasized that God’s command to us to forgive our brother, forgive our sister, our son, our daughter, our mother, our father, is first and foremost a call for us to be free. The command to forgive is not primarily for the other person. The call to forgive is primarily for you.
God does not want a ball and chain of anger and bitterness around your life. God does not want other people’s bad behavior to be a rain cloud that follows you around. He wants you to be free in your heart and in your spirit from what other people have done to hurt you. So Jerry Root shared this illustration. He said, if you have rats in your house, you do not get rid of the rats by eating rat poisoning yourself. That is not going to get rid of the rats. Okay? That’s just going to hurt you. So you see holding on to bitterness and anger hurts us far more than it hurts the person with whom we’re in conflict. So Jerry asked this question, how many times should we say no to eating rat poisoning?
Yeah, every time I would say that should be a lifestyle choice, okay? Like forever, until Jesus comes back, you should keep saying no to that. So you see, choosing forgiveness is choosing freedom. And again, I’ll go back to this, a lot of Christians have sort of this super spiritual attitude about forgiveness, which goes like this, well just time heals all wounds, time heals all wounds. I won’t deal with that, if you get a big chop on your arms with some huge knife and you just say, well, time will take care of that. No, time’s not going to take care of that, you’re going to bleed out. It’s going to get infected. You’re going to get gangrene. You’re going to lose your arm or worse. Right. Okay. That time is not going to help you. Now, the biggest struggle that I’ve had to go through in my life with forgiveness related to my father, I told you Sunday morning about my parents’ divorce when I was 15. My, again, my mother was my father’s fourth wife and my dad had extra relationships outside the marriage which was a major cause of their divorce and I had good, well-meaning Christian friends as my parents were going through this divorce telling me, well Rob, you just need to forgive him. You need to forgive your dad for what he’s done. Now, is that good Christian advice or bad Christian advice?
Good Christian advice. I think in everybody who said it to me meant well certainly, but I gotta be honest, I felt like what they were saying to me was pretty superficial and kind of Christian pat ansary. What it felt like to me is what they were saying. You see down in my heart I had anger, bitterness, and hatred and I felt like what they were saying was, well see, those are just little light switches down there and so you just go down wherever there is and you turn off those switches and you give them to Jesus. I’m not going to be angry, bitter, hateful of resentful anymore and I give it to Jesus, I forgive him. Don’t you think that if anger, bitterness, hatred, and resentment were just little light switches that you could just go turn off that you would? I would, I don’t like any of those feelings.
I think everybody would do that, but forgiveness and freedom doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t work like that. It’s not quite that quick. So what I’m going to do this morning is I want to walk through three biblical principles for healing family conflicts. None of these are superficial, none of these are magic formulas, none of these are pat answers, but each one of comes from God’s word and can help us on this path of freedom. And the first one that I want to talk with you about is healing through prayer. Healing through prayer. Now, there’s a lot of different ways that we can pray when we’re in the middle of a family conflict, but one of the specific ways that I’m going to encourage you to pray is to pray for your own heart in this situation. See, when Amy and I are in the middle of a marriage conflict, my template for that argument or that problem is that this is all her fault.
If she hadn’t have done that, if she hadn’t have said that, if she hadn’t have done whatever, then obviously we wouldn’t be in the middle of this conflict. Now, rarely, rarely is a family conflict a hundred zero. Sometimes, sometimes it is, especially maybe in very, very serious things like a situation of abuse or something like that. Okay, but rarely is it a hundred zero? Now, it might be 90/ 10, might be 99/1, okay but, most of the time, honestly it’s probably 60/40, 51/49, or whatever it might be. It’s just so easy to see other people’s faults and problems while we ignore our own. Jesus talks directly about this issue.
This is Matthew chapter seven He says, “why do you see the speck that’s in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that’s in your own eye?” Got a quick tangent here, did you know that the vast majority of the time in the Bible that God uses the word brother or sister? It means brother,
like the person you live with. We take a lot of the New Testament passages that come later in the epistles, which talk about brothers and sisters in Christ and we read those back into all the Scripture that comes before. So Psalm 133:1, “how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.” Folks talk about that as a church verse, your church ought to get along. It’s not a church verse. God says how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters who live in the same house together, dwell together, see that in unity? Amen. So we skip over that, but okay, here we go. “Why do you see the speck that’s in your brother’s eye, but you don’t notice the log that’s in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, let me take the speck out of your eye when there’s a log in your own eye, you hypocrite. First, take the log out of your own eye. Then you’ll see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Jesus just isn’t holding back here. Okay. Well, what He’s trying to say is that the reality of the situation may be that your brother’s sin in this particular conflict is smaller than yours.
Now I don’t think at the end of the day, Jesus’s point here is not trying to figure out who is more to blame. Here’s what Jesus is trying to say, He’s saying, deal your issues first. Deal with your contribution first. If your contribution is 10%, you deal with your 10%. If your contribution is 90%, you deal with your 90%. So the action step here is just to pray and ask God to show you your part in the conflict. So you could pray a prayer that would sound something like this, God, I know that my conflict with my dad, it’s not all his fault. I know I’ve made things worse with my attitudes and actions and I admit that I struggle with focusing all my thoughts and feelings on what he’s done to hurt me and I don’t want to be like the person Jesus talks about who’s obsessing about the other person’s contribution, the other person’s fault while I’m ignoring mine. So God, just please show me what I’ve done to make this situation worse. Please show me what I’ve done to cause hurt in this conflict and as God reveals those things to you, you confess those things to Him as He gives you a opportunity, you confess those things to your family members.
Read more in “Healing Family Relationships” by Rob Rienow: