Written by Joshua, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese
Whenever relationships are involved, there’s always friction—even relationships in the church. One reason why we get annoyed by fellow Christians is simple: we have different ways of doing things.
I can identify with this. I’m currently sharing a house with a Christian. Naturally, we clash—sometimes over the smallest things. For example, my housemate finds that I take too long to shower and complains that it leads to an increase in monthly utility costs. Sometimes, he gets annoyed when I leave dirty dishes in the sink. He once expressed his dissatisfaction about my behavior, saying he was upset that he had to keep reminding me about the same things, time and again. Having said that, he never once argued with me or lost his temper. I really appreciate that he always takes time to patiently explain what he is unhappy about.
Perhaps you have come across a similar situation, where you’ve been angry or upset about certain actions that fellow brothers or sisters in Christ have made. In such moments, it’s wise to remember what the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:26: “ ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”.
And then there’s the call to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), which should lead us towards reconciliation. Also, if we do not resolve the unhappiness we face with our brothers and sisters, we will be in disunity and unable to worship God in one accord.
So what can we do when we get upset with our fellow brothers and sisters?
Pray for our relationships.
It’s the most obvious and the most needful thing to do. Let’s seek God’s guidance, ask Him to remove the negative emotions we’re experiencing, and draw comfort and encouragement from His Word. When we commit our relationships to God, He will lead us towards making decisions or actions that please Him. I believe that by God’s wisdom and grace, we can establish good relationships with each other.
Communicate honestly and openly with each other.
When my housemate shared openly about how some of my bad habits annoyed him, he gave me the opportunity to explain my side of the story—I tend to be forgetful sometimes. From then on, he tried to remind me gently whenever I forgot to wash my dirty dishes, to help me get rid of my bad habit. This has helped us live harmoniously.
Often, open communication is the key to a good relationship. With “Loving your neighbor as yourself” as the underlying motivation, we can work towards resolving our problems through communication. Let’s help our friends understand how their actions have offended us—or vice versa—and give each other the chance to improve and make amends.
At the same time, we should also make an effort to listen to each other’s side of the story and put ourselves in each other’s shoes. Throughout the process, we should be wise and express our feelings appropriately, just as Proverbs 25:11 mentions, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (ESV) May God soften our hearts and help us reach mutual understanding so that we can establish relationships that glorify Him.
Besides making our feelings known, we should express our willingness to reconcile with the other party. This should stem from our obedience and love for Jesus. What this means is that we should remain humble and avoid using harsh words of accusation against the other, which may cost us the opportunity to nurture a good relationship.
Let’s always remember that the other party also needs time to change; what we can do is to be understanding and patient in the meantime.
Remind yourself that both of you are Christians saved by grace.
Nobody is perfect, not even Christians. We are all sinners saved by grace, and that’s why each of us is susceptible to sin against God or others. And while we may irritate and annoy each other, we are still fellow brethren in Christ. Once we understand this, our differences won’t look so irreconcilable anymore.
Watch your tongue.
When a fellow Christian annoys you, take a moment to decide if you should react or hold back. This will give you time to first seek God and examine if your response is edifying. It also helps to prevent conflicts. During this period, it is especially important to be mindful of your speech. Proverbs tells us, “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues” (Proverbs 17:27-28)
As Christians, let’s try our best to seek unity in the Lord so that we can glorify Him. May He grant us wisdom and teach us how to handle our interpersonal conflicts.
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)