One of things I most appreciate about Jesus is also the thing that most frustrates me about Him: Jesus is usually quite clear about how His followers should respond to most situations in life. Jesus is as practical as they come. He tells us how to react to most of the things we’ll face throughout the day and it’s up to us to decide whether to follow His advice or not. If we say we’re a follower of Jesus, we don’t really have a choice. Jesus never seemed to ask for people to just believe the right stuff about Him. He only wanted people around Him who would actually follow His teachings. This is both helpful and frustrating. It’s good to have the Son of God say, “You should do this!” It’s also very frustrating when “this” is something you really don’t want to do.
Never is the frustration greater than when it comes to Jesus’ relational advice. Jesus’ teachings about relationships will lead you into dozens and dozens of awkward conversations. His advice will also lead you into deep relationships that last and, if you’re willing to follow His teachings no matter what, an overall healthy relational landscape. Those awkward conversations will pave the way toward trust, admiration, and depth of friendships that will bring a sense of joy and fulfillment that few people know.
It all comes down to one teaching from Jesus: Mathew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
There it is- the teaching that will lead you into 1,000 awkward conversations that will also build a depth of friendship that few get to experience. If you follow Jesus, you are not allowed to ignore any rift for any reason. Jesus says that you are to immediately pursue clarity and reconciliation as soon as you hear or think that someone may have an issue with you! Immediately! No matter what! Even if it’s during a church service! You stop what you’re doing! Immediately! No matter what! Jesus said it. It’s clear. If you follow Jesus (beyond just believing stuff about Him), you have to do this. All of the time.
You heard that you offended someone- you have to follow up. You heard that a neighbor is mad because you were too loud around the fire pit- you have to go talk to them. You heard that someone is mad because you corrected their kid- (their kid is a brat and they had it coming!) you have to go talk with them. You heard someone called you an awful name- you have to go and clean up the mess. I’m not talking about a “Hey! I heard you were talking about me!!!!” kind of conversation. I’m talking about a “I’ve heard that there is some tension and I have to make sure we’re OK, really OK.” kind of conversation.
If you follow Jesus, you have to work out your differences immediately. It’s not an option. I’ve noticed this practical advice does a lot of good things in the midst of the awkwardness.
One great result is that once people realize you’ll pursue reconciliation no matter what they will be a lot slower to complain about you. I’ve also noticed that after you go and work hard to make things right, your relationships deepen significantly. People are used to avoidance, not a commitment to peace and reconciliation. This sticks out. This increases your respect in the eyes of others. This also shows people that you care about the relationship.
Think about it: most people, upon hearing that someone has an issue with them, say, “The heck with them!” or some other variation of that response. Many often begin defending themselves while tearing down the other person. It’s a whole different kind of response to say, “Really? I need to go make that right!” Then you go and start the awkward conversation. You fight through the person’s initial reaction which is almost always to minimize and deny. If you don’t know what to say, blame Jesus! I do it all the time. “I try to follow Jesus and He says that I absolutely have to follow up with anyone who has something against me. I know this is awkward, but I have to know I’m doing the right thing.” You can also say, “This matters to me and I want us to be OK.” Regardless, very rarely does this path not lead to a deeper respect and stronger friendship. It just works. Imagine that, Jesus gives some contrarian advice that works.
I should insert a side note: All you can do is try. “In as much as it depends on you…” is the Apostle Paul’s language. Do you best to reconnect and then if the person can’t meet you where you’re at, at least you’ll know you were obedient to Jesus.
You have to do this if you say you follow Jesus. So who’s out there that you know has a problem with you? Where is there relational tension in your life? It’s time to go have the first of a thousand awkward conversations. I promise you’ll be glad you followed the relational advice of the Founder of the greatest community this world has ever known.