“Given the opportunity to increase someone’s theology and biblical understanding or their relational intelligence and ability to love others well, I’d turn that second dial all day long.” – John Bryson
Is it really possible for someone to posses biblical truth and gospel comprehension and still be a bad listener (Pro.18:13), a know it all (Pro. 12:23), argumentative (Pro. 20:3), a gossip (Pro. 11:13), boastful (Pro. 25:14), use people (Pro. 23:1-3), lie (Pro. 19:9), be critical (Pro. 16:21), be two-faced (Pro. 10:6), be rude (Pro. 18:23), be arrogant (16:1)……just to name a few? As one who has been offended, and more often the offender, sadly the answer is yes.
This morning, John Bryson joined us in the Downline Institute for the second time this week and encouraged the class with a session that has come to be an annual favorite. Taken from Proverbs, John lists “33 ways to get people not to like you, destroy relationships, lose your influence, and end up in isolation”. Obviously, this title is intended to grab your attention and traverse some very personal and potentially rocky landscape with a touch of humor. The result is an hour of powerful relational truths that strike the heart of the gospel and anyone claiming Christ as Lord.
What will yield a greater Kingdom harvest? Biblical knowledge or gospel centered relational integrity? Shouldn’t one lead to the other? Isn’t one of the primary purposes of biblical Truth and gospel knowledge to be transformed to the point of loving others as ourselves? Scripture pleads, and Proverbs in particular warns about the destructive nature of thinking too highly of oneself and too little of others which is at the core of so much relational division and destruction. In reality as long as we are human this will continue to be a struggle. However, there are certainly some steps we can employ as we “train ourselves for Godliness” which can also be found in the Proverbs:
- Be reproachable (Pro. 6:23, 29:1). “Reproofs of instruction are the way of life”. Don’t be the only set of eyes on your life. Blind spots are blind spots for a reason! Your life is rigged to require another set of trusted eyes to see what you cannot see. John encouraged asking three questions of loved ones and trusted advisors:
What do I need to stop doing?
What do I need to start doing?
What do I need to keep doing?
Be willing to hear truth about you and apply it. It is the way of life.
- Have “relational shock absorbers” (Pro. 20:3). “It is a mans honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” You don’t have to be smart to start conflict. You don’t have to be that intelligent to assume the worst about someone else’s motives. If you are the common denominator in the relational drama around you then it may be time to take a long look at yourself. Do you give others the benefit of the doubt? Are you willing to trust others? Are you quick to take offense? Do you prefer holding onto grudges in lieu of forgiveness? It is your honor to avoid strife and quarreling.
- Walk with wise men (Proverbs 13:20). “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm.” There will always be all kinds of people in your life and there is no way to avoid interactions with the foolish or proud. There will also be occasions where you will play the part of the fool. However, as your core relationships and closest companions draw close to the wise, humble, gracious, and gentle, and you will become like them and thus, like Christ.
The more we understand of the Bible and the deeper our rivers of theology run the greater our understanding of the immeasurable love of God who while we were sinners, died for us. Do you notice that as your biblical knowledge increases so does your tendency to look down upon and judge others? Do you look for lines of division before you seek opportunities for unity? Let your encounter with the gospel of Christ and the coming of His Kingdom move you to compassion, humility, forgiveness, and above all else love. May the people of God be known by the way we love each other and our ability to walk in oneness. Not the oneness of perfection, but in the unity of Grace.