Lighting a Match in a Fireworks Factory
Family members can set us off like no other, and yet despite all of the conflict, our bonds with our family members run deep.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation.
We’ve all heard the stories. There are plenty of them out there.
Ones like…two sisters have a fight over who makes better French silk pie, and then don’t speak to each other for 6 decades
Or, a father, in a moment of anger, tells his son, he’s never been good at anything, and the son never speaks to the father again…
And the father, unwilling to say sorry, because it’s not “manly” never speaks to his son again.
In fact, the more people I meet, the more convinced I am that these aren’t just outlier stories that we hear in the news once in a while.
I can’t tell you how often I find out that someone has a brother they haven’t talked to in years.
Or I find out that someone hasn’t seen their adult child in 8 years, or you name it.
It sounds crazy…but when you think about how difficult family life is… maybe it’s not all that uncommon.
We are finishing our relationship maze series this morning, and we’re going to look at how to navigate through the maze of family relationships.
Specifically the relationships of your family of origin. Your parents (if they’re alive). Your siblings.
But also your current family as well.
Next week, we are starting a new and intriguing series called, “Stages of Faith.”
We are going to be covering the 4 stages of Faith that most Christians go through in their lifetimes and talk about the rollercoaster journey of faith we all go on.
FAMILY CONFLICT IS EVERYWHERE
But today…we’re gonna cover the messy topic of family conflict.
It’s a tough one. For a couple of reasons.
It’s pretty common. When it happens, it tends to be messy. AND…when it all falls apart, we’re borderline terrible at solving it.
Here’s the thing about families. Families can SET US OFF like no other.
It takes me back to when I was a senior in high school.
I, like most teenagers, was trying to assert my independence, and at that time, I was convinced I was the smartest person on earth…and my parents…yep, you guessed it, dumbest people on earth.
“God, why did you put me w/ THESE people?!?”
I can remember, I could be having the greatest day ever at school, or soccer practice, or whatever, but as soon as I even crossed the threshold of our entryway, all of a sudden, I was just mad.
No one had even spoken to me yet…
My mom would say, “Hello son! How are you?”
And for many of you…that’s where you’re at right now. You just get in the same ZIP CODE with some of your family members and your blood pressure goes up
That’s why we called this message, “Lighting a Match in a Fireworks Factory”
Conflict with other people is just conflict…
But conflict with family members…it’s like lighting a match in a fireworks factory.
It’s like, you just say one thing to your parents, or your sibling, or your child, and BOOM!! Explosion!
And really, we should expect this to some degree.
We’re all sinners. Every one of us. Bunch of messed up people.
And, When you put a whole bunch of sinners together in a closed space, what do you expect to happen?
It’s like lighting a match in a Fireworks factory
And when the explosion happens, often the clean-up process is worse than the explosion itself.
We really do have two problems.
One we’re like matches and fireworks together.
And two, we have borderline zero ability to reconcile w/ each other
I think one of the most fascinating things about family conflict, and this is pretty well documented at this point, is that they often are about nothing.
Or at minimum, something very trivial.
One sibling said his car was nicer than the other’s and they never spoke again.
One parent told their child they should work towards getting a better job, and they didn’t speak for 10 years.
It’s like, do you ever have a huge fight w/ your spouse or person you’re dating, and at the end of it, you have no idea why you started fighting?
Before we get further into this, let me just ask you:
WHO is it in your life…in your family…that you have conflict with? Your mom? Dad? Sibling? Child? In-laws?
Even if it’s ugly, I want you to think about that person today
“One thing I can tell you is that the “could explode at any moment” warning-label on our families is nothing new.
IN fact, it’s been there since the dawn of time.
A lot of people think the Bible must be this book of perfect families, but it’s nowhere close to that.
If you ever feel like your family must be messed up, go read the book of Genesis, and you’ll feel better about your situation.
For instance, do you know the story of twin brothers Jacob and Esau in Genesis?
They were born to parents Isaac and Rebekah, and even though Esau was the oldest twin and supposed to get the “birthright of blessing” from his father, Jacob tricked his brother into selling his birthright for 1 good meal
Later, Jacob even tricked his own blind father into blessing him as the firstborn instead of his brother Esau.
And as you might have guessed, these two hated each other. Look at what the Bible says about Esau’s thoughts for Jacob
(Genesis 27:41-43) – NIV
41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42 When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. 43 Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran.
Every time they saw each other you can bet it was like a match in a fireworks factory
So Jacob runs away from his family.
Or, the next generation down in the Bible, the family conflict continues.
Jacob (aka Israel) has 12 sons.
One of them is named Joseph, and he’s hated by the all of the other brothers, because he’s his dad’s favorite.
Sounds like some modern-day family conflicts.
So, the 11 brothers, decide to throw their brother in a pit, but then decide, well, “We shouldn’t’ kill him,” and sell him as a slave to some Midianite merchants, who sell him in Egypt.
Sounds more like they should be on Dr. Phil than a model Biblical family, right?
Nowadays, if just everyone talks to each other in our families, it’s a small miracle. J
Family life is difficult.
WHY WE DON’T FIX CONFLICT
But why is it SO difficult? Why do we get stuck in conflict for so long? What stops us from fixing the problem? What stops us from picking up the pieces and getting back together?
Honestly, a lot of it comes down to pride.
For a lot of us, the desire of victory, of being right, unfortunately is stronger than the desire to reconcile.
We just want to be right.
And for a lot of us, although we’d never say it this way, I guess we’d rather be right and apart from our love ones, than risk being wrong and being together
But don’t let that be you.
There are a lot of reasons for why we don’t fix the bad relationships we have with our kids, parents, siblings, in-laws, you name it.
A lot of it comes down to some false ideas we have about reconciliation.
And I would wager that every single one of these is responsible for at least a few of us in this room being in a hurt/separated family relationship
So I want you to HUMBLY pray through a few of these…and ask yourself what we rarely ask, “Could this be me?”
Here’s the first false idea for reconciliation we often have:
We so often think, “I can’t go fix this yet…they need to learn a lesson!”
They hurt me, they said the wrong thing, they made the wrong choice. They treat ME like garbage, they’ve made terrible choices…
If I go to them now, and try and fix our relationship, they are going to think, THEY did nothing wrong.
I have to pull away until they realize they did something wrong.
Do you know what I’m saying? Anyone ever think this?
I do. A lot.
If you grew up in a guilt-tripping environment, you’re more likely to fall into this false idea of reconciliation.
Guilt Trippers think…if I ignore them…don’t talk to them….they’ll feel guilty…and then, will come to me and say sorry.
Yet, that rarely happens, cuz the other person has NO IDEA what you’re thinking. How are they supposed to know you are teaching them a lesson w/ your silence?
They probably just think you hate them and are angry w/ them.
You won’t fix a relationship with silent guilt.
But we think, and here’s false idea of reconciliation #2, we think, “There’s no point in me forgiving them if they’re not even sorry!”
“Why in the world, would I go and try and fix the situation w/ my crazy mother in law or sister in law if they’re not even sorry yet?!?
I’ll wait until they come tell me they’re sorry
And there are tons of people trapped in this.
But if we can put down all of our emotion, which is HARD in the fireworks factory, and think through this logically, we come up w/ this:
When we say, “I’ll wait for them to come say they’re sorry, it’s like saying, “I’m waiting for them to be the bigger person and humbly come to me and admit fault.”
That is, unless you think you did nothing wrong.
Which brings us back to the pride thing.
This is why so many families never pick up the pieces after the explosion.
No one is willing to admit they’re wrong. That they’re imperfect
Again, we’re choosing the “fleeting and illusionary” satisfaction of being RIGHT over being in relationship
But we still don’t do it. We won’t go forward. We simply get stuck on the similar but third false idea of reconciliation… “It’s not up to me to make the first move”
But here’s where the Bible gives us, as believers, some pretty different advice than the world gives.
HOW TO FIX FAMILY CONFLICTS
See, the world says, if you have a family problem, ain’t your problem. Let them fix it!
But the Bible says something very different. It says, if you know Jesus. If Jesus has redeemed you, bought you with a price, forgiven YOU, then we are to forgive as we were forgiven.
(Matthew 5:23-24) – NIV
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
It says, that if you’re going to church, and you realize that someone has something against YOU (not that you did something bad), go and work that out first…before you even go worship Him as one of his beloved!
That’s our role.
Earlier in the same chapter, Jesus says:
(Matthew 5:9) – NIV
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
But we think…c’mon why us?? Why does it have to be me?
It all comes back to the cross.
Jesus…forgave us…a bunch of messed up sinners…on the cross…and our job is to extend the same forgiveness, even to those that have hurt us the most.
I look at my own life… What did I do to EARN Christ’s forgiveness? Nothing. I spent the 1st 18 years of my life ignoring Him, mocking Him, and persecuting his followers?
What did I do to deserve Him interrupting my life and offering me forgiveness?
And yet, when we look at our family members, we somehow decide that, well, they have to earn it!
But if they have to earn it, it’s not forgiveness.
We are perhaps the least Christ-like in the way we treat our family members.
Jesus, brought us into HIS family as rebellious sinners, but we turn around and tell our own family members, that they’re not good enough for our forgiveness, and we won’t reconcile w/ them until they shape up.
If Jesus waited until we all shaped up, we’d be in a ridiculous amount of trouble.
You want to be Christ-like? You want to grow in your relationship w/ Him? Be more like Him?
Show forgiveness. Be the first to extend it. To your mom. Your brother
The Bible says that when we offend people, we’re supposed to ask for forgiveness, and I think most of us get that.
But the Bible also says in Matthew 18, that even if someone offends you, we should seek to go work it out.
We are supposed to WORK OUT conflict. Especially in the family.
But our American, mid-western passivity is the death of us.
Even Americans on the East Coast often do a better job than us in fixing their family relationships.
They, in their Bostonian way, at least say, “Hey, BRO, you’re driving me nuts! When you park the car in my yard, I hate ya!”
And they work it out!
But we, we are PASSIVE aggressive to our core. And it’s ruining our families. And it is not the character of Christ. Who, if he was anything, was not passive.
But we fear conflict. We fear confrontation. To Minnesotans, conflict is like the boogeyman under our bed. It’s our worst nightmare.
But trust me, there are way worse situations than conflict. Resentment is worse. Bitterness is worse. Hypocrisy is worse.
And in our fear of confrontation, in our fear of “working things out” and “talking about it,” we somehow rationalize that 25 years of bitterness, resentment, and angry fake conversations in our head with our parents…would be better than 15 minutes of conversation where we could make it right.
Rather than have one conversation, we carry around the heavy load, the chains of resentment and unforgivness, often for decades!
But throw them off! Get free! Offer forgiveness!
But I know what you’re thinking….”You’re thinking, Okay Pastor David. Sure…I COULD go and try and make it right with my child that I never get along with… Or my sibling that drives me insane…
“But let me tell you what’s going to happen, I’m going to go to them, forgive them like Christ forgave me, and they’re going to say, “Whatever…don’t talk to me.”
“They’re never going to say…You know what…I’m sorry too.”
This isn’t some “made for TV Hallmark movie. This is real life.
And that thought…has been binding to so many Christians in resentment…often for decades.
Again, we choose bitterness instead of offering forgiveness, because well, “They wouldn’t give it back!”
But the Bible tells us that we are to offer forgiveness and reconciliation even if it’s not received.
(Romans 12:18) – NIV
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
We are called to, IF POSSIBLE, live at peace w/ everyone.
The Bible knows that some people are going to reject you.
But whether or not a person might reject your forgiveness, doesn’t give us the right to not offer it
We are called to be like CHRIST. And the very nature of Christ is to offer grace and forgiveness.
You can’t control the other person. If you sit down and meet with your in-laws and say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry there was a wedge built between us. But I love you, and I want to make it right.”
If you do that, you can’t control what they will do. They might blow you off.
But you can do everything “as far as it depends on you” to make peace, and honor God.
And your odds of making the relationship right…are always going to better this way than the 0% odds of it working out while you’re just waiting for them to feel guilty and come to you.
And even if they do reject you, you will feel much more FREEDOM, just by getting that load off of your back.
And if we’re honest with ourselves, buried beneath our anger, judgementalism, and frustration, is this even DEEPER EMOTION.
It’s the emotion to want to reconcile w/ our family members.
You can’t shake it. You never will. They’re family!
Remember when I told you about Jacob and Esau? The two twins that hated each other so much, Jacob had to flee cuz his brother was going to kill him?
Well, Jacob did indeed flee to another land, but after 20 years, God tells him to go home.
However, he’s pretty nervous that at some point, he’s going to run into his brother.
What if they do see each other? What will he say? Will Esau kill him?
Well, he eventually does see Esau, and he offers him many gifts first and bows down to him, and when Esau approaches him, this is what happens:
(Genesis 33:4-5) – NIV
But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. 5 Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked. Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.
Time had healed wounds. God had healed wounds. God had blessed Esau, and he wasn’t out for revenge. God had worked in Jacob’s life, and they were able to make amends and be brothers again.
And it makes me wonder. How many of us in this room are in the same situation that they were in?
We had a conflict with a family member. And we both appear to be mad. But what if right now, we’re both like Jacob and Esau…
What if both of us would be willing to make amends… and all it would take is just someone to initiate it.
I sometimes wonder how often family members go to the grave, with both family members secretly being willing to make amends, but hoping the other person would step forward first, but nobody ever did.
Be like Christ…and YOU initiate forgiveness. You never know how the person will respond. Maybe they’re waiting for it…like Esau was.
Even Joseph, In Gen 45, when he eventually saw his very brothers who sold him into slavery years and years later, he wept so loudly that the people in the next room heard him.
That emotion for family restoration was so deep in him, that he was actually just thankful to see his brothers again, and he offered them forgiveness.
THAT IS FAMILY. Our family bonds run so deep. These are the people God put in our lives, and despite all of our anger, we long to be together again.
And I want to encourage you this morning…take the first step.
Be the Christ-like person in your family…and seek forgiveness. Offer forgiveness.
And be willing to forgive, even if they’re not.
And remember most of all, that you were a person, completely not deserving of forgiveness, of God’s kindness, and yet he offered you everything.
Forgiveness, redemption, eternal life.
May God give us the grace to forgive as we have been forgiven.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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