Healthy vs. Unhealthy Tension

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Tension and the Story of Humanity

As we’ve examined the story of the prodigal son, his father and older brother, the thread woven throughout their lives – and each of ours – is that of tension. The prodigal’s poor choices led him to the brink of poverty, hunger and destitution. God used this healthy tension in his life to bring him to his senses. Lacking in grace, the resentful older brother experienced tension too, but of the unhealthy variety.

Fast forward to the here and now, and the opportunity to experience tension in our daily lives is boundless! There are choices to make about how to raise children, manage finances, operate a business, grow a church, or achieve any other mutual goal. Issues such as these can produce understandable points of disagreement among even godly, well-intentioned people. Discussing them with maturity, respect, and a commitment to unity result in healthy tension which produces a more positive outcome. When compassion and respect are lacking, however, this healthy tension morphs into unhealthy tension which is sure to cause harm.

Tension and Your Story

Tension is a natural part of life, and is often triggered when what I want stands in opposition to what you want – and vice versa. The good news is that when we address tension in a healthy way, it is possible to avert the crisis of a full-blown conflict.

When differing positions emerge, a healthy approach is to attack the problem, not the person. Express desires, instead of making demands – and demonstrate respect while resisting attitudes that foster resentment. Ephesians 4:2-3 puts it like this: “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.”

We’ve all made our fair share of mistakes when it comes to peacemaking – and peacekeeping. Thankfully, our experiences afford us the opportunity to learn and grow. As you commit yourself to Christ and strive to walk The Path of a Peacemaker, He will continue to guide you in your pursuit of peace.

Up Ahead on “The Path”…

Don’t miss next week’s post! We’ll take a look at some of the things in our lives that trigger conflict. Thanks, once again, for reading and sharing the posts from The Path of a Peacemaker! Click here to learn more about Peacemaker Ministries.

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Dale Pyne – CEO, Peacemaker Ministries

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Resisting Reconciliation

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Storyline – The Story of the Prodigal’s Older Brother

If you are at all familiar with the story of the prodigal son, then you understand the sharp contrast between the compassionate heart of the father and the calloused heart of the older brother. Rather than sharing in his father’s joy, the older brother became consumed with anger over the lavish homecoming celebration. Untouched by his father’s plea to join the festivities, what resulted was an outburst which revealed the depth of his frustration:

 “‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’” (Luke 15:28-30).

Sure, the older brother was unhappy about his brother’s foolishness – but why was he so angry? What prevented him from joining his father and the others from welcoming his brother back home?

While there must have been many contributing factors, it is clear that the older brother believed that he was far more worthy of the attention and affection that had been showered on his younger brother, “the prodigal.” Overcome by feelings of resentment and jealousy, the older brother couldn’t bring himself to be a part of the amazing story of reconciliation that was unfolding within his own family.

The Story of the Prodigal’s Older Brother & Your Story

Do you ever feel justified in withholding forgiveness from a family member or friend who has completely blown it – or feel conflicted when others who are close to you become reconciled with someone who has hurt you deeply? While these emotions are understandable, if allowed to take root and grow, they will stand in the way of a restored relationship.

When the prospect of reconciliation seems overwhelming, Romans 5:8 offers a profound perspective: “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In our broken, fallen, imperfect, sin-stained condition, our Heavenly Father chose to reconcile us back to Himself through the priceless gift of His one and only Son. Instead of giving us what we deserved, He extended grace. As peacemakers, let us strive to do the same.

Up Ahead on “The Path”…

Check out next week’s post where we’ll explore the difference between healthy and unhealthy tension in our relationships. As always, thanks for reading – and keep sharing the posts from The Path of a Peacemaker!

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The Father’s Heart

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Storyline – The Father of the Prodigal

When the prodigal son finally returned home, his father could have responded in a thousand different ways. He could have turned his son away, or at the very least, delegated his “problem child” to one of his hired servants, washing his hands of the pain and embarrassment caused by his wayward son. A torrent of harsh, reprimanding words could have been unleashed, or a more subtle form of anger expressed through passive-aggressive behavior were options that others in his shoes would have chosen.

Yet, this father was not motivated by a need for justice. He did not care about settling the score. Instead, his response was motivated out of a deep sense of compassion and longing to restore the relationship with his long-lost son:

“But while he [the prodigal son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20b)

The Father of the Prodigal’s Story & Your Story

If you feel that you have more in common with the prodigal son than with the father, rest assured. You are not alone. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s plan. Just like the father in this story, our Heavenly Father’s heart is filled with compassion for us. No matter what we’ve done, where we’ve been, or how much of what He’s given us that we’ve wasted, His primary goal is to restore relationship.

While it is not natural for us to demonstrate the kind of love displayed by the father in this story, as children of God and recipients of His abundant grace, Ephesians 5:1-2a offers this instruction: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…”

What does this mean for you and me? As followers of Christ, if we are to be ready, willing, and equipped to walk The Path of a Peacemaker, we need to humbly ask our Father to give us hearts like His – hearts that are marked by grace and motivated by compassion.

Up Ahead on “The Path”…

Coming up next week, “The Path” will take us to another character in the story of the prodigal son – the older brother. Thanks for reading – and keep sharing the posts from The Path of a Peacemaker!

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The Prodigal

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Storyline – The Prodigal Son

He was a rebel who longed to live “the good life” without interference from anyone or anything. To fund his new lifestyle, he got an advance on the inheritance from his father which he squandered on lavish parties and the finest material goods that money could buy.

In the beginning, life was exciting and grand. Then one foolish choice after another left this young man penniless, hungry, and destitute. When he finally hit the very bottom, he found that there was no other way to restore the peace in his life than to humble himself and go back to his father. His own words were evidence of a changed heart:

“I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.” (Luke 15:18)

Have you ever considered that this young man could have made a different decision? Instead of choosing to humble himself, acknowledge his mistakes, and admit to his father his desperate situation, he could have remained hardened and proud. Rather than continuing to live in misery, he swallowed his pride and decided to take steps toward reconciliation with his father.

The Prodigal’s Story & Your Story

No matter the circumstances, if you’re responsible for pain that exists between you and a loved one, can you take responsibility for your actions? Rather than being encumbered by guilt and shame, can you break free from the pride or fear that prevents you from humbling yourself and restoring the relationship?

If you are willing, the pathway to peace can begin right now. You can get back on your feet and return to your Heavenly Father. First, set things right with Him, and with His help, take steps to reconcile with the one you’ve hurt.

We all have been granted the opportunity to walk The Path of a Peacemaker in our relationships. It is not always an easy journey, but one that, as believers, we are called and privileged to travel. It’s good to walk this path together.

Up Ahead on “The Path”…

While we will take a deeper look at reconciliation with the Father and others in the coming weeks, first we will look at the story of the prodigal son from the perspective of the father and brother. Check back next week for the latest post!

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