Heath Lambert: It’s Valentine’s Day week and everybody is thinking about romance. Everybody’s thinking about the fun they want to have with their spouse, or with their boyfriend, or their girlfriend. But everybody who’s been in a romantic relationship for any amount of time, know that those relationships come with the baggage of conflict. There is conflict in all of our relationships. Good relationships are characterized not by the absence of conflict, but by people who know how to respond to conflict when it arises. And so, we want to talk about how to give your spouse, how to give your boyfriend, or girlfriend the gift of conflict resolution on this Valentine’s Day.
We have a really great guest to help us talk about that this week. He’s Dr. Ernie Baker. He is the pastor of counseling and discipleship at the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida. He is the adjunct professor of Biblical Counseling at The Master’s University and the Chair of their online Biblical Counseling program. And he is also a Fellow with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Dr. Baker, we’re glad that you’re here. And you believe as we all believe at ACBC that the Bible is about our conflicts. What principles are embedded within the gospel of Jesus Christ for dealing with the kind of relational tension that we all experience?
Ernie Baker: Thanks, Heath. I am so grateful to the Lord that he has given us abundant resources in the gospel to know how to deal with relational tensions and there’s just an abundance of exciting principles that are embedded in the gospel. Just to name a few. When I think about what the Lord did for us in the doctrine of reconciliation instead of moving away from us, He moved toward us. And when there’s relational tension, it is so easy to put up barriers and to want to protect yourself and move away from someone. The first thing I would say for protecting relationships and what’s embedded in the gospel that helps resolve relational tension is to move toward people and resist the urge of moving away from people. In that way, we’re following the example of the Lord of how he moved toward us, instead of away from us. I also think about what it took to pay for the penalty of our sin, on the cross. It was just a tremendous amount of sacrifice that the Lord went through, but it led to the incredible blessing of reconciliation. So, we should expect that it’s going to be hard work, it’s going to take sacrifice, but it is worth all the effort because then you have the abundant blessing of reconciliation at the end of all the hard work.
I’ve also been really encouraged through the years thinking about Philippians chapter 2 and just another one of the amazing principles that are in the gospel. Philippians 2, as we know is about our Lord as a servant, and how he gave himself as a sacrifice. And I’d like to read two verses, which I think give us incredible principles for what to do to resolve relationship tension. So, Philippians, 2, 3, and 4 say this, “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, let each of you regard one another as more important than himself, do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also the interests of others.” So, imagine the response of your spouse or your boyfriend or girlfriend, instead of digging your heels in when there’s tension in their relationship and just waiting to make your point. Instead, you expressed a servant attitude of, I really want to understand your position. So Philippians 2 says, do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also the interest of others. So, really trying to understand what your spouse is concerned about, what is their interest, what are their fears and concerns, and displaying a servant attitude, just like our Lord did in the gospel.
Then the last thing that I would say, and there’s so much more that it’s embedded in the gospel, is when we think about the amazing, as Paul says in Ephesians 1, the lavish grace, that we’ve been given in Christ. When we think about lavish grace, and the amount of the degree of forgiveness that we’ve been given that if I then following that model, lavish grace on others, it’s a tremendous blessing to the relationship, and brings healing and preserves the relationship. So, just off the top of my head, those are four things that I think about that are embedded in the gospel that help with relationship tension.
Heath Lambert: Okay, so those are rich principles from the Scripture for how to think about the model of conflict resolution that we have in the gospel of Jesus. On Valentine’s Day week, you might have somebody listening to this. And let’s say it’s a married man who had a conflict with his wife over the weekend and he’s in kind of a foul mood about celebrating Valentine’s Day now. He doesn’t think she’s going to be that excited because she’s still hacked off. He feels distant and not close. We could imagine such a man saying, forget it, we’re just not going to do anything this year or equal and opposite reaction, you can imagine a guy saying, you know what, I’m just going to take her we’re going to go to dinner, I’m going to give her the flowers, I’m going to get her the gift, we’re going to be together and we’re just going to do it even though there’s this going on under the surface.
What would you say to a man who is considering doing either of those? And what would you say are some practical first steps that he should take to try to be restored with his wife as he thinks about celebrating Valentine’s Day this week?
Ernie Baker: I would remind him of Ephesians chapter 4, which tells him not to let the sun go down on his anger, and would hope that it would motivate him that he needs to take action. Not taking action would be a violation of a very clear biblical principle. I would remind him of the practicality of what happens when they do ignore conflict that festers, it leads to baggage in the relationship, which is not good for their sexual relationship. So that’s not good for intimacy. If they are allowing things to carry over from day to day.
On the other hand, if it’s someone who really wants to have a good Valentine’s Day, but there’s this unresolved issue, I would recommend to them a resource that I use with a lot of couples, and it’s found in a book called Peacemaking for Families. And I teach this principle to a lot of couples called the pause principle P.A.U.S.E and it’s actually based on the verses that I just read Philippians 2:3-4 of how do you really work through the issue? So, P.A.U.S.E. is an agenda that you follow to actually work through a specific issue and bring it to resolution based on Philippians 2:3-4. So, I would urge him to resist the temptation of, whoever the man is of either one of those responses of either ignoring it and pretending like it doesn’t exist because that’s not good, that’s going to lead to hindering the intimacy in the relationship. That’s not very good for Valentine’s Day. On the other hand, for the man who just doesn’t know how to work through it, I’d recommend getting familiar with the P.A.U.A.E. principle and make yourself work through the issue. Because it’ll just lead to a healthier relationship.
Heath Lambert: All right, so he needs to take a step to really deal with the conflict. And one helpful step is this, P.A.U.S.E principle and Peacemaking for Families, by Ken Sande and Tom Raby.
So, let’s talk about some other resources than that folks might go to try to unpack these issues that we can’t do in a brief podcast like this. What are some other helpful conflict, resolution resources?
Ernie Baker: Well, like so many areas in biblical counseling right now we are abundantly blessed with good resources and the same thing is true in the conciliation world if you need help with a conflict maybe it’s a church conflict or marital conflict. There are certified conciliators with the Institute for Christian Conciliation, and you can find them on ICCpeace.org. And just like ACBC has a list of people who have gone through training for biblical counseling. There are a list of certified biblical mediators. I wrote a little book called Help, I’m in a Conflict by Shepherd Press. There’s also Peacemaking for Families by Ken Sande. There is the granddaddy of all the peacemaking books is called The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. I use that one for church conflicts. For family conflicts, I use Peacemaking for Families. Robert Jones has a wonderful book called Pursuing Peace. There’s also another book for pastors called The Peacemaking Pastor by Alfred Poirier. Robert Jones has Uprooting Anger. So that’s a list just to get a start but there’s an abundance of good resources, right now.
Heath Lambert: So, you need to avail yourself of the resources to deal with conflict. One of the best gifts you can give your spouse this Valentine’s Day is the gift of conflict resolution.