Here's a rudimentary statement for you; relationships are hard!
Whether it's your spouse, your children, your best friend, your co-worker, or your neighbor...relationships come with an element of difficulty. And the reason is simple; we're involved in them.
Now before I lose you I want to bring a bit of clarity. I'm not suggesting that you are a difficult person (though if you're anything like me...you may be), I'm simply saying that you are a person. Scripture sheds light on what I'm trying to get at here,
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," | (Rom. 3:23)
As we've seen in scripture, through our walk through Genesis, sin destroyed the perfect unity God established between Adam and Eve. What this means for us is that for all intents and purposes relationships are broken. Of course some relationships naturally work better than others, based on many factors including compatibility, patience, longevity, and grace; but nonetheless if you wait long enough every one of your horizontal relationships will have its difficulties.
But there is good news! The encouraging thing for Christians is that the Holy Spirit gives us the capacity to live differently. That's right, with the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to glorify God in and through our horizontal relationships. And the best news of all is that this is one of the primary means God uses to reveal himself to the world. Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment, to love one another, and he assured them that the world would see Christ in them, through their love for one another (John 13:35). The Gospel gives us a new set of lenses that, if used right, will help us become Gospel-centered people.
The Lens Reveals the Way:
Every relationship offers a door of opportunity to point people to Jesus. Regardless of the situation or how difficult the circumstances may be, there is always an opportunity to glorify God in and through our horizontal relationships. Even the most difficult relationships you have; with your spouse, your children, your neighbors, or your co-workers, can be used by God for your good and his glory if you are willing change your lens.
The Lens Helps Us See:
When the Gospel becomes the lens with which you choose to look at other people (in good relationships and difficult relationships), conflict and bitterness and resentment can quickly turn into opportunities. Opportunities to preach the Gospel to yourself as you grow in character and opportunities to point others to Jesus.
The Lens Helps Us Remember:
When we wear the Gospel lens, the changes we desire to see in others (i.e. why can't they just be respectful, or kind, or considerate, or loving, or more understanding) are no longer rooted in self-centeredness but are instead rooted in the hope that only comes through Jesus Christ. The same grace that was capable of saving us from our sin can save others from their sin as well. When we choose to look at difficult relationships as opportunities instead of inconveniences, we begin to live and love in the same way that Christ does. When we remember who we were without Christ (and how far we still are from Christlikeness) we can then choose to offer the grace and unconditional love that Christ has for us, to others. And it is through this love that Jesus reveals himself to us and to the world.
Gospel-centered love looks deeper than a person's outward actions or words. Regardless if they are a friend or a foe, when we choose to look beyond the effects that sin has on others, we begin to see that we are far more alike than we are different.