I love those old westerns! Things were so simple then. You know, the good guys were good, and the bad guys were bad. The hero only kissed his horse. And the most he did with a girl was probably sing some trail song to her. And there was always a predictable showdown with the head good guy and the head bad guy. One of the classic lines usually came as the Marshal stared down Bad Bart. And he said something like this, “I want you out of town by sundown.” Great line. By the way, it’s a great way to keep peace in town – or anywhere for that matter. I don’t mean asking people to leave, but setting a deadline like that.
I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “How to Have a Peaceful Relationship.”
Now, our word for today from the Word of God is from Ephesians 4:26, one of my favorites. “In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” I’ve often thought, “Boy, that would be a great sign to put over every married couple’s bed.” Huh?
It’s talking here about how to have peace and keep peace in a relationship. It has to be anchored to this determination not to let any conflict last until tomorrow. “Get out of here by sundown!” Yep, that’s the message! It takes work to keep peace in a marriage, or a family, or in a friendship, or a group of people who are working together, or in a ministry, or in a church.
Earlier in this chapter, in chapter 4 verse 3, it says, “Make every effort…” Okay, that means work hard. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” What kind of effort? Well, there are three efforts that keep peace in a relationship. Number one, deal with the conflict quickly. If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you may know it’s a very clean amusement park in spite of the millions of people who go there. You get the feeling that if you drop something, they’re going to pick it up before it hits the ground. They’re going to catch it. And you know what happens? Clean breeds clean. They pick something up immediately. Their theory is, “Don’t let a mess get started, and there won’t be a big one.”
That’s a pretty good idea for keeping relationships clean. Don’t wait until it’s built into a crisis. Deal with the first strain, the first miscommunication, or misunderstanding, or hurt. Deal with conflict quickly.
The second effort to keep the peace is, “Tell how you feel.” For example, I never knew I had been hurting my wife. I had inadvertently been interrupting and correcting her in public conversation some years ago. I didn’t know until she told me. Well, don’t just expect people will know. And you can say, “Well, they ought to know.” Well, tell them how you feel. Express it as a feeling – not an accusation. Tell them how you feel!
And the third effort to keep the peace is to admit being wrong. That might be the toughest one of all for some of us. Be willing to apologize. Powerful words, “I was wrong.” Some of us are like Fonzi, we can’t get those words out. “I was wro..wro..wrong.” We just can’t say it. But those are three of the most healing words in the English language.
James 5:16, “Confess your faults to one another, that you may be healed.” When we let conflict and hurt stay overnight in town – maybe many overnights – we destroy peace, we erode love, we create resentment. we erode trust.
Unresolved anger is always a bad guy in town. And you know what to tell a bad guy, right? “I want you out of here by sundown.”