“If I knew she would change, then I would be willing to…”

While I am no stranger to that phrase – in reality, I have been known to say or think it myself – I still despise it, especially when it comes from the lips of a believer in Jesus Christ (or at least someone who says they are).

Faith or not, the truth is that this approach to relationships simply doesn’t work. Invariably those words are coming out of both individual’s mouth which puts the relationship in a standoff. They just stare each other down, waiting for – no, demanding – that the other person blink first.

In his book, Love and Respect, Emerson Eggerichs calls this “the crazy cycle.” Two people going round and round, each driving the behavior of the other because neither wants to be the first to go in a straight line.

While truly disappointing, it is not surprising to hear secular people say this. Our culture insists that “winning” is vitally important. Somehow the person who “gives in” is deemed to be wimpy and weak. Americans don’t back down! – no matter who has to die along the way.

However, it is deeply concerning to me when a “Christian” man or woman (or both) make this the ground rule for resolving issues and restoring relationship. I am so very thankful that Jesus did not say to me, “Well, Jim, as soon as change those sinful behaviors, particularly this one and that one, then I will be willing to consider dying for you.” If that was how it worked, just call me toast! But gratefully, it’s not:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Whew, saved by the grace of God! Thank you, Jesus.

Except…

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

So how did Jesus love me? By offering Himself in sacrifice for me long before I was willing to even try changing, much more be successful at it (which none of us totally are). I not sure God is very impressed when those who call themselves His children demand that others change before we will love them.

So how about we all give that phrase a little thought when tempted to speak it? Loving as we have been loved could radically change things.

Pastor Jim