Do Not Be Surprised if the World Hates You

There is no source of comfort as true or as good as God’s book, the Bible. For millennia, God’s people have turned to its pages to find solace, to find hope and encouragement. Sometimes comfort is found in unexpected places, in unlikely words. I found it this morning in a simple sentence written by Jesus’s dear friend John: “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). Every Christian has endured times when we have been …

Have I Sinned Against You?

I once had an unexpected, startling confrontation with another Christian. I was a speaker at a conference and walking from one event to another when an individual came charging up to me. He got right up in my face, like a batter arguing strikes with an umpire, and began to tell how I had offended him. I quickly learned I had done something he found irritating and he wanted me to know all about it. I listened to him for …

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Extending an Olive Branch

It is the season of olive branches. At least, it is the season of metaphoric olive branches, of people offering peacemaking gestures, though whether these are genuine or opportunistic remains to be seen. My interest is more in the expression than the gestures themselves because this is yet another neat little idiom that is derived from the Bible. We offer olive branches because of a very important olive branch in a very important story in the most important book. The …

The Provocative People of Proverbs

The perverse person. “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends” (16:28). Just like a computer hacker writes a virus and releases it to spread across the internet, this perverse person creates strife—bitter disagreement—and seeds it into his relationships. He may do this through slander, through gossip, and through backbiting, always with the design of turning other people against his victim. His perversity is aimed at harming others. The lover of transgression. “He who loves transgression loves …

Danger Signs of an Unhealthy Dating Relationship

I expect we have all seen dating relationships go wrong. We have all seen people move from unwise and unhealthy dating relationships into turbulent, difficult, or even doomed marriages. How can we help people avoid this? What are some danger signs of an unhealthy dating relationship? Lou Priolo’s books have often been helpful to me and this has proven the case once more with a little booklet he’s written on this very subject. He offers a long list of danger signs, but …

The Beginner’s Guide to Conflict Resolution

One matter of continual concern to me is interpersonal conflict within the church. It’s not the existence or even the quantity of conflict, but the inability or unwillingness to deal with it when it arises, and this despite the Bible’s clear teaching that Christians are to resolve conflict and how Christians are to resolve conflict. It’s simple: As believers we are not permitted by God to have open, unaddressed quarrels with other believers. We are to work to bring any …

When Jesus Brings a Sword

The Prince of Peace once told his disciples “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Many antagonists have interpreted this to mean that Jesus incites his followers to acts of violence—if not physical violence, at least relational. In their view Christians are cruel, Christians are mean, Christians are eager to separate themselves from anyone who disagrees with them. But any fair reading of the …

You Don’t Really Know Who Your Friends Are Until…

You don’t really know who your friends are until their relationship with you becomes a liability instead of a benefit. Many celebrities, and even Christian celebrities, have learned this lesson the hard way. In the blink of an eye, or the release of a news story, they went from fêted to ignored, from celebrated to invisible. They learned quickly that many of their so-called friends had actually not been friends at all, but people thriving on a kind of symbiotic …

To the Other Woman’s Embrace

I sometimes wonder what it was like for Sarah as she watched Abraham and Hagar walk into that tent together—what she thought, what she felt (Genesis 16). What was it like for the wife to watch her husband seek privacy with that other woman, knowing exactly what they were about to do? Where did her mind go in those moments when they were out of sight? How far had Sarah fallen to not only permit this, but to suggest and …

Never Sorry Enough

I am not easily offended. People will sometimes apologize to me for something they have said or something they have done, concerned that I was offended at their behavior. But I rarely am. It usually doesn’t even occur to me to be offended. But then there is that one situation with that one friend. A long time ago a friend really did offend me. He hurt me badly, actually. In the aftermath he did the right thing. I spoke to …