When you and your beloved disagree, are you more interested in being right or being loving?

  • Right means you win (and someone loses!)
  • Loving means you seek understanding for the sake of the relationship.

Which do you think makes for a closer marriage?

Well, Captain Obvious, of course, the latter choice!

Obvious ain’t easy

As evident as it appears, the obvious choice proves to be the more challenging choice. Seeking understanding means forgetting about self for the moment. It stalls the self-focused defensive posture in favor of the other-focused desire for understanding. The second response works because it’s selfless.  

Shift from Self-centered

To choose understanding over winning marks the shift from self-centered to selfless. But, let’s acknowledge the reality, this shift requires some help!

Don’t we most naturally jump into the defensive posture to win an argument?

Yes, we naturally speed to the defensive posture when we feel threatened. The threat may be external, like a vehicle speeding in your direction, or internal, like a challenging point-of-view from your spouse. Whenever we perceive a threat, our automatic fight-or-flight response leaps to the defense.

Before we know it, we find ourselves knee-deep in an argument with our beloved over what we often (or eventually) count as something minor-if we can remember why we argued!

Choosing the other-than-natural response

How do we learn to respond rather than react? Good news, that’s one of the Holy Spirit’s primary functions!

Biblically and theologically, we label this change as sanctification. Practically, we realize this as a slow change into Christlikeness. The Spirit enables the willing believer to grow beyond the natural reactions of life into supra-natural responses of the spiritual life.

Natural reactions serve their God-given function to keep us safe, like jumping from the path of a speeding vehicle. However, the Spirit-enabled responses make choices/decisions to act according to God’s will.

Since God desires for us to act selflessly toward one another, His Spirit patiently works within the submitted believer to shift from self-centered reactions to selfless responses. Again, natural reactions focus on protecting oneself; supernatural responses focus on one’s relationship with God, expressed in relationships with others. It’s the outworking of loving God with your all and your neighbor as yourself!

Selflessness requires “crockpot” thinking

No, I didn’t write crackpot thinking, though you may wonder. A Spirit-developed responsive nature requires TIME UNDER HEAT! We want instantaneous spiritual changes. That’s. . . here it comes . . .very natural, but it’s not very spiritual!

Instead, God’s Spirit patiently works on us over time and through all kinds of difficult circumstances to make us like Jesus. Think about taking two same-sized roasts to the kitchen. Place one in a crockpot. Add the seasonings, liquids, and veggies to the pot—cook that roast for eight hours. Yum, you can smell the goodness now! In the end, you serve a tender, tasty dish.

Season the other roast and place it in the microwave. Nuke it until the probe shows that it has reached the desired internal temp. Now, when you take it from the microwave oven, you have a thoroughly cooked gray, tough, unpalatable piece of meat for dinner.

Which would you serve to your family? Likewise, God will not cut time-corners to deliver a “done” believer.

Circle back to the question

Back to the question, Right or Loving? Who doesn’t want to be loving? God desires that for us too.

Our desire intersects with God’s will as the Spirit brings God’s transforming power into the believer’s life. By His power, we become enabled to respond rather than react, at least over time and in submission.

That’s how we shift from self-centered to selfless, from natural to supernatural, from winning to loving.

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