Christmas Gatherings With Difficult People


Christmas celebrates the coming of Jesus Christ the “Prince of Peace” who brings “peace on earth.”  Really?  Even peace to our extended families where longstanding grudges can be nursed and offenses harbored for decades?  Sadly, Christmas gatherings typically bring many into rooms filled with old relationship hurts and grievances.  How could we ever enjoy peace even in such places?

John Piper tells how the Prince of Peace can bring peace even there:

Peace with Others

The third relationship where God wants us to enjoy his peace is in our relationships with other people. This is the one we have least control over. So we need to say it carefully the way Paul does in Romans 12:18. He says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

For many of you when you get together with family for Christmas, there will be some awkward and painful relationships. Some of the pain is very old. And some of it is new. In some relationships you know what you have to do, no matter how hard it is. And in some of them you are baffled and don’t know what the path of peace calls for.

In both cases the key is trusting the promises of God with heartfelt awareness of how he forgave you through Christ. I think the text that puts this together most powerfully for me again and again is Ephesians 4:31–32, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Continually cultivate a sense of amazement that in spite of all your sins God has forgiven you through Christ. Be amazed that you have peace with God. It’s this sense of amazement, that I, a sinner, have peace with God, that makes the heart tender, kind and forgiving. Extend this to others seventy times seven.

Don’t let your dominant amazement be:  “How could I be so wronged?  They shouldn’t have said what they said, or brought it up again!”

Of course they shouldn’t have. What good is that? A feeling of vindication, of justification, while everything falls apart?!  But Ephesians 4:31-32 doesn’t say that.  

How do you feel tender when you’ve been pounded?  I know only one possible answer — be amazed that you’re forgiven!  Just amazed!  Just amazed!  Self Righteousness is simply the non-amazement at being forgiven.  God’s son was sent and not spared from piercing and beard pulling and pain and shame from his enemies.  Be amazed!  It’s that amazement that enables you not to be embittered 40 years after the grievance.  I know relationships.  I’m walking into relationships where grievances are 40 years old and they won’t let them go. How does that come about?  They’re not amazed!  I’ve sat and talked with Noelle about relationships out there.  They’re not amazed that they’re forgiven!

It may be thrown back in your face. It certainly was thrown back in Jesus’ face on the cross. That hurts and it can make you bitter if you are not careful. Don’t let it. Keep being more amazed that your wrongs are forgiven than that you are wronged. Be amazed that you have peace with God. You have peace with your soul. Your guilt is taken away.

Keep trusting God. He knows what he is doing. Keep his glory, not your success or your effectiveness in peacemaking or your relationships, supreme in the treasure chest of your heart.

And then you will be like the angels: Glory to God in the highest is the first thing. Peace among his people is the second thing.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” This is why he came — on a day, to a city, as the Savior, Messiah, and Sovereign. That God would get glory, and that you would know peace. May the God of peace give you peace, and get his glory.

You can read and watch Piper’s entire sermon here.  This third point starts at about 39:30.

About savedbygrace1976

Mark Chanski (author of Manly Dominion; Womanly Dominion; and Encouragement: Adrenaline for the Soul) has labored as a full-time Pastor since 1986 in churches in Ohio and Michigan. He has been Pastor of Harbor Church in Holland, Michigan, since 1994. He has also been elected as Coordinator of the Reformed Baptist Network. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Cornerstone University, and a Master of Divinity degree from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He teaches Hermeneutics for the Reformed Baptist Seminary in Sacramento, CA. Mark is married to his wife Dianne, and has fathered their four sons and one daughter, whose ages stretch from 36 to 26 (born 1983 to 1994).
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