Overcoming Difficult Relationships for Him

This message was presented on March 3 as the sixth part of a study on Relationships from the book of Colossians, concluded in September, 2012.  The purpose of the study in relationships was to show the importance of relationships, which can often be messy, but problems in relationships can be overcome if we understand our expectations, the reason for why we need to restore relationships and how to overcome difficult relationships.  These six messages begin to scratch the surface on dealing with the intimate reality and joy of relationships.

Overcoming Difficult Relationships for Him
Romans 12:9-21
How do you deal with difficult relationships?  I’ve heard many people say, “I’ve forgiven him; I don’t have anything against him.” Some will respond, “I’m glad you have forgiven.  That’s wonderful for not holding onto the anger for his mistreatment.  I guess the question is, ‘Why do you still talk about him that way?’”  Many genuinely believe they have forgiven a person and left that conflict in the past.  They hit the delete button, but the emotions are still there.  They feel held back. Sometimes the reality of the hurt and emotional pain remains because the person is still living in close proximity and he doesn’t seem to want to reconcile, change or acknowledge the pain.

Mitsuo Fuchida was the lead bomber pilot for Japan in the Pearl Harbor attack.  Once the planes were off the carriers, he was in charge and he was the one who signaled, “Tora, Tora, Tora!”  He was a proud samurai soldier and Shinto-worshiper.  He said it was his most thrilling exploit of his career.

Fuchida was at Hiroshima the day before the atomic bomb dropped, but he left just in time.  A couple days later, he went back with a team and all the other team members died, but Fuchida was pronounced in good health. He was recuperating from an appendectomy on a ship during the Battle of Midway and his ship was sunk, but he was rescued with only two broken legs.

Fuchida hated MacArthur for his perceived arrogance.  But it was MacArthur who called for American missionaries to evangelize Japan.  Three years after World War II, Fuchida embraced Christianity.  Why?  God was working on his heart.   Fuchida asked questions about life and watched God work in nature.  But he also heard of an 18-year-old volunteer hospital worker and met one of the sergeants in the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo.

At the Japanese surrender on the U.S.S. Missouri, MacArthur spoke of “freedom, tolerance and justice.”  Fuchida thought justice was on Japan’s side, but the USA had greater power.  MacArthur closed his message saying, “Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always.” In Fuchida’s questions about life, he was skeptical.  He doubted his own emperor who spoke of everlasting peace, and he didn’t believe the General now. All Fuchida knew from history was self-serving nations looking out for their own interests. War will always result.

Fuchida also saw God at work in nature.  Because he had no other way of living, he bought a parcel of land and became a farmer.  He watched things grow and looked at the sky and wondered what made it tick.  As he looked into the bright night sky and saw the North Star so steady and useful, he began to see the workings of a supreme intelligence.   He began to see all things were dependent upon a divine Creator.  He became ashamed of his old independence and realized his own existence was from the Creator.  In his writings Fuchida said, “The Creator is wonderful.”  But he did not become a Christian until he met the reality of Christ in a genuine Christian.

Fuchida was prejudiced to believe Japanese prisoners were treated as horribly as American prisoners.  But one by one as he interviewed returning POWs, he discovered he was wrong.  Many returned with tales of kindness and several spoke of one young woman in particular.  Her name was Margaret “Peggy” Covell. She was 18 years old and worked in a POW camp as a volunteer social worker.  A man said, “Something happened at my camp which made it possible for all of us to stop nursing our resentments and to return to Japan with lightened hearts.”

Peggy Covell ministered to POWs with tireless energy and grace.  She would say, “If you’re uncomfortable or need anything, let me know. I’ll do anything I can to help you.”  Three weeks into her work, some of the prisoners asked, “Why are you so kind to us?” They were not prepared for her answer.  “Because Japanese soldiers killed my parents.”

Her parents, Reverend and Mrs. Covell were missionaries at a school in Yokohama. Before the war, all the workers relocated to Manila in the Philippines.  When the Japanese conquered the Philippines, they discovered in the Covell’s belongings a small portable radio which they were convinced was a secret communications device. They were tried as spies and beheaded.

Peggy was in the states and did not learn of their death for quite some time. At first, she was filled with bitter hatred for the Japanese. Then, as she thought of her parents and the sacrificial service they had given to bring the gospel to that nation, she became convinced they would have forgiven their captors before they were executed. She would have to do the same.

Fuchida was greatly affected by her story.  He began talking to every POW who had known “Peggy” Covell. In time, he found the members of the military who had executed her parents. He wanted to know exactly what the Covells had said or prayed before they were beheaded.

The Japanese considered revenge honorable. A man captured and awaiting death never forgave his captors. He prayed to be born again seven times, and to exact revenge in each life. The Japanese word for revenge, ‘katakiuchi,’ means literally ‘attack enemy.’ Fuchida fervently believed in the principle of ‘katakiuchi.’  Now he heard a story of unjust suffering and death, and a daughter left alone, but no vow of vengeance from either the dying or the survivor.

As Fuchida began reading the Bible, he found his answer in Luke’s gospel. Hanging on the cross, as Jesus’ life was ebbing away, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).

Surely these words were the source of the love Peggy Covell had shown. It came to Fuchida that, as they knelt to die, Peggy’s parents had prayed just such words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Tears sprang to Fuchida’s eyes. By the time he had finished reading Luke, Mitsuo Fuchida took Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.  Why?  Because a young woman, a teenager, was willing to forgive the murders of her parents and she replaced the anger and desire for revenge with forgiveness and blessing. How do you deal with difficult relationships?

            Emotions will certainly be a difficult barrier when choosing to forgive, but that’s why Paul says, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Rom. 8:37)  The first step is to ask Jesus to replace the pain with blessing the offender.


1)      Let Jesus replace pain with blessing Rom. 12:14-21

There are too many examples of difficult relationships that cause pain.  Last week a nine-year-old boy took his life, because of bullying.  There are 4400 cases of suicide reported to Center for Disease Control (CDC) each year and 440,000 attempts. That is a lot of pain.

There is parental abuse from children, which continues at an alarming rate, normally on mom.  It is usually hidden and not discussed. There are about 900,000 cases of child abuse reported to Child Protection Services (CPS) each year. How many go unreported?  Then you add in all the abuse in marriage between spouses and the pain goes off the charts.  David said it so well of his situation, “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?”  (Ps. 56:8) Let’s understand, pain, comes from sin, one way or another. 

How do people often respond to that pain?  There are many human approaches.  Some of them include:

·         Lash out to fix the person

·         Don’t get mad, get even (and there are many ways to do that)

·         Avoid the person, so you don’t let your anger out

·         Avoid the person, so you don’t have to deal with feelings

·         Be silent and avoid the conflict

Man’s ways will not deal with the difficult relationships well. What does God say?  Let’s look at Romans 12:14-21.

Paul writes in Romans 12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” The word “persecute” is used in both a positive and negative sense.  Positively, it means “to make run or flee” or “pursue.”  Paul uses it in a positive sense in Phil. 3:12 when he said, “I press on.” In the negative sense, it means “to harass” or “trouble,” hence “persecute.”  Our flesh doesn’t want to bless. Consider Peggy’s loss of parents to Japan.  They were trying to help the Japanese, not hurt. They were killed unjustly. Has injustice ever happened to you?

Then Paul adds, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Rom 12:15)  Paul’s point is to determine what is going on with the other person.  Then join them.  Get your eyes off of yourself and put your eyes on the other person.  If they are rejoicing, then rejoice with them. If they are weeping, then weep in comfort with them.  Peggy Covell looked and asked herself, what do these Japanese prisoners need? She came alongside the prisoners and sought to ease their confinement hardship.  You do this by seeking to be of one mind, “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (Rom 12:16)  Join with others in unity of the Spirit and don’t set yourself above them.  Seek a humble status.

Then Paul cuts to the chase and says, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.” (Rom 12:17)  Paul is clear. Repay no evil.  How would you respond to those who murdered your parents?  Would you have a little lingering resentment?  At least avoid the group who committed such a vile act?  Peggy Covell, not only forgave, but she replaced the pain with blessing. There is no room for doing wrong to anyone. 

There is no room for reaction.  There is no room for sinning when someone else sins.  Instead, do what is right in the sight of most people.  Don’t do what culture accepts.  Do what is good in the sight of all men. He adds, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. “(Rom 12:18)  If it is possible, live peaceably.  If it is possible, not based on the actions of others, but as it depends on you, live peaceably.  If it is possible, and sometimes it is not possible as it was not possible with the founding fathers and the English crown, live peaceably.  You then mirror God’s desire.

Why does God want us to live at peace with others? We live at peace, because only God knows when it is best to take action and He will lead in the long term if you depend on Him.  Paul clarifies this, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Rom 12:19)  Give place for God’s wrath to act.  If you act, God will step back and let the offender off the hook.  Let God act, because He will exact the right vengeance as required by the holiness of God.  God knows perfectly well what to do.  He is able to exact whatever justice is necessary.  He is able to ensure the offense receives the precise retribution. He knows what is just.  Have you ever wondered if people have felt enough pain in return for the pain they caused?  Sometimes we hurt enough, or we have stewed over the hurt enough and it seems to grow.  Send the pain and penalty up to God through forgiveness.  This is the principle explained in the three slides describing forgiveness. See the link at: http://renewingtruth.blogspot.com/#!/2013/02/forgiveness-restoring-relationships.html

Finally, Paul gives practical application for how to deal with a difficult relationship.  Paul addresses the need of the offender.  If the offender is hungry, feed him, or give him a drink.  Why?  So that you may bless him, “Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” (Rom 12:20)  That’s what Margaret Covell did.  It is a God thing!  Heaping coals is a blessing, because it means you give him coals for a fire pot that he uses to carry back to his home to bake bread – coals of fire is a blessing. Paul summarizes, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:21)  It is easy to be overcome by hurt and pain, so make the choices to do good, to bless.  That’s what Peggy did so that the POWs returned back to Japan lightened from their oppression and not bitter.

            The second miraculous work you can do in a difficult relationship is to let Jesus help you disciple the offender to the truth.


2)      Let Jesus help you to disciple him/her/them to the truth 2 Tim. 2:24-26

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, (2 Tim. 2:24-25)

Is there any Christian who cannot be a servant of the Lord?  No, all Christians can choose to be a servant.  As a servant, the servant can choose to be gentle to all and teach what he knows and be patient.  Each is a choice under the filling of the Holy Spirit.  But the servant is not merely choosing to be nice.  There is also a time to carefront and correct someone in opposition.  The reason is that God may (or may not) grant repentance.  The person may repent, or he may not repent.  Now why would God not grant the person to repent?  God may allow the person to be hardened toward the offendee.  Why?  Because God may have other ways toexalt His glory!

Does God not grant the offender repentance to make you miserable? No, never. But He would allow that, so you could see the miracle of the Holy Spirit working in your heart to deal with the offense and transform you to bless and disciple the person, or at least bless from a distance if you are not able to restore the relationship.  God may want to show the world that His power in you to remain patient or remain unified or remain stable is greater than the offense.  Will you humble yourself to the Holy Spirit?  You may be the demonstration of God’s grace and mercy, “so that they may know the truth.”

The last part of the passage enlightens to the reality of the angelic conflict, that is, the spiritual warfare going on in the human conflict, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2:26)  The offender who doesn’t repent is really ensnared by the devil.  Be patient and thank God that you arefree from the wicked one.  Have compassion on the offender, so that you might be able to come to the aid of the offender once he does repent. 

The third action in which you can see the miracle of God’s power through you is to let Jesus bless those whom He can – through you.


3)      Let Jesus bless, through you, whom He can   1 Pet. 3:8-12

Jesus may not bless some people, because they remain hardened and will not accept His blessing.  Jesus doesn’t force His blessing on anyone.

The context of the passage in Peter begins in 1 Peter 2:13, where Peter exhorts everyone to be submissive to governing authorities and laws of the land.  In 1 Peter 2:18, Peter exhorts servants to be submissive to their master, just as Jesus was submissive to the Father’s will.  In 1 Peter 3:1, Peter exhorts wives to be submissive to their husbands and then in 1 Peter 3:7, Peter exhorts the husband to be submissive to the Lord in order to live with their wife in an understanding way.  One of the main reasons for this submissiveness is so that there can be order instead of conflict.  When submissiveness is lacking, because humility is lacking, there will be conflict.  So Peter summarizes this in 1 Peter 3:8-12,

8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;

 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

 10 For “He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit.

 11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it.

 12 For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” (1 Pet. 3:8-12 )

God calls every believer to be united in their thinking and that is only possible with a heart of compassion, with tenderheartedness and with courtesy toward one another.  That is possible only in the filling of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, Peter practically calls the believer to not return evil for evil (1 Pet. 3:9), just as Paul did in Romans 12:17.  Why? Peter spells out that we were called to return a blessing to people, so that we might inherit a greater blessing.

In fact, Peter calls the believer to turn away from evil and seek peace.  That can only be under the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our flesh would much rather fight back or internalize in self-pity. And finally, Peter declares that God is just and He is fully aware of our prayers and His face is against those who do evil.  We don’t have to be concerned that God is unaware.  He will not let the guilty go unpunished.  Let God take care of that.  You walk in peace as far as it depends on you.

Jesus said it best to the disciples.  He said,

27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

 28 “bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. (Luke 6:27-28)

Are you listening to Jesus?  Are you committed to Jesus as your Head?  Are you a committed disciple? Then do these four things: 1) love your enemies; 2) do good to those who hate you; 3) bless those who curse you; 4) pray for those who spitefully use you.

There are going to be relationships that you will not be able to reconcile.  You may have parents who have now died and you are living with the angst of hurt and pain from growing up.  You may have lived with a person who criticized you for years and you know they moved out of country, but you have no idea where.  You may see the person who deeply hurt you at Meijer regularly and they still hate you, passively or actively.  You may see friends who continue in a good relationship with offenders, but you cannot. You may have to deal with your ex-spouse because of sharing time with children.  You may have fellow employees or supervisors who continue to be nasty and you can’t leave the job.  What do you do? Look for opportunities to bless and wait on the Lord.  Do what Joseph did.

Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, but turned his hardship into blessing.  After he was slandered by Potiphar’s wife, he covered that sin with God’s love.  When Joseph became the prime minister of Egypt, can you imagine the opportunity to go back to Potiphar and set the record straight?  Or when his brothers came down to Egypt to secure grain for the family back in Israel, how he could have thrown his brothers to be tortured and forgotten in prison?  But Joseph recognized and appreciated the love and mercy of God.

After Joseph’ father, Jacob, died, the brothers concocted a phony scheme.  They were still afraid Joseph may have resented them so they sent a messenger to Joseph saying that their father begged for Joseph to forgive them for their sin of selling Joseph into slavery.  Joseph wept. 

Joseph was not like them.  Joseph was compassionate like the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, when his brothers approached Joseph declaring that they would be Joseph’s servants, Joseph responds with the godliness that the Lord has worked in his life,

19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?

 20 “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

 21 “Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.  (Gen 50:19-21)

            Note three things about Joseph’s response that we need to apply to our lives.  First, Joseph would not assume the place of God and take action against his brothers.  When you take revenge, you put yourself in God’s place. Let God be God. Secondly, Joseph understood that God was using the evil of his brother to work a greater good that could not have been done without that evil action.  And thirdly, Joseph promises to provide for them and he comforted and spoke kindly to them.  He wasn’t resentful or bitter.  He wasn’t sarcastic or abusive.  He spoke kindly.  That is what you are called to do toward your offender.

            Now understand this is not pacifism.  This is not being nice and acting like a rug.  This is not saying, “Well, people will be people and I can’t do anything about it.”  It is blessing to preserve holiness. You may need to act to preserve holiness for your family, or your church or even your country.  That’s what our founding fathers did when they wrote up the grievances. After years and years of seeking restoration and just and fair hearings, the founding fathers broke from the English crown and recorded the 27 grievances in the Declaration of Independence.  Our individual responsibility calls us to seek peace, as far as it is possible with us.  Here’s the point:

Jesus will right every wrong, so you can choose to be a blessing!

·         God has called us to be a blessing.  Return no evil; give of yourself to bless.

·         Trust the authority of the Word by faith to forgive and bless.  If you are struggling with pain over many months, have you forgiven and asked God to use you to bless the offender?

If you do, you may impact the person, who will then bless the world around you.  That’s what happened to Mitsuo Fuchida.

Tears sprang to Fuchida’s eyes. By the time he had finished reading Luke, Mitsuo Fuchida took Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. At this time, he had no Christian friends, no one to help him; no one to share his new experience.

God sent Fuchida a messenger, one of the Doolittle Raiders. After the April 18, 1942 bombing of Tokyo, Jacob DeShazer and his crew bailed out over China. There they were captured and sent to Shanghai. Three officers were executed; the others spent the duration of the war in prison camps with beatings and starvations.

DeShazer hated his captors and it almost drove him crazy. But he remembered truths taught by his Christian parents. One day, he was given the use of a Bible. In that prison camp, he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and promised to return to Japan as a missionary.

Sometime in October 1948, in downtown Tokyo, Mitsuo Fuchida was handed a leaflet by an American man titled. “I was a prisoner of Japan.” Eventually, he located a full-length book DeShazer had written and devoured its contents.

DeShazer had concluded that his Japanese ministry had been a failure. In the middle of a fasting and prayer vigil during which he was pleading with God to send some evidence that He was using his work. Fuchida was the answer.

Fuchida was impressed by the force of DeShazer’s testimony. In time, Fuchida and DeShazer became friends and the former Doolittle Raider helped Fuchida learn to stand before crowds and give his story.

Mitsuo Fuchida died in 1976, but for the final 25 years of his life, he told crowds all over the world of Jesus Christ who had protected his life and saved him. Large numbers of people, especially in Japan, turned to Christ as a result.


This scratches the surface of dealing with difficult relationships.  Take these principles and they will carry you a great distance to be godly and be united in Spirit in the bond of peace.

A wonderful phrase that we teach children is how to deal with difficult relationships:

Good thought,

hurt you not,

gossip never,

friends forever.

Message Based Discussion Questions

1)      Why does merely talking about Christianity often muster up negative images and angry reactions?

Digging Deeper

2)      What was David’s response to his soldier who told him the Lord had given his enemy into his hand in 1 Sam. 24:1-10? ____________________.  How is David’s response different than way the world thinks?  What are the circumstances in 1 Sam. 26:7-16? 

3)      With whom did Moses get counsel in the conflict with Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Num. 16:1-33)? _____________ .   How would you classify Moses’ anger (Num. 16:15)?  How does this compare with the principles taught in the message?

Making application of the message to life:

4)      How does God want you to deal with sins against you in the past?

5)      What aspects of forgiveness have you struggled the most in the past?

6)      If you have hindered relationships, what does God want you to do based on the message passages?





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