The following excerpt from Norman’s classic “The Law of Faith”, focuses on how we can successfully meet the frustrations and challenges that arise daily in our personal relationships.
The question of our relationships with people is so important that we think it is worth a most careful examination. We shall find that it is only another application of the same law of faith. We have seen the way by which the tangles of our self-governed life can be exchanged for the blessings of Christ-control, and the challenge of frustrating circumstances can be turned into the adventure of believing God. It can be the same with the set-backs of inharmonious relationships.
Getting God’s View
Go a step further. Go to the secret place, spread the matter before the Lord, not so much to pray and groan for deliverance, perhaps you have often done that; go to get His point of view on your neighbour, even as you get His point of view on a difficult situation. What does He say or think about him? Ah, that takes on a different aspect.
For God does not see us all clothed in our pettinesses, in those little selfishnesses and idiosyncrasies which annoy. He sees us in Christ and Christ in us. He sees His Beloved Son and us in Him. Now that makes all the difference. We look again at our neighbour. We see Christ in that life (supposing him to be the Lord’s). We see the changes Christ has wrought. We praise and love, for Christ in us unites with Christ in him. It does not mean that the faults are not there, but it means that the greater fills our vision and the lesser retires to its proper place; for nearly all disunity comes through magnifying the lesser and minimizing the greater in a person.
Love is Trust
Now we go out to begin again. By God’s grace we are going to reckon on Christ in our brother, rather than see the flesh or even the weak human. But that means something else of great importance. We said that brotherly love is a process of faith. It is. Real love means faith, means we trust our brother. Let us test our love by that. How often we will say: “Of course we love so and so, but, but, but…,” and out will come all the reasons why we could not trust him. But real love is trust. God even trusted that fallen sinners could and would respond to Christ. There was a sense in which He reckoned on the response of a wicked world or He could not have died for it. And if we cannot trust even a brother in Christ, we can always trust Christ in him; and we can remember that God trusts him and has long patience with him, even as He has with us.
Now, faith is potent. What we believe in we are producing and propagating. Our very looks, words and actions are always propagating our faith. We are always ministering either faith or unbelief, life or death, Christ or devil, every minute of the day. One or the other streams from us. No man lives unto himself. Therefore, if we are reckoning on and believing in a brother’s weak point, we are actually strengthening these things in him. If, on the other hand, we are reckoning on Christ in him, we are building up the image of God in him. Therefore our attitude to our brother not only affects us and gives us either release or strain, either bondage or liberty, but it affects him; and we are responsible to God for the way we affect our brother.
Victory may by no means come in a moment. Even as in the battle of faith over a difficult situation, we have to hold the ramparts of faith against many an assault of unbelief and stand fast, so in the battle for brotherly love. We may fall back again and again before an assault of criticism or annoyance or resentful feeling. Well, return again and again to the place of love and faith which sees Christ in him.
Importance of Openness
The best action to take and the most costly, and therefore most effective, is to tell our brother frankly of the facts of the situation and of God’s dealings with us. We shall get nowhere if we merely heatedly tell him where he rubs us up or appears to us to fail. We must involve ourselves also in the statement, by admitting our resentful reactions. That is the approach by the way of the Cross, not telling him to die on it, while we sit and watch him; but dying ourselves first by confessing where we have been wounded and hurt and hard. That will certainly bring a relief and a release to us. Frankness always liberates; and in many cases, such an approach, combining confession with faithfulness, will open the way to a frank talk and honest solution of the problem, or at least a spirit of openness by which the subject can be frankly re-discussed when it re-arises.
To see Christ in him is the solution, there is no other; and even if he does not respond, love then will flow freely in one’s own soul. And even if my neighbour is not a child of God, the same principle is valid, for if I cannot see him as one who has Christ in him, I can see him as one whom Christ seeks, and at whose heart’s door He is knocking, and in that sense I can see him as Christ sees him, as one He would save.
But now another question arises. This procedure may be feasible when no intentional wrong is done us by our neighbour, when the discord is rather more temperamental than deliberate. But what of the many instances when some real wrong is the cause, some unguarded or malicious statement, some unkind or obstructive act, something that really hurts me or a dear one, and stirs indignation or calls for retribution and rebuke?
Let us remember the one golden rule. Every battle of life is fought and won within ourselves, not without. Gain the inner spiritual victory, and the outer follows as sure as the day the night. How hard it is for us to learn that we control and conquer from within. We are used to dealing with the outward, with things and people, and we fly to the outward for supply; wrestle against the outward in adversity, cry out against the outward when wronged. Poor blinded creatures, scratching about for the bits and pieces on the outside, when all the wealth and power of the universe streams into us through the Creator, and He is to be found where spirit meets with Spirit—within!