Build Bridges and Restore Relationships

We live in a pluralistic society known for its cultural, linguistic and other diverse attitudes, perspectives, beliefs, values and customs. Naturally, these differences have an enormous influence on our relationships and interactions with other members in our society. Resisting differences will result in confusion, chaos and crisis. But a proactive approach of embracing diversity and understanding these distinctions will yield high dividends. Such broad understanding will help us to relate with our fellow beings effectively and intelligently. Vibrant interpersonal relationships will be sustained even in the midst of differences, disagreements and diverse opinions. This healthy approach fosters balance between community and individuality, transparency and trust. Strengthening strong interpersonal relationships within a Movement wins the confidence and allegiance of the members. Spontaneous involvement, willingness to walk the extra mile and sacrifice in achieving the goals are the natural outcome of respecting the individuals. Members should strive towards identifying the relationship strains in the initial stage before they are blown out of proportion. Major breakdowns in relationships happen due to lack of communication. Effective communication is the best remedy to the interpersonal problems that wreck the relationships in family, fellowship, community and movement. Stephen R. Covey says: “The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply”.

“Next to the salvation experience, a child of God should understand that people, including seasoned saints, are different.” With these words, a senior EGF member advised one of her mentees who was struggling with her interpersonal problems in her place many years ago. This sane advice drives the fact that we will have to rub our shoulders with Peters and Pauls, Eurodias and Syntyches in our fellowship as long as we are working with human beings of different ethnic, denominational, linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

In any community of people, disagreement and misunderstanding are unavoidable. However, if such issues are not addressed, they shall distract the members and their goals will be pushed to the margins. The Devil is synonymous with division, disaster, chaos and crisis. Division is used as a good pitch by the Evil one to settle his score with the kingdom of God. The word ‘Devil’ comes from the Greek Word, ‘diabolos’ which means ‘to divide’ ‘to separate. Wherever there is division, especially the division that pits one member against another, it rings an alarming bell that the Enemy is at work. The Arch-enemy of God is a Master Schemer who pits one linguistic group against another, one regional leader against another. The members do not know that they fall into the traps set by the serpent. For example, an ICEU or EGF may have had a glorious past. It has produced many committed men and women of God. It may have the distinction of sending missionaries too. It was looked up as a model through its transparency in relationship, active involvement of members and unity in the fellowship. But now the ministry is in a mess and other centers are praying fervently for its revival.

The subsequent generation has fallen prey to the divisive forces of darkness. As the Indian statesman Rajagopalachary observed about Christianity, a few EU centers have “been divided into sects, sub-sects and finally they have become insignificant insects”. The churches in India stand divided due to Intra and Interpersonal problems. It is painful to observe that some of our EU and EGF groups also face the threat of becoming defunct.

The Bible warns us to identify the little foxes that ruin the vineyard and get rid of them: “Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes” (SS 2:15 NKJV). It may be fun to watch those little foxes playing, jumping and rolling in the grass. Of course, these ‘little foxes’ may not look dangerous. But they represent the evil forces that damage the church or a fellowship. Slander, envy, gossip, anger, hidden agenda, and being judgmental are some of the examples of little foxes that ruin our vineyards in UESI. When the EGF members resort to gossip, character assassination, mudslinging, fault finding against fellow members particularly in the presence of young graduates and the students, we allow the little foxes to spoil the ‘tender grapes’.
Churches and Christian organizations have lost their ‘saltiness’ as they have allowed the little but deadly creatures to grow into intimidating giants. The scriptures warn us not to play with them but to crucify them: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desire of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there” (Gal 5:24 NCT). Many devotionals and studies have been done on the ‘little foxes’ that play havoc with believers. This article will focus on the following three venomous evils which have damaged many homes and fellowships: Pride, Prejudice, and Pollution.

Pride: It is the queen of all Sins. That is why the Apostle John labels it as one of the three ‘Cardinal Sins’ that characterize worldliness: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the Pride of life (1 Jn 2:16). Pride is the root cause of all broken homes, fragmented fellowships, and divided churches. It is not easy for the fellow members to be comfortable with an arrogant and egoistic leader. A few Christians are inflated with the size of an ‘elephantine ego’ that they cannot stomach someone questioning their decision. C.S Lewis puts it more precisely in his comment on Pride: “. . . It is because I wanted to be a big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise . . . ” (Source: John C. Maxwell in his article on ‘The Problem of Pride’)
This attitude is an enemy to the character and ethos of UESI which advocates Team work & Servant Leadership. A person who assumes himself to be great rebels against servant-hood. He will ride roughshod on the feelings of his fellow members. We may have perhaps lost quite a few men and women of God because we are not humble enough to say: “Sorry brother/sister, I have hurt you”. Resentment and bitterness continue to poison our fellowship as broken relationships are not reconciled through forgiveness and confession. Paul advises his fellow Christians to “Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10 NLT). Highfield is our Heritage structure handed down to us by the Sterretts. It was nurtured like a beautiful vineyard by Dr. Sterrett and Eloise. But little foxes sneaked their way stealthily in to this UESI family once. The study center, which focused on the scriptures and servant-hood, was struggling with relationship problems and unhealthy factions. Dr. Sterrett was devastated. When he was going through a phase of pain, the Spirit of God stirred up his heart to compose the song: Jesus commanded us something to do Love one another as I have loved you: My love will guide, and enable you to, Love one another” (Source: A Tale of a Legend)
As Pride leads to our division, the cross leads to our humility, and our humility leads to our unity with others.

Prejudice: Dictionary defines Prejudice as a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience. History testifies that Hitler and Stalin have wiped out millions of people from the face of the earth due to their deep rooted prejudice against a race. Ethnic violence and wars have erupted due to prejudice. Churches and Christian fellowships are no exception to this deadly virus. A sister cannot stand the sight of a beloved sister for her shape of nose or the way she dresses or her manner of walking and talking. Is it possible to expect uniformity among all the members of UESI which is Interdenominational? Variety is the virtue of our Movement and diversity is its beauty. This diversity in unity brings increase!

Respecting the individuals and integrating the differences and upholding ‘charity’ should be our guiding principles. The Spirit of God who dwells in the body of Christ would be grieved if one section of UESI looks at the other with a different ethnic or linguistic background through the glasses of prejudice. I may not be able to align with the thinking, principle, and practice of another brother in my fellowship. But I must learn to respect him, love him and team up with him to achieve our goals. The ‘jaundiced view’ of a few believers will create a toxic atmosphere. The members of UESI should do a self-examination honestly and find out if they are guilty of the following prejudices:

a). Spiritual Social / Economic Snobbery: This prejudice means that people think they are socially, spiritually and economically better than others. In other words, we become judgmental about others who are not up to our spiritual standards or convictions. And we have a tendency to look down on such brothers and sisters with contempt. It is a grave offence if we measure fellow believers by the yardsticks of status, spiritual growth and personality. If a fellowship is guilty of snobbery (despising the interior), then it becomes another secular club. When William Booth was not able to address an important Salvation Army Conference due to his ailment, he sent a one word telegram to the organizers: ‘Others’. Think of others, love others, respect others and value others. As the Lord Jesus Christ has accepted us with all our imperfections, lowly status and unworthy condition we should accept one another.

b). Intellectual Elitism: It means having an attitude of looking down on those who are poorly educated. Our forefathers have taught us through word and deed on how to relate with people of different intellectual caliber. Paul mentions about 30 different individuals in Romans 16th chapter. They labored with him, as co-labourers. UESI needs people from diverse backgrounds. “Everyone is important but no one is indispensable”.

c). Ageism: It is another prejudice which is raising its ugly head in a subtle way in some quarters of UESI. The seniors think that the youngsters are inexperienced, impulsive, fast and modern gadget friendly. The youngsters think that many senior graduates have become old fashioned and they are out of touch with the trends and challenges of the fields. Both of them may be right in their opinion. But ignoring either of them will make UESI lose its sheen. We need the wise counseling and the guidance of the gray hairs or bald heads and also the energetic, vibrant, tech-savvy of the Youngblood. When age, health and mental coordination do not cooperate, it is advisable for the seniors to step down graciously giving to the next generation. But it is the responsibility of the elders to caution the members of the movement when things go wrong with the core values, distinctives and ethos of UESI.

Pollution: It is the third virus that damages the credibility of the movements. Pollution in an organization is caused by gossip. These vices create a toxic environment in our fellowship what is shared for prayer and confidence reaches the itching ears in the next few hours. It is too difficult to find a fellow graduate or senior member in whom the young graduates can pour his heart, share his struggles and temptations in complete trust and confidence.

The destructive power of the tongue:

The Book of the Proverbs and the Epistle of James have warned about the pain, anguish and the trauma caused due to acid spouting sharp tongues. “There are those who speak rashly, like the piercing of a sword” (Prov 12:18a AMP). Reckless, rash and hurting words inflict deep and incurable wounds on the victims. They cause irreparable damage. We always remember some of our senior graduates who would listen to us with empathy. They would use the right words to correct us. One must speak the truth but in love (Ephesians 4:15). During World War II, there was a saying: “Loose lips sink ships”. It may be adapted to the Christian life: “Loose lips sink human spirits”. More damage is done to the body of Christ through ‘loose lips’. How can we ask someone to smell the rose after cutting his nose? Prov12:18a also highlights the constructive power of the tongue: “. . . But the tongue of the wise brings healing.” May gracious, healing and encouraging words flow from our tongues!

In conclusion, Conflicts in interpersonal relationships are inevitable. As human beings, we are vulnerable to hurt through careless walk and talk. Strains in relationships create a toxic atmosphere in our fellowship. If the members walk in the light of the Scriptures, the Spirit of God, who loves unity, will convict us when there is an estrangement and bitterness towards one another. Spiritual maturity is synonymous with humility. It drives us to take the initiative in reconciling the broken relationships by saying ‘sorry’ if we are wrong. A phone call or a text in WhatsApp “I am sorry, dear brother/sister, I have hurt you” will restore our strained relationships and bring back the dear ones.

Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has given us a golden rule in Matthew 7:12: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you”. The towel and basin found in the wrapper design of the book LEARNING TO LEAD by Chua Wee Hian, the Former General Secretary of IFES, make a powerful statement about servant leadership.

Dr. A. Arjunan is a retired English Professor and the author of “A Tale of a Legend: Biography of Dr. T. N. Sterrett.” He was an EU student in Tuticorin (1978 to 1982). He is married to Beulah, and they reside in Madurai, TN. They have been part of Madurai EGF. They have been blessed with two sons, Sterrett and Salins and a grandson. You can reach him at

No Comments

Post A Comment