If Relationships Aren’t First….

Looking through Parade Magazine on Sunday I saw this little question and answer:

Q I’m curious about what happened between Crystal Cathedral founder Rev. Robert H. Schuller and his son Robert A. Schuller. The younger Schuller no longer appears on the church’s Hour of Power Sunday telecast. Do he and his father still speak?—P.K. Sharpe, Tampa, Fla.

Apparently not. The family rift that caused the famed 83-year-old televangelist to remove his 55-year-old son last fall, about two and a half years after naming him as his successor as senior pastor of the California megachurch, seems deep and bitter. Leadership has passed to Robert H.’s daughter, the Rev. Dr. Sheila Schuller Coleman. Interestingly, the telecast is now led by one of several ministers, including Rev. Coleman and her father.

Now I’ve never been a fan of the whole mentality behind the Crystal Cathedral, but I nonetheless find it horrific that a father and son would end up no longer talking to each other over their differing views on whatever they think that fellowship should be doing. Is doctrine that important? Management style? Something else?

I know of nothing more powerful to destroy close friendships than religion or love of money. I’m always amazed how even families who profess God’s name can be torn apart over an issue of church management and end up distant and bitter. I feel bad for the Schuller’s and pray God will work a better reconciliation in their family and the wider body.

But it is an old story to be sure, but unless we put relationships of love ahead of every other consideration, even where we think we’ve been wronged by others, the body of Christ will continue to leave a wake of damaged and broken relationships in the world. A close brother and I got separated years ago. It remains one of the biggest regrets of my life, not just that the friendship ended, but that people weren’t willing to fight for the relationship against all enemies!

I’m sure glad God thought nothing more important than relationships of affection with his children and fought for it even putting his own life on the line. At the end of the day, that’s what has to come first with us too. The world has had enough division between brothers and sisters. It doesn’t need one more broken relationship.

I realize that isn’t always our choice, and despite our best efforts and our most passionate pleas, it only takes one person given to selfish ambition or vain conceit to throw away a friendship. Friendships are just too precious to toss away any one of them, so as much as it lies within me I’ll always fight for a friendship above anything else. I just that sometimes I realize I end up fighting alone.

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14 Comments
  1. David Grant December 1, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    I think there are times when friends shouldn’t work together. I’m not talking about a short term project but more in line with long term commitments with each other. Someone eventually feels threatened or feels let down. Or there is a difference in the power grid and friendships suffer when equality is not a cornerstone of that friendship. I’m not saying it isn’t possible but friends need to allow each a way out of the venture that they started out together on. If they start feeling trapped they may not know how to express it in a healthy way and therefore end up doing something despicable to destroy the relationship.

    It’s interesting that Jesus said it was for his disciples good that He had to leave. Perhaps even His deepening relationship with his disciples would have been limited by His physical presence. We know that they dealt with internal jealousies and bickered over who could get close enough to Him. What would their relationships with each other have looked like, if He had remained for 10 years?

  2. Wayne December 1, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    David, I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I think friends will rarely work together, because almost always the task they do together becomes more important than the relationship. But even when they are meant to be more long-term, things don’t always work out, or perhaps Father only meant them for a season. Paul and Barnabas’ split is a great example of that. I just wish they would have respected each other enough to free each other to live differently, rather than explode all over the other.

    All the partnerships I’ve had in tasking have always promised each other that if we didn’t want to keep working together we would find a gracious way to bring it to resolution, rather than on person trying to grab all they can get and betray their word to the others. Sadly, most in the end can’t bring themselves to do it. As you say, they may just bee too broken to express their dissatisfaction in a healthy way, but hopefully they can recognize that in themselves and stop a moment to put the relationship above their own personal comfort. That’s always a risk, which is why I think you need to fight for it…

    Or so I hope.

  3. David Grant December 1, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    I think there are times when friends shouldn’t work together. I’m not talking about a short term project but more in line with long term commitments with each other. Someone eventually feels threatened or feels let down. Or there is a difference in the power grid and friendships suffer when equality is not a cornerstone of that friendship. I’m not saying it isn’t possible but friends need to allow each a way out of the venture that they started out together on. If they start feeling trapped they may not know how to express it in a healthy way and therefore end up doing something despicable to destroy the relationship.

    It’s interesting that Jesus said it was for his disciples good that He had to leave. Perhaps even His deepening relationship with his disciples would have been limited by His physical presence. We know that they dealt with internal jealousies and bickered over who could get close enough to Him. What would their relationships with each other have looked like, if He had remained for 10 years?

  4. Wayne December 1, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    David, I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I think friends will rarely work together, because almost always the task they do together becomes more important than the relationship. But even when they are meant to be more long-term, things don’t always work out, or perhaps Father only meant them for a season. Paul and Barnabas’ split is a great example of that. I just wish they would have respected each other enough to free each other to live differently, rather than explode all over the other.

    All the partnerships I’ve had in tasking have always promised each other that if we didn’t want to keep working together we would find a gracious way to bring it to resolution, rather than on person trying to grab all they can get and betray their word to the others. Sadly, most in the end can’t bring themselves to do it. As you say, they may just bee too broken to express their dissatisfaction in a healthy way, but hopefully they can recognize that in themselves and stop a moment to put the relationship above their own personal comfort. That’s always a risk, which is why I think you need to fight for it…

    Or so I hope.

  5. mark brown December 2, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Good discussion guys!
    It’s all summed up in Love. The Person of 1Cor.13… Love hopes all things, bears all things and never fails (etc.).
    A pat answer perhaps, when the details of “the issue” seem so important.

    So, is it true that “Friends Are Friends Forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them”?… an old M.W.Smith song.
    What about when friends choose to become “enemies”?… hurting, despitefully using, cursing. Only Jesus free in us can bless, pray for and Love them. A miracle that blows away any power in the world (or wisdom… it’s foolishness to them) to be sure.. the Love of God.

    “So we follow God’s own fool, ‘Cause only the foolish can tell; Believe the unbelievable; And come be a fool as well” -old Michael Card song.
    Peace to you, not as the world gives.

    MDB p.s. – friendships are a gift from God. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord. We must hold them with a open hand of thanks, and be careful to not hold on to them with the strength of our own will.
    I think you’re saying to “fight” for them in His grace, love and mercy though, eh Wayne?

  6. Wayne December 2, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Absolutely, Mark, perhaps fighting is a bad word. I certainly didn’t mean roping someone to a chair and forcing them to be your friend again. By fighting for a friendship, I simply meant not walling off our heart even when others abuse us or take their leave of us, and continue to make ourselves available for reconciliation if there’s any willingness on the other party’s part. We certainly can’t harass someone into reconnecting, but as much as it lies within us seek to put healthy relationships above any other agenda.

  7. Don December 2, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Wayne, it is interesting you bring up the rift between Paul and Barnabas. That fight was over whether or not to bring John Mark along on their next journey. It is sad that years later Paul had reconciled with John Mark and commended him as profitable to the work with him in the ministry. But there is no record of whether or not Paul and Barnabas were ever reconciled. Despite the testimony of both of these men, they were still just men.

  8. mark brown December 2, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Good discussion guys!
    It’s all summed up in Love. The Person of 1Cor.13… Love hopes all things, bears all things and never fails (etc.).
    A pat answer perhaps, when the details of “the issue” seem so important.

    So, is it true that “Friends Are Friends Forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them”?… an old M.W.Smith song.
    What about when friends choose to become “enemies”?… hurting, despitefully using, cursing. Only Jesus free in us can bless, pray for and Love them. A miracle that blows away any power in the world (or wisdom… it’s foolishness to them) to be sure.. the Love of God.

    “So we follow God’s own fool, ‘Cause only the foolish can tell; Believe the unbelievable; And come be a fool as well” -old Michael Card song.
    Peace to you, not as the world gives.

    MDB p.s. – friendships are a gift from God. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord. We must hold them with a open hand of thanks, and be careful to not hold on to them with the strength of our own will.
    I think you’re saying to “fight” for them in His grace, love and mercy though, eh Wayne?

  9. Wayne December 2, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Absolutely, Mark, perhaps fighting is a bad word. I certainly didn’t mean roping someone to a chair and forcing them to be your friend again. By fighting for a friendship, I simply meant not walling off our heart even when others abuse us or take their leave of us, and continue to make ourselves available for reconciliation if there’s any willingness on the other party’s part. We certainly can’t harass someone into reconnecting, but as much as it lies within us seek to put healthy relationships above any other agenda.

  10. Don December 2, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Wayne, it is interesting you bring up the rift between Paul and Barnabas. That fight was over whether or not to bring John Mark along on their next journey. It is sad that years later Paul had reconciled with John Mark and commended him as profitable to the work with him in the ministry. But there is no record of whether or not Paul and Barnabas were ever reconciled. Despite the testimony of both of these men, they were still just men.

  11. Amy December 3, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Yes Wayne, I agree. But, I also think that this “for a season” has become an over-used catch phrase, that is often really a smoke screen for people who mean, “I’m bored or irritated with this job, this group, or this person. I’m going to toss it and move on to someone or something else.”

    I also have found myself fighting alone many times, whether it was just disinterest on the other person’s part or a grief between us. People these days think nothing of tossing friendships. Just as people don’t think material things are worth repairing, they just throw it out and get a new one. I’ve had it done to me ‘outside the box,’ too. It doesn’t just happen in sticky political, institutional situations.

  12. Amy December 3, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Yes Wayne, I agree. But, I also think that this “for a season” has become an over-used catch phrase, that is often really a smoke screen for people who mean, “I’m bored or irritated with this job, this group, or this person. I’m going to toss it and move on to someone or something else.”

    I also have found myself fighting alone many times, whether it was just disinterest on the other person’s part or a grief between us. People these days think nothing of tossing friendships. Just as people don’t think material things are worth repairing, they just throw it out and get a new one. I’ve had it done to me ‘outside the box,’ too. It doesn’t just happen in sticky political, institutional situations.

  13. Wayne December 3, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Amy, I think we’re talking about the seasonalness of tasking together. I do agree that the relationships themselves (especially if we dismantle the task with honor and grace) should thrive even beyond it. Family is for life! I do love the long-term friendships I’ve had throughout my life. Even if we don’t see each other for years at a time, we pick up with all the affection from our last parting. Those are the relationships I love.

  14. Wayne December 3, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Amy, I think we’re talking about the seasonalness of tasking together. I do agree that the relationships themselves (especially if we dismantle the task with honor and grace) should thrive even beyond it. Family is for life! I do love the long-term friendships I’ve had throughout my life. Even if we don’t see each other for years at a time, we pick up with all the affection from our last parting. Those are the relationships I love.

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