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You Get What You Pay For

You get what you pay for, I've learned this the hard way...a few times. I "saved" money buying a used lawnmower only to have it break, pay to fix it, and then pay to replace it. It would have been much cheaper to buy a new one from the start. We get what we pay for in life whether it's lawnmowers, homes, or relationships. If we want life-giving relationships they require constant investment. We have to continually work to make our relationships work, which might explain why so many relationships don't work out.

The Apostle Peter was a man who knew a thing or two about broken relationships. He was impulsive and constantly put his foot in his mouth. He cut off a servant's ear in anger and denied knowing Jesus in fear. He learned many lessons the hard way by the time he wrote the books of 1 & 2 Peter. He had also seen God's love come through time and time again. It was with this well-earned wisdom that he wrote about the four key investments we all have to make in our relationships if we're going to make them work.
1 Peter 4:7-11 (NIV) The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
The first relationship investment we must make is to pay attention. Peter writes “Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.” He’s obviously talking about our relationship with God, but I can tell you that paying attention will help any relationship that you’re in! I know that we’re all tired of Zoom and Teams and Google Meets, but the reason we keep coming back is they make us feel more engaged. We get to see their face while they talk and even a little of their total body language which makes up at least half of our communication.
Video calls help us feel more connected which is a super valuable commodity in our time of social distancing. That said, there has been some studies on Zoom fatigue. Psychologists have been looking at this for a little while and they have a hypothesis as to why Zoom is more fatiguing than normal conversations. Here’s what it is, people multi-task more! What? Sure they do! People are Zooming and getting notices from their email. They’re Zooming and realizing that they could also finish the spreadsheet they were working on. They’re Zooming and scrolling through Facebook. They’re Zooming and shopping. In other words, people aren’t really paying attention! They’re doing other things while they’re talking and listening.
This happens face-to-face as well. How many times have you tried to talk to someone only to realize they were watching TV. Or you were mid sentence when they pulled out their cellphone because it beeped. We live in a distracted world, which is a large part of why people feel disconnected. If you want to have healthy relationships and friendships then pay attention!
Pay attention to the people who are right in front of you! If your phone beeps, let it beep until you’re done with the conversation. Pay attention when you’re online. You wouldn’t scroll Facebook if you were meeting your coworker in your office, don’t do it online. Commit to being fully engaged! We know when someone is paying attention and we love it! Nothing feels better than being truly heard and understood, let’s remember that and give it as a gift to those we interact with.

The second investment we must make in our relationships is to forgive! Peter writes that we should exercise love by forgiving. He says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Forgiveness is the hardest task for any relationship!  It’s the hardest because it costs us the most personally! To truly forgive someone means that we identify the damages of what they’ve done to us. We assess what they owe us and then we decide that we’ll write the check to cover it!
Forgiveness means giving up our right to be right. It surrenders all present and future claims against the offender. It means we won’t bring it back up, hold it against anyone, or use it against anyone…that’s hard! That said, you get what you pay for, and if you decide to forgive someone you know then you have just made a huge investment in that relationship.
I knew a couple that had struggled through infidelity. The wife cheated on her husband, which is rarer than the other way around. It’s also more fatal to a marriage. Yet, this very faithful couple decided to work it out and today they are happily married. Their marriage went through a second honeymoon phase after this crisis. Their relationship today is rich, because they richly invested in it…especially the husband who made a costly decision to forgive.
Now if you are thinking to yourself, “There is no way I could forgive like that.” You’re probably right. When forgiveness is that costly, you have to take out a loan to pay for that offense. You borrow from the grace of Jesus Christ. You have to pray, God give me the grace to cover over this with your love. I believe that if you pray that prayer, God will honor it.

The third investment we must make is to care for everyone as a friend. Peter talks about showing “hospitality” and offering it without “grumbling.” This word for “hospitality” is actually made up of two Greek words. The first is philo or “brotherly love” and the second is zeno which is “foreigner” or “stranger.“ Combining these two words you get the idea that we should have brotherly love for strangers. Now Peter is using this word in the context of the church, so these aren’t necessarily strangers, but Peter still calls on the church to love each other as brothers - treat each other as friends.
I don’t know about you, but I often have more patience for friends than family. Those closest to me often get the worst of me, but I can keep it together for those not related to me. What if we did something super radical? What if we treated everyone, those close to us, and those who are strangers to us, as friends? What if we showed the same mutual love and concern for everyone? This is hospitality at its best, making people feel at home - comfortable in our presence. 
There is a big difference between entertaining people and showing them hospitality. Entertaining is about impressing, showing people a good time. Hospitality is about making people feel at home. If I’m going to entertain you I’ll make a big dinner, something to impress. But, if I want you to feel at home I’ll show you the refrigerator and tell you to help yourself. Do you see the difference? We need to open up our lives to each other and treat each other as friends. When we do, our relationships, our marriages, our friendships will all thrive!

The final investment Peter calls us to make is to keep Christ in our relationships. Now if you’re a non-believer and you haven’t yet committed your life to Christ, then you will have been able to do everything up to this point. You’ll have been able to pay attention, you’ll have been able to forgive (although I’m convinced that capacity increases through a relationship with Jesus), and you’ll be able to treat others as friends. If you do that, you’ll be able to grow in your relationships. This however is something you’ll not be able to do, until you put Christ in your life. You can’t have Christ in your relationship until he is in you.
Peter in this passage challenges us that we should be mindful to “speak the very words of God” to serve ”with the strength God provides.” Think about what this would really look like. It would mean that when you speak you would silently pray and consider, “God what would you have me say to this person?” If you needed to go that extra mile in your friendship and you felt like you didn’t have it in you, you could pray and ask God for the extra strength in our relationship. The end goal in all this is that God would be praised through Jesus Christ. In other words, that your relationship would show God’s love. That your friendship would be a witness of God’s love to those that know you. That your marriage would teach your children about the love of Christ.

If we do these things we'll find that our relationships will bless us for years. Proverbs 19:13 (NIV) “A quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof." What Solomon is saying here is that if your marriage isn’t working, you’ll have constant tension in your home. If you put no work into your marriage it will fall apart. Just like the roof on your house, if you neglect it long enough it will ruin everything underneath it. But, if you work at it, then your roof, or your marriage, will protect everything underneath it, including you, your spouse, and your children. Conflict in our relationships brings tension into our lives and they make us feel attacked. Healthy relationships provide us shelter and give us a safe place for shelter when the storms of life come. The good news is that we can all have healthy relationships, if we'll only take the time to invest in them.