In this society, as we struggle in our relationships, there is a loud heart cry that few people hear. This heart cry comes from many wives, many husbands, many parents, many children, and many Christians. What is this heart cry that few people hear? "You don't have to have my feelings. You don't have to have my needs. But please respect my feelings and my needs."

"If you ignore my feelings and my needs, you ignore me. If you are blind my feelings and my needs, you are blind to me. If you laugh at my feelings and my needs, you laugh at me. If you ridicule my feelings and my needs, you ridicule me. If you trash my feelings and my needs, you trash me."

  1. Let me share with you a simple but true illustration.
    1. A wife must make a decision that troubles her.
      1. She approaches her husband in this way: "Honey, I really need to talk to you. If I have to make a decision, and I am really trying to think it through. It would help so much if I could just talk to you."
        1. He says, "Sure!" and begins to listen.
        2. After listening five minutes, he thinks to himself, "She's rambling. She isn't being logical. She isn't putting this together. I will help her."
        3. He interrupts and says, "What you need to do is obvious. Just do this, this, and this, the problem is solved. Let me logically explain to you why."
      2. It is obvious that he insulted her; she obviously is angry; and immediately a chilling silence fills the house as she walks off.
    2. Her husband must make a decision that troubles him.
      1. He does not even tell his wife that he has a decision to make.
        1. In fact, he does not say a word to her.
        2. He withdraws into himself and becomes silent and moody.
        3. He is unapproachable and obviously does not want to be disturbed.
      2. She senses that he is struggling, so she tries to approach him: "Honey, is something bothering you? Do we need to talk?"
        1. He replies, "Nothing is wrong! I am just thinking. All I need is space."
        2. Bewildered, she feels like she has been rebuked and rejected.
      3. He thinks the matter through, makes his decision, and everything is okay.
    3. Consider a huge secret: women search for conclusions; men solve problems.
      1. The way that women search for conclusions is by talking to someone.
        1. When a wife asks her husband to listen, that is all she wants.
        2. She does not want him to think for her or give her advice.
        3. She does not want him to solve the problem for her.
        4. She does not want an editorial.
        5. She wants her husband to listen--if he understands her feelings and needs, he listens.
      2. Men solve problems by reasoning within themselves.
        1. They don't want to talk; they want to focus.
        2. They don't want someone else's evaluations; they want to reason within themselves.
        3. And they want to be left alone while they think.
        4. If his wife understands his feelings and his needs, she lets him think.
    4. Do you realize how many marriages suffer times of excruciating pain because husbands and wives do not understand each others' feelings and needs?
      1. Do you realize how much heartache this ignorance creates?
      2. Do you realize how much pain is created because husbands and wives are ignorantly insensitive to each others' feeling and needs?

  2. The insensitivity of ignorance is the problem Paul addressed in Romans 14.
    1. Jewish Christians did not understand the spiritual needs of Christians who worshipped idols before conversion.
      1. They did not understand the spiritual realities of a person who worshipped idols in the past but now believed in Jesus Christ.
      2. Jewish Christians were certain that these Christians should think and feel just like they thought and felt.
      3. Jewish Christians did not want to understand their feelings and needs; they just wanted to change their feelings and needs.
    2. Christians who worshipped idols before conversion to Jesus Christ did not understand the feelings and needs of Jewish Christians.
      1. They did not understand the spiritual realities of a person who stopped trusting the law in order to trust a Savior.
      2. They were convinced that Jewish Christians should think and feel like they thought and felt.
      3. They did not want to understand the feelings and needs of Jewish Christians; they just want to change their feelings and needs.
    3. So this is what they did to each other.
      1. Jewish Christians looked at non-Jewish Christians with contempt (Romans 14:3).
      2. Non-Jewish Christians condemned Jewish Christians (Romans 14:3).
      3. Jewish Christians said that there were some days that were more holy and more important than other days (Romans 14:5).
      4. Non-Jewish Christians said that there were no special holy days (Romans 14:5).
      5. So each condemned the other or caused the other to spiritually stumble (Romans 14:13).
    4. Paul said:
      1. Stop the condemning; stop holding each other in contempt (Romans 14:3).
      2. Neither of you are to Lord over the other (Romans 14:4).
      3. Be true to your own understanding and your own conscience (Romans 14:5).
      4. Each of you must understand this: the other does what he does for the Lord to express his faith (Romans 14:6).
    5. Paul said, "Both of you are Christians; you need to be sensitive to each other's spiritual feelings and needs."

  3. Last Sunday I stated that we did not recognize the spiritual needs of different groups within the congregation.
    1. I stated that we needed to grow in our respect and sensitivity for each others' spiritual needs.
      1. You may sincerely respond, "David, I think we are a sensitive congregation."
      2. "I really think that we are quite considerate of other people."
    2. In many things and many ways that is very true.
      1. This congregation does an incredible job of responding to other people's physical needs.
      2. Yet, in many ways, we do not understand how to respond to other people's spiritual needs.
      3. In important ways, identifiable groups don't understand each other's spiritual needs.
      4. When we don't understand each other, we react against each other.
      5. When we react against each other, we stop respecting each other.
    3. Allow me to explain the kind of insensitivity that I am talking about.
      1. In each generation, personal perspective is the interpretation of life and life's events on the basis of experience and knowledge.
      2. In that interpretation, experience is always more powerful than knowledge.
      3. Life experiences influences all of us more than what we were taught.
    4. For the sake of example, let me continue last Sunday's illustration.
      1. I contrasted the experiences of those above 60 with the experiences of those below 20.
      2. This is the basic contrast:
        1. Those above 60 have experienced war, poverty, and stable relationships.
        2. Those below 20 have experienced peace, prosperity, and unstable relationships.

  4. There are many ways to illustrate this, but let's illustrate it with the words, phrases, and content of the songs different groups enjoy in public worship.
    1. Since distinct illustrations are best produced by extremes, let's contrast the songs that the depression and World War II generations love with the songs our below 20 generation enjoy.
    2. The songs the generations who experienced the depression and World War II love to sing are about God helping us with this world's troubles.
      1. "Be With Me Lord" It includes the statements, "I cannot bear the loads of life unaided," and "If dangers threaten, if storms of trial burst above me head, if lashing seas leap everywhere about me..."
      2. "Safe In the Arms of Jesus" includes, "Only a few more trials, only a few more tears."
      3. "It Is Well With My Soul" includes "when sorrows like sea billows roll."
      4. "Whispering Hope" urges "Wait till the darkness is over, wait till life's tempest is done" and speaks of the "deepening darkness" and "the night being upon us."
      5. "Does Jesus Care" talks about pain, burdens, distress, weariness, grief, dread, and fear.
      6. "Precious Memories" is a nostalgia song that talks about precious father, loving mother, old home scenes from my childhood, and not knowing what the years may hold.
      7. "The Church In the Wildwood" is a nostalgia song that talks about the little church building in the woods that I knew when I was a child.
    3. I asked Brad (our youth director) to give me the songs our teenagers most enjoy.
      1. The most popular is, "Light the Fire," [not in our song book] that praises God and asks for a better relationship with God. "Light the fire--in my soul. Fan the flame--make me whole. Lord you know--where I've been. So light the fire in my heart again."
      2. "Step By step" praises God and promises follow His ways by walking in His steps."
      3. "I Will Call Upon the Lord" praises the God I trust.
      4. "Nobody Fills My Heart Like Jesus" thanks God for breaking through "my heart," and for all that Jesus did in saving me. It declares that "nobody fills my heart like Jesus."
      5. "Thank You, Lord" thanks God for all He has done and all He will do.
      6. "Listen To Our hearts" says, "God, only my heart can tell you how much I love you."
      7. "I Want To Be Where You Are" says, "I want to live every day of my life in your presence."
    4. Let me focus you on some basic insights.
      1. The songs we who are over 60 love cannot mean to our teens what they mean to us because the teens have not had our experiences.
        1. To us, those songs are wonderful, powerful statements of our faith that come out of our childhood, out of our war and poverty experiences.
        2. But those songs do not reflect the childhood or the experiences of our grandchildren.
      2. Our teens live in an evil society, but not a society struggling with war and poverty.
        1. They value relationships.
        2. The songs they love celebrate God's personal help, praise God for relationship, and affirm that relationship.
        3. To those of us who are above 60, relationship does not mean to us what relationship means to our grandchildren.
    5. Two things must happen to increase our understanding and sensitivity to each other's spiritual needs just in the songs we sing.
      1. We who are over 60 need to share why our songs mean so much to us, and teens need to listen.
      2. Teens need to share why their songs mean so much to them, and we who are over 60 need to listen.

When a group makes it clear, "We don't like your songs, and I am not going to sing them," are we not being insensitive and destroying respect? Is it not clear that each person loves the songs that reflect his/her experience and touch his/her spiritual needs? If we are insensitive about something as simple as a song, wonder in what other ways we are insensitive?

I am so grateful that we belong to a loving God. And I am so grateful that we belong to the resurrected Jesus Christ.

God can do things humans find so complex we can never master.
God knows what every heart needs. He knows what every Christian wants to say to Him. He doesn't hear us singing and praying as a group, but as individuals.
Your Christian brother or sister may not understand you as you think they should. Your Christian brother or sister may not be as sensitive as you think they should be.
But, God knows. God sees. God cares.
Don't think about other people when you worship. Don't think about other people when you serve. Think about God.
Are you living like a person who trusts in God? Have you become His child? We invite you to Jesus Christ who understands every person, including you.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 25 January 1998

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