When the Housing Market Meets the Gospel
Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the humble; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with everyone. Beloved, never avenge yourselves . . . Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.
Buying and selling a home is fraught with tensions and opportunities for conflict—whether you are the buyer, seller, or real estate agent for one of the parties.
Often, when the sellers have lived in the home for many years, they are very attached to the house. By that time, it has almost become another member of the family. It is the place where so many important family events have occurred over the years. A house also bears the marks of a family's tastes and practices—from paint colors to landscaping to cleanliness. In these ways, a home becomes an extension of the personalities of the family members who live there.
It's no wonder that many sellers get angry when an agent or a potential buyer criticizes the physical condition of the property or certain aesthetics they think need to be changed. Similarly, sellers are frequently insulted when a potential buyer submits an offer to purchase the house at a price that seems unreasonably low from the sellers' point of view. In these situations, temptation lurks close at hand—the temptation to act unfaithfully by responding with behavior that does not embody Christ in the context.
Buyers face similar temptations. When buyers submit a contract offer that seems reasonable to themselves, how should they react if a seller becomes indignant? Most sellers respond by reducing the sales price. But sometimes indignant sellers will let that price become a matter of personal pride. Should the buyer walk away angrily from an otherwise beneficial transaction simply because the sellers refuse to negotiate?
These circumstances are common in the business world when any type of property or business is being sold. Temptation toward unfaithful, destructive behavior lies nearby, waiting to lead the parties to destruction.
Each of these situations demands effective leadership. From a Christian perspective, good leaders are good disciples. They follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. In Romans 12, Paul offers his own interpretation of the pattern of living exemplified in the person of Jesus. Paul encourages people to "live in harmony," to "take thought for what is noble," and to resist the temptation to sabotage all business dealings with pride.
Romans offers several important correctives to destructive patterns, correctives that help us see win-win scenarios in our daily work. For instance, in a real estate transaction, sellers should not think too highly of their own property. They should humbly recognize that their important memories associated with the property will not be shared by strangers. We can't assign a financial value to our memories and sell them. Similarly, Paul says part of being Christ-like is living peaceably with others. No angry responses are justified under these circumstances. Spiteful behavior does not fit the pattern of Christ.
By exercising good leadership in business transactions—by being faithful followers of Christ—we will often find ourselves in win-win situations. In this way, as Paul suggests, good conquers evil. The power of God prevails over all other forces in the world to produce abundant life for everyone involved.