Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On Conflicts...and long-suffering

Recently, I've been reminded of how Christians tend to be. Unfortunately we're not all that different from everyone else when it comes to how we handle conflict. I think the sheer number of denominations (and non-denominational churches) in America should stand as a pretty fair witness to our inability to resolve serious conflict.

But rather than pine over a solution I'm not likely to find, I want to talk a bit about what I've been thinking about...personal conflict.

Matthew 18 shows us the way to handle this.  First one-on-one, then taking along another (uninvolved) party, then take it to the church, then just let it go and move on. The Bible says to treat him "as a tax collector."

Rabbit Trail: How do you treat the IRS?

I wonder how many church splits Matthew 18 could have fixed. What if Christians actually bothered to take the Bible's 'guidelines' as mandates that we are REQUIRED to follow? See we Americans tend to look at the Bible as a list of suggestions that we can pick from, like an all you can eat buffet. We take heaping piles of God's promises of prosperity, and virtually ignore the meat and potatoes of Christianity...Forgiveness and Service.

God says that if we don't forgive our brother, we won't be forgiven.
God also says that if we don't Love our brother, we don't really Love God.


Beyond that, 1 Corinthians has some interesting things to say about conflict. The Corinthian church was having an issue of lawsuits between believers, so Paul wrote to encourage them, saying "Why not rather be wronged?" Interesting thought. How many of those 'big deal' conflicts that we get into inside (and outside) the church could be solved if we were to simply let go of our sense of entitlement when it comes to how other people 'should' treat us?

Now I'm not saying you never mention it to them, but say I go to my friend Tom, who's been a terrible jerk to me. I tell him that I've been offended by how he has treated me, and I ask him to stop. He says to shove off, because I was a jerk to him first (which I obviously would disagree with). Instead of getting into an argument about who was more wrong...why not apologize for whatever we did to offend him, restate that we would like him to change...and then move on without demanding an apology on the spot.

Lets look at that situation from their point of view...you came and said they were wrong...they get to say you were wrong...and you apologize immediately. Then you politely ask that they be nicer, or stop whatever it was that made you feel bad in the first place.

You're a whole lot more likely to get somewhere with them if you're nice, eh?

But even if Tom doesn't get the point...and he's horribly stubborn. It's still better to let it go. You could demand that he change, and spend your time being frustrated by it...or you can be patient and let it be water under the bridge. Either way, you're unlikely to get him to change his behavior, so why not decide to focus on other things? As Christians, we're more effective when focusing on what we can do for others rather than on what we wish other people would do for us.

Stop being selfish when you're fighting...it just leads to more fighting.

1 comment:

  1. Something that I figured out about forgiveness a long time ago...

    Several years ago, I was wronged by a boss. I got all hot and bothered by it. I was angry. Really angry. So angry that I was guilty of murder in my heart. The boss didn't really see his actions as that big of a deal, and didn't let it bother him. So who was hurt by my anger? It certainly wasn't my boss. All my anger did was make me guilty of sin, and made me miserable.

    Besides, we're called to forgive, and there's a bit of evidence that it doesn't even matter if they apologize. We were wronged. God says to get over it and let Him deal with dishing out justice.

    Let's say that you're mad because of something Tom says, then one of you moves away and you never have contact again. Later, Tom decides that he's sorry and repents and asks God to forgive him (he'd likely apologize, but he's too ashamed and doesn't know your phone number anymore). God grants it because that's what God does. Now who's stuck with the dirty sin stuck over their head? That's right. It's not Tom.

    Either way, it's not worth the useless pain and suffering, nor the chance that you're dragging around unrepentant sin of your own on someone else's account. Get it off your shoulders and give it to God. Put the authority of judgment right where it belongs.