The older I get, and I am getting there fast…the more I am beginning to understand, notice I said “beginning!” There was a time not so long ago that I thought being a Christian was all about following carefully crafted rules. Those rules, I thought, triumphed relationships every single time! My “Damascus Road” experience came as I thought about the conflict I have experienced as a Pastor. That conflict was mostly over methodology and control. Some people want both no matter the cost, even at the cost of relationships.
It is hard to write this as I think about people who exchanged some pretty nasty comments in the name of methodology and control. I have been in church business meetings where this was the fundamental issue. I have come to realize that some people will not budge, and that they willingly, knowingly risk losing friends because of that.
The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “Strive for peace with everyone…” (Hebrews 12:14). The Apostle Peter says it this way, “Let him turn away from evil and do good, let him seek peace, and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:11). Our responsibility is to as much as we can to find a resolution to conflict. If we always have to win the argument or debate no matter what, we will soon be a person with very few friends.
It is my responsibility to honour God by honouring you. I am to love you with the same love that God has for me. If I have an issue with you I am to do the right thing and come and talk to you about it and make sure that before we leave the matter is solved as much as is possible. In dealing with this whole area of conflict Jesus said, “…If you are offering a gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5: 23-24). It seems to me that we who profess the gospel of Jesus Christ have ignored this! We think we can harbour ill will against another brother or sister in the faith and it be okay to keep on singing worship songs! IT IS NOT! God says, “Go, reconcile!”
One of the greatest examples of two men who disagreed so fervently that it caused them to split was Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:36-41. Harsh words were spoken between them, rock hard attitudes tore apart their relationship. It wasn’t until years later that Paul resolved the problem. I know, I have heard the sermons on how God used this split to plant more churches and see more conversions, yada, yada, yada! It is by God’s grace that he continues to use us despite ourselves many times.
Later, Paul would write 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter of the Bible. I wonder as he looked back on whether he, or Barnabas, every thought they should have done things differently. We have the privilege of looking back 2,000 years later and making a judgment call. What if our conflicts were written down for others to read two thousand years later?
In conclusion, are there relationships that we have left broken because it is easier that way? It could be that it is impossible to change those situations right now. But we ought to resolve in our heart to live life filled with the Spirit of God to such an extent that this is the result…”And do not be drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-21)
Thanks for reading,
Pastor Bill Finch