We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:1-7 ESV)
Let’s begin with this scripture. It’s a good reminder of our OBLIGATION toward each other in the power of Christ.
Conflict is unavoidable, it will always be before us and only death will bring an end to our relational conflict in this life. The good news is that we who are in Christ Jesus are no longer bound to the ways of the world. We are no longer unable to deal with the feelings that go along with our desire to avoid problems. We understand that one evidence of the gospel is that we work out our differences for the glory of God, and most assuredly, by His power. The time involved to exegete every passage relating to conflict and resolution between individuals would take a lifetime to complete. So, we’ll just look at a few basics that will get us thinking in the right direction.
I’ve already said this, but it’s worth repeating. It is going to happen. And if we are involved in each other’s life, we will surely find the opportunity for hurt, confusion, poor words, misunderstandings, blatant sin, fights, malice, and strife. The Gospel reveals that these matters provide an occasion for the reconciliation, which is our duty and our empowered existence. Any conflict that goes unhealed is one of the common division among the church. Greater than grievous acts of sin and even greater than false doctrine. As a matter of face, the lack of reconciliation is proof of a lack of genuine, Christ-empowered love. So in the living element of conflict, let’s embrace its reality but more so, let’s embrace the glory of reconciliation.
I’ll put this here and then move on to the actions of properly dealing with conflict. Scripture speaks to how to handle when someone sins against you in Matthew 18. Jesus says that our first response is never to avoid, run or dismiss sin, but to confront it with hopes that the offender will be restored to intimacy. The major dilemma with this section of scripture is that it is often difficult to determine what the “sin” of offense actually is. If one has sinned against us, it is an action of word or deed that is a personal affront toward us, not a pet peeve from which we hope to escape. And it is surely not a heart of, “I wish they would be holy like me.” If this is an offense, then YOU are the offender, not the other person.
Why use such a harsh wording? Because that is what poor response to disunity actually is; a reflection of the old man, which is condemned or either dead in Christ. When the church doesn’t work to make things right, it proves that God is not among them, much less in them. It is vitally necessary for us to bear with other’s failings and not to hold anyone to a standard that is not prescribed in scripture. There is no place for the lack of teaching each other in the church. If we are obedient and mature, we know that God shows us other’s weakness and in doing so He has: given us pause to see if it is in our own lives, and has given us the opportunity to inquire and offer help to the weak.
- Instead of hiding from the conversation, prayerfully ask God for help and make yourself available to be a catalyst for maturity. (1 John 5:16)
- Stop looking at the weaknesses and ‘off’ areas of each other’s lives and start waiting to see how they handle them. Maturity is never gained in perfection, but in doing what is necessary, even if it seems to be a repeatable matter.
- If you are in a church, you cannot just leave, expecting to honor the Lord. You must confront the problem and be reconciled. In a true church, one who abandons the flock is brought under discipline. Let’s not find ourselves in the Hebrews 6 camp.
- Do not speak about the matter to anyone else. Even your pastor in detail. By speaking ill of someone before confronting them you’ve become a murderer at heart through gossip. There is no such thing as non-gossip counsel except when you seek counsel on the response without giving details, names or offenses. This is one of the most heinous areas of division in the church in my lifetime and I have seen good reconciliation come between people only to have others left in the wings to be bitter and suspicious toward the offender.
- If you are the listener and do not stop and rebuke the aforementioned murder, you are also guilty of such sin. It takes about 10 minutes to correct this problem and another 5 minutes for that person to get in touch with the offender and start reconciliation. Recognize that when we sin against the church and the word, it is not a personal offense, but a matter that can be directly taken to the church.
- Delight in the beauty of God’s power in bringing divided people together. Because out of reconciliation comes a strong intimacy and a stronger worship toward the Lord. After all, it is HE who brings people back together.
A few final thoughts. When we fret, we sin. When we live in anxiety, we sin. When we are burdened beyond prayer, we sin. So, our only hope is the beautiful grace of God through Jesus Christ who is our righteousness! Hold on to Him who is granting you to live in harmony with His people! Lord have mercy, the Lord be praised!
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:1-7 ESV)