Friday, January 27, 2012

Seek Unity, Not Division

No one is perfect because they are not God. No church is perfect because it has people in it. Conflicts will arise but God desires us to resolve them Biblically. Believers must take the initiative to restore peace. Peacemakers are different than peacekeepers. Peacemakers uphold the Word and truth, applying it to conflict. Peacekeepers avoid truth and compromise to avoid conflict.

It doesn’t matter if you have wronged your brother or he has wronged you. You are always responsible to initiate peacemaking (Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15). Those who are sincere about pursuing peace do not concern themselves with who started the offense. They just want one thing – peace restored between believers. Conflict that is left unresolved between believers is sin. This results in bitterness, anger, and possibly even wrath. If left unresolved it can be a cancer that can cause serious spiritual surgery later on.

Some have said that time and space heal everything. Maybe time and space allow emotions to settle but they do not heal. Healing from conflict only comes through Christ and handling things according to Scripture. Time and space alone only bring more time and space between Christians. Time and space alone cause things to worsen and eventually explode leaving a huge mess.

Believes must take the initiative to resolve conflict. A text, email, and most of the time a phone call won’t do it. Face to face repentance and forgiveness are necessary. And when you forgive, you must do so by intentionally deciding to not talk about the offense, dwell on it, let it grow, or use it as a weapon in the future. If you have something that gets in the way of you and someone else in this way you must go to them and talk it out in a loving and positive manner.

When you are resolving conflict, you must fully listen to the other person. This shows you understand the other person, realize you are not a “know-it-all” and you value the other person’s perspective. While you may not agree with everything each other says you must be able to walk away in unity, valuing principle over preferences and truth over opinion. Someone once said a stiff apology is a second insult. We must work hard at avoiding this.

You must do everything possible to be reconciled to your brother or sister in Christ. While you cannot force them to do what is right you can still demonstrate your willingness to do everything possible to resolve the conflict. God honors this and if you have done this you have fulfilled your responsibility to peace and unity (Romans 12:18). You must then move on if someone stubbornly refuses to be reconciled. Hopefully, for the sake of the body of Christ and God’s glory, nothing will stand in between the church’s mission.

All sin destroys the church. Division and separation destroy it directly while al others will eventually destroy it consequentially. You must do these seven A’s of conflict resolution: 1) address everyone involved, 2) avoid “if”, “but”, and “maybe”, 3) admit what you did, 4) apologize, 5) ask for forgiveness, 6) accept consequences, and 7) altar your behavior, learning from your mistakes.

Remember there is a huge distinction between reconciliation and forgiveness. You must always forgive but sometimes reconciliation doesn’t happen. It only takes one person to forgive but two to be reconciled. Forgive others even if they don’t ask for it. Only God can remove and forgive sins of another but you can lay aside your own anger, bitterness, and resentment allowing God to work in you.

1 comment:

  1. I liked the distinction you made between peacemaking and peacekeeping and also between reconciliation and forgiveness. Those distinctions are important.

    If there is unresolved conflict left between believers, do you think both parties are sinning? Do you think it is Biblical that we must always forgive without any qualifications? I think there can be instances where I am not obligated to forgive, and not sinning for doing so, because the other believer has not repented. Luke 17:3-4, in my opinion, qualifies other scripture regarding the topic of forgiveness and is a good analogy for our relationship with the Father. This verse makes it clear that repentance is tied directly to forgiveness, as in forgiveness hinges on repentance. There are specific instances in my life where someone has wronged me, has been given the opportunity to repent, but they didn't. I am able to continue through my life without hatred and bitterness although also not technically forgiving or being reconciled with them. In these cases, my heart's been receptive and willing to forgive as soon as the other party repents. Call it the attitude of forgiveness if you will.

    I don't think unresolved conflict always causes sin. I think a lot of time unforgiveness causes sin because of lack of confrontation. People don't talk to each other to try to work issues out and they end up dwelling on bitter thoughts about the offense. However, I think there are plenty of instances where you are not obligated to forgive. This is a broken earth, with broken people that are sometimes so stubborn that they will not take necessary steps for true reconciliation or true forgiveness.

    From my experience, the times I have tried to "forgive like a good Christian should" without any repentance from the other party led to more bitterness than if I would just have waited on the person's heart to change. Also, much more heartache is caused by this blind forgiveness. It has fooled me into thinking that the person involved cared more than they did about the wrong committed. It's made me think reconciliation was possible when it wasn't. There are some measure we must do to guard our hearts as believers and I think this is one of them.

    Through a specific example in my life, these are the conclusions I have drawn that have weeded out bitterness in my life and created healthier emotions in regards to the issue of forgiveness.