The third of eight messages in a series about how we can navigate the relational conflicts we face in life
Romans 12:18 NIV
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
The first step we need to take in dealing with conflict is not the first step we usually take. Here's our normal path...
THEM – “It’s all their fault”
ME – “I know I’m right”
GOD – “Show them they’re wrong”
It is so easy, when you’re in a conflict, to keep dwelling on it. Conflict has such a downward magnetic pull, that if you’re not careful it’ll suck you right in mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And then that other person you’re in conflict with? They’re all you think about it, and they essentially take over your life.
GOD - our first stop, not our last resort
When we first look up to God instead of dwelling on our conflict, it dramatically changes our perspective in a couple, very significant ways. We discover that "we are not our conflict" and "we are not alone in our conflict."
After we first “look up,” the next step is a difficult but necessary step. Because instead going to the other person after we’ve first gone to God, Scripture encourage us to make one more stop in between, and that’s the step of inspection and taking a look inward at ourselves. The Bible helps us do that. It acts as a mirror, telling us the truth about who we really are and how we need to change. It's also like a scalpel for the soul, revealing our innermost thoughts and attitudes.
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
1. You are FORGIVEN much
This is the heart of the Gospel for us--this one message forms the basis of our core identity as Christians. It also has profound implications for how we approach conflicted relationships. Even though God’s forgiveness is a one-time transaction that wipes our slate clean, we must never forget where we came from. How much we've been forgiven by God has to impact how we view and treat others.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
2. You are FLAWED too
When we're in conflict with others, it’s so easy to pick out their faults. They seem so obvious and evident that we can’t help but pick them apart. Yet Jesus warns us not to be hypocrites. We can't fixate on their flaws while completely ignoring our own. It has to start with inspection and taking a look inward, letting God speak to us about our own flaws first. This should happen in a couple very specific ways, where we understand how much we've contributed to the conflict and we take responsibility for our part in it.
1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Ken Sande: "Jesus doesn’t mean that our own sins are necessarily bigger or worse than others’. But they are our responsibility; they are under our control. So even if I’m only 2 percent responsible for a conflict, I’m 100 percent responsible for my 2 percent.”
1. Slow Down
Because we're prone to be “slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become angry,” we’ll only make an even bigger mess of things. But when we remember that we are forgiven much by God and we too are flawed just like they are, we'll pump the breaks and slow down a little bit instead of barreling into conflict and unloading on the other person. It doesn't mean that we have to stop altogether or pretend like there’s nothing wrong. But if there’s unresolved conflict going on in our life, then we need to respond, not react, and there's a huge difference between the two.
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
2. Soften Up
When we’re bogged down in the mire of conflict, and we’re not looking upward or inward, it’s going to harden our heart. The more we lose sight of how much God’s forgiven us, we become harsh, exacting, and unforgiving with others, maybe even angry and abusive. Jesus calls us to be merciful to others because God has been merciful to us. His mercy in our lives should make us more empathetic and understanding toward others. As our hearts become softer, we're led down a path of pursuing peace instead of punishment.
36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Inspection is a necessary step for all of us where we come into God’s presence and ask honest questions about our conflicted relationships:
"God, where do I need to slow down and be more patient?”
"God, where do I need to soften up and be more merciful?”
"Help me, Lord, to slow down... to respond, not react… to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry."
Inspection means looking inward before we move forward. So even if our part of the blame pie is only 2 percent, we need to be 100 percent responsible for that 2 percent. We do so as flawed sinners who are forgiven much by a God who is infinitely generous in His mercy toward us.
With Community Groups winding down this month, Connections will be taking a break for the summer. We'll resume in September.