Not him, not again!

There are times when I wish it were possible to peel back the multiple layers of another’s thought process so I could see what is really going on in his brain!

What causes us to dislike another person?
Why do we take a position on some point and refuse to budge, no matter what the facts are?
How can two people look at the same situation and reach completely different and opposing conclusions?

When those kinds of conflicts arise, too often the impulse is to separate ourselves or to go to battle. I admit that there are times when I have to deal with a person who frustrates every my attempt at reasonable dialogue and I think – “Not him, not again!” There is a part of me that just wants to be done with it, to write off the relationship as irreconcilable and/or irreparable. My response is not unique to me! It’s not only happening in so-called ‘casual’ friendships. Even long-standing marriages dissolve over what the law terms, “irreconcilable differences.” Yes, even Christians who are to be first and foremost characterized by love for one another, find themselves at odds and just go their separate ways leaving the issue unresolved, festering like an infected wound.

A friend wrote to me today about a minor conflict that is swirling around me (yes, friend, these TFTD’s are written by a real man who is working out the implications of his Christianity in real life!) and he urged me to be ‘in the bridge-building business.’ I appreciate his counsel, offered as it is in concern and love. Pushed by opposition of a tiny minority, I am tempted to take the road to what looks like an easy response to these critics, “This is the way it is. Accept it, get over it, and get with the program! If you can’t or you won’t, there’s the door. See ya!” But, there is no honor for God in those words, no recognition that even critics are part of the Body of Christ.

The Bible urges us to a new way of dealing with the difficult people in life. Nowhere does God’s word tell us that we should expect to live without conflict! But He does teach us that we must approach conflict differently. Take a look – “I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace. We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future.” (Ephesians 4:1-4, NLT) What a practical passage, but full of challenging concepts: humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance!

How do these traits become part of our response in place of the more natural anger and power responses? Only by the inner workings of the Holy Spirit! We can only grit our teeth and hold back our frustration for so long on our own. Sooner or later, we will pushed beyond our limits and explode unless Someone greater than ourselves lives in us. God calls us to die! to self. In those situations like I’ve described above, it is our privilege to take it to the Lord in prayer – not necessarily to gain the power to prevail – but to lay ourselves down before Him. When we ‘give up and give in’ to Him, the Spirit comes with new life, new love, new peace.

So, I’m going to be a bridge-builder – with God’s help! How about you?

I found this appropriate to my life today. Perhaps you will, too.

The Paradoxical Commandments by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

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