People apparently love to fight! Conflict is as common as dirt, everywhere – among neighbors, between nations, within families. The sad tale of the legendary feud between the Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky is an extreme example. Over the years at least 13 people died, supposedly over a stolen pig and a forbidden love.
When Christians fight, splitting churches, breaking relationship, it is a double tragedy – a disgrace to the Name of Christ and a loss of community. And, it should never be allowed to happen. But, it does. Paul, inspired by the Spirit, teaches us a different way. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14, NIV)
The first reason for Christian unity is the fact that we no longer belong to ourselves, we are “God’s chosen people.” Our personal desires and agendas are to be eclipsed by His purposes. Might we disagree about what He wants from us? Yes, but if we recognize that His Church is greater than our plans, we will refuse to go on the attack. It goes beyond that. We are to make a conscious choice to continue in active relationship with people with whom we disagree. “Clothe yourselves,” the Word says, with those qualities that keep the peace. What are they?
Compassion! That is the willingness to enter into the emotion and experience of the other person, literally willing to feel what they feel.
Kindness! What a beautiful thing. When we are hurting, angered by another, instead of baring our claws, we choose to care and to elevate the other person’s interest over our own.
Humility! Yes, conflict cannot survive when we honestly admit to ourselves, “I don’t have all the answers, don’t see all the issues involved, and could learn from the other person.”
Gentleness! The world in which we live toughens us up, encourages us to develop a hard shell. God invites us to secure ourselves in Him, so we can lower our defenses.
Patience! Oh this is a tough one. We want our way, now. It takes real faith to give God time to work in the hearts and minds of those with whom we are in disagreement.
The big issue in resolving conflict is forgiveness. Who is our model? God, Himself. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” His forgiveness is complete, removing every trace of the offense. What a wonderful gift it is. When we offer to hand whatever debt we may feel the other person owes us to God, when we release our need to be vindicated and actively pursue relationship, something miraculous happens. Unity flourishes.
Jesus said that the singular mark of His followers would be their love for one another. Our ongoing feuds makes the Church weak and often ineffectual. Our refusal to let God’s love own our hearts, shape our actions, and keep us together in the family of God a barrier to faith in others. As an insider, I can say that Christians can, and often do, feud with each other on a level with the Hatfields and McCoys. How this must break the heart of God. But, where there is genuine love, not the fake sentimentality, syrupy insincerity we spread on the surface; the work of the Lord will become a powerful force for good, the church making a measurable difference for the Kingdom of God.
My prayer is that He will teach me to love deeply, for His Name’s sake. How about you?
The word from the Word says “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35, NLT)
Stand In Your Love
(we love because He first loved)
When darkness tries to roll over my bones
When sorrow comes to steal the joy I own
When brokenness and pain is all I know
I won’t be shaken I won’t be shaken
My fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
Shame no longer has a place to hide
I am not a captive to the lies
I’m not afraid to leave my past behind
I won’t be shaken I won’t be shaken
There’s power that can break off every chain
There’s power that can empty out a grave
There’s resurrection power that can save
There’s power in Your name power in Your name
Standing in Your love
Ethan Hulse | Josh Baldwin | Mark Harris | Rita Springer © 2018 Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) EGH Music Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Gateway Create Publishing (Fair Trade Music Publishing [c/o Essential Music Publishing LLC]) Bethel Music Publishing
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