Summary: What’s the best way to break bad news? There’s no easy way to drop a grenade, but there are some principles we can follow to help ease the conflict. Paul outlines 12 guidelines in the book of Philemon for dealing with conflict God’s way.
RESOLVING CONFLICT GOD’S WAY
"HOW TO MAKE A POINT...WITHOUT MAKING AN ENEMY"
Is it possible to deal with a situation head on in such a way that you are able to get your point across to the other person without them resenting you for making the point?
I. THE SITUATION: Why did Paul write this letter to Philemon?
When Paul wrote this letter he was in prison in Rome. Was this Paul’s final incarceration before his beheading?
"Paul, the apostle, who before was called Saul, after his great travail and unspeakable labors in promoting the Gospel of Christ, suffered also in this first persecution under Nero. Abdias, declareth that under his execution Nero sent two of his esquires, Ferega and Parthemius, to bring him word of his death. They, coming to Paul instructing the people, desired him to pray for them, that they might believe; who told them that shortly after they should believe and be baptized at His sepulcher. This done, the soldiers came and led him out of the city to the place of execution, where he, after his prayers made, gave his neck to the sword." — Fox’s Book of Martyrs
Just before the end of Paul’s life he writes this letter to Philemon, a wealthy Christian living in the city of Colossae who hosted a church in his own home. Philemon had owned a slave named Onesimus. At some point in the past, Onesimus had escaped from his owner Philemon and traveled to the city of Rome. Through the providence of God he was introduced to Paul while he was in prison. Paul led Onesimus to Christ and afterwards Onesimus became a faithful friend to Paul.
Onesimus decided to return to Philemon. Paul was concerned that Philemon would not receive Onesimus with Christian love, so he wrote this letter to Philemon to appeal to him to receive this man back, not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.
II. THE CONVERSATION: How did Paul make his point to Philemon without making Philemon his enemy?
1. BEFORE YOU MAKE YOUR POINT...make it a point to appreciate that person.
"I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers..." - Philemon 4
Paul began his conversation with Philemon by showing appreciation for him. Now this is a much better way to begin an already difficult conversation. He begins by showing Philemon how much he appreciates him. Paul mentions two specific qualities he particularly appreciates about Philemon; his love and his faith.
When you have a difficult conversation why is it important to begin on a positive note by showing appreciation?
"If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive." - Dale Carnegie
To start with appreciation is not manipulative, it’s just being wise.
Let’s ask this question. Why would we ever start off a conversation being negative when we can begin by being positive? Why would we ever do that?
I think the answer is because it’s hard to stay positive when you feel negative. It’s a lot easier to just lay into the other person and let them have it.
• It takes no emotional control to blow up but it requires great self-control to build up.
"A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." - Proverbs 29:11 (NIV)
"Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." - I Corinthians 8:1 (NIV)
You say, "Well, I’m angry about what they’ve done." Then give yourself some time to cool off before you talk to them.
Or you say, "Well, It’s not what they’ve done to me. And anyway I don’t love them" then you’re probably not the best person to confront them.
Loving someone should come before confronting them, speak the truth in love, Paul said.
"The deepest principle in human nature is the desire to be appreciated." - William James
2. BEFORE YOU MAKE YOUR POINT...make it a point to pray for that person.
"I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ." Philemon 6
Paul moves from being thankful for Philemon to being prayerful about Philemon. By the way did you notice what Paul’s prayer for Philemon was?
Paul didn’t say, "Philemon, I’m praying that God get’s a hold of you and shakes some sense into you." His prayer was much more unselfish than that.
Paul was praying that Philemon might grow in his understanding of who he was in Christ. Paul wanted Philemon’s self-image to continue getting better.
Paul was not concerned with the way Philemon saw him, but with the way Philemon saw himself.
Sometimes, as we approach this kind of conversation we’re worried that the other person might get mad at us. But Paul’s approach was love. There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out all fear. If Paul had been afraid of what Philemon thought of him then his love would not have been mature yet. But Paul didn’t seem to be worried about that. Paul was thinking of Philemon out of love not fear.