Summary: When I am offended, how can I "build a bridge and get over it?"
Paul mentions two women by name who were involved in some sort of conflict. Paul doesn’t indicate what the issue was. We can assume that it was not a matter of heresy or immorality. For we know from Paul’s other epistles that if that were the case, Paul would have confronted it head-on. Since this is so, it is safe to conclude that they were involved in something fairly petty, which apparently gotten so out of hand that it threatened the church fellowship. Paul asks for a third party (yoke-fellow or Syzygus) to mediate the dispute so they might be able to move on. Paul tells them it was time to “get over.”
Conflict is an inevitable result of sharing space in the world with imperfect human beings. Sometimes, conflict is necessary, when truth or right is at stake. However, most conflicts that occur between people are not justified at all. Often, the best way to resolve conflict is simply to overlook the offenses of others. This approach is highly commended through-out Scripture:
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” - Proverbs 19:11 (NIV)
“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” - Proverbs 17:14 (NIV)
“Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].” - 1 Peter 4:8 (Amplified)
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” - Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)
When someone has wronged you, and you still feel frustrated or hurt, it is difficult to let things go. But it is possible to overlook offenses if we follow Paul’s advice to these two warring women. In verses 4 through 9, it would appear that Paul gives advice on how these women could “build a bridge and get over it.” I think we can also be helped by Paul’s advice to get over our hurt and frustration, and avoid conflict.
1. Look To the Lord - v. 4
Paul urges us to be God-centered in our approach to conflict. So important is his point here, that Paul repeats himself.
What is there to rejoice in when you are involved in a dispute? Well, for one thing, as a Christian, you can give thanks that you are “in the Lord,” and that your name is written “in the book of life.”
As a child of God, you have resources that can enable you to deal with conflict in an appropriate manner. And if your opponent is also a Christian, that means the resources available to you to help resolve conflict appropriately are double. What resources are yours in Christ that are to your advantage in resolving conflict with others?
Forgiveness that is yours to receive from God and share with others; A Bible full of divine truth you can apply to the situation at hand; The Holy Spirit, who can convict you and guide you;
A church family that can offer counsel, strength and support; & A commitment from your heavenly Father to“work all things for your good’ (Romans 8:28).
As you look to the Lord, through rejoicing in all the resources that are yours in Him, God will be free to work in your life through the conflict to help you receive reliable direction, grow in character, and develop creative solutions to the situation.
“We may face situations beyond our reserves, but never beyond God’s resources.” - Anonymous
2. Live For the Lord - v. 5
The word, “gentleness” literally means “forbearing, large-hearted, gentle, courteous, considerate, generous, lenient, moderate.” It is describing a quality which is the opposite of irritability, rudeness, and abrasiveness; it is describing a quality that would make a person NICE instead of NASTY!
Gentleness is especially appropriate if the person who has wronged you is experiencing unusual stress. In such cases, the wrong done to you is often only a symptom of a deeper problem.
“The problem is never the problem.” - Dixon Murrah
By responding in a gentle and compassionate manner, you can often be of great service to the other person.
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” - Proverbs 15:11 (NLT)
“Never answer an angry word with an angry word. It is the second one that causes the quarrel.” - Anonymous
3. Lean On the Lord - vs. 6-7
In encountering conflict, there are three options available: 1) Hurling; 2) Hiding; or 3) Healing.
Hurling anger back at the other person is not the appropriate response, but neither is hiding our hurt and stuffing our anger appropriate either. Instead, God wants to work in our lives to bring healing.
One thing that is vital in responding appropriately to conflict is to get rid of anxious thoughts. Paul is not just describing trivial worries here. The word used by him for “anxious” means “laden with cares and trouble, pressured, squeezed, burdened, under stress.”