Summary: How to deal with conflict: Restoring broken relationships.
Remember the Charlie Brown comic strip? There is one particular Peanuts cartoon, where Lucy demands that Linus change TV channels and then threatens him with her fist if he doesn’t. "What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?" asks Linus.
"These five fingers," says Lucy. "Individually they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold."
"Which channel do you want?" asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, "Why can’t you guys get organised like that?"
The Importance of Peace/Unity in the Church:
It is important for the church/us to work together in unity. God has set us/the church a task (to spread the good news of the Gospel) and unless we work together, that won’t be accomplished. And instead of using our church to reach this community God will be forced to use another.
One of the greatest obstacles to churches growing and reaching others is dissension, discord, fighting and bickering within the church.
And it affects our families as well - the home is meant to be a safe and secure place. A happy place, where life skills are learnt and personality is discovered and developed. But when anger and intolerance set tempers aflare then it becomes a most destructive place - one to be avoided not desired.
In this morning’s Bible reading the apostle Paul was telling the Roman churches how they should live together. And if they read this letter and followed his instructions that church would become such a place of unity and love, that people would flock there.
And I would say the same to us. The Bible isn’t just a record of the past, it’s also instruction for now! The same goes for us. If we become a place that is characterised by the traits mentioned in this passage, people will be knocking down our doors - we wouldn’t have enough room for them.
You think I’m joking don’t you? Let me read it again to you.
"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another." Romans 12:10-16a
Wouldn’t you love to be surrounded by people like this? People who are committed to one another through thick and thin - people who are more concerned about others than themselves - people who are easy to get along with/peacemakers. Isn’t harmony so much more pleasant than chaos and conflict?
Well this is God’s plan for the church and it is what we all should be striving for. That should be our goal.
But the reality of it is that there will always be people who aren’t striving for such a place. As much as those around them love and care for each other - their lives are full of unhappiness and they just want to share some of it around. Perhaps they’ve never had this kind of teaching, perhaps they didn’t have very good role models as children, perhaps they’re just unspiritual/carnal. The reality is that conflict happens - it’s one of those unavoidable inevitable facts of life, that we need to learn how to deal with in appropriate God honouring ways. And that’s what we’re looking at today - how to deal most effectively with conflict when it happens.
Some typical approaches people adopt in conflicts or disagreements - are not very constructive at all.
There are those people who tend to deal with conflict by avoiding the person they most need to be talking to. Their faulty thinking says "If I can’t see it it’s not there." or "If I ignore it for long enough it will go away." So they give their "friend" the silent treatment.
Another unhelpful way people try in vain to deal with conflict is to run around telling all their friends about the disagreement (dumping all the blame on the other person - of course) in an attempt to get people to take their side. They do this because in their faulty thinking they believe that if the majority of people take their side then they must be right and then the other person will be forced to admit defeat and apologise. It’s a nice way of getting your self off the hook - avoiding taking responsibility for yourself by justifying yourself - you feel good because everyone’s on your side.
The problem is - you’ve only convinced yourself - God is not so easily convinced! In fact He’s made sure that there are strong words in the Bible about this kind of self-deceit. You know, the kind that hurts others - the Bible calls it gossip and slander.