Summary: Regarding the opinions of others more highly will go a long way to solving conflict, especially when coupled with some practical tools.
Moving the Battle Lines
Two Malaysian farmers had a dispute over a calf. 37 year old Zulkifli said it was his, and 44 year old Isa said it was his. Zulkifli just went out to tether the calf in a field to graze, when Isa stopped him and claimed the calf was his, claiming that Zulkifli had stolen it from him.
They never beat on each other, but the argument was heated. They both went to the police to file a claim for the calf worth about $570. Now here’s the story.
They both agreed to have the calf DNA tested, and, the DNA test would cost more than $900, way more than the price of the calf. Also, they agreed to split the costs for the test. So the winner, would end up at most, about $120 bucks ahead. The loser would end up $450 in the red for the DNA test.
Well, good news for Zulkifli. The calf was his and he got to keep his $570 calf which was now worth $120. He was just happy he was right. Basic math says, if they would have sold the calf and split the proceeds, they both would have been ahead $220. But being right is more important, right?
It’s strange isn’t it? Often we would rather be right even though it would make way more sense to adjust. We waste time, mental energy and sometimes money just to make a point.
Couples argue over all kinds of things: money, how the children should be disciplined, over schedules; how much one or the other should stay at home. Business have conflicts within and conflicts with others.
Churches can turn into mini battlefields where little armies form around pet interests and preferences. I’ve never actually heard church people argue over the colour of the carpets, although I suppose it’s been done. But sharp disagreements over various convictions, or leadership, or money certainly can be on the table. And that’s OK. But what’s not OK is allowing disagreements to become wedges between people.
Overall, Paul was thrilled with the Philippian church. He had them in his heart. He was confident they would make it, that God would complete the work he started. He longed for them. He saw them as partners in the gospel.
But something was cooking in the Philippian church pot. We’re never told quite what it was in the church that was causing the heat, but it’s a theme Paul spends considerable time on. People weren’t pulling together. They were were carving out their own space and pushing their own agenda.
To make things clear, let me say that in the last sixteen plus years of my ministry here, I have seen very little of that at WMB. Once in a little while there are a few who will posture, or grandstand their position, but these seem to be isolated incidents. Maybe I’m deaf or out of the loop, but I just don’t hear about big factions and rebellions. There’s never 100% satisfaction, but that’s not the same as division.
That doesn’t mean we can’t use a little refresher. This church, like any church, is capable of some terrible things. Intense conflict will strip the Christian virtues out of all but the most mature believers. So it’s better to prepare ahead of time and become mature. So