Summary: How to resolve vexating differences in your relationships
Illustration:Labour mightily for a healing spirit. Away with all discriminating names whatever that may hinder the applying of balm to heal your wounds...Discord and division become no Christian. For wolves to worry the lambs is no wonder, but for one lamb to worry another, this is unnatural and monstrous.
Thomas Brooks, quoted in Credenda Agenda, Vol. 5,
1. Have you ever wondered how to resolve a difference of opinion in the church?
For the sake of unity in Christ we are urged to seek middle ground where we can remain harmonious. Paul and James, two of the most divergent thinkers in the Bible learned how to resolve their differences through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Both men looked at truth from very different perspectives, but through the Spirit’s leading they agreed to magnify what they had in common rather than their disagreements.
Ask the Lord to help you negotiate on essentials that you can agree upon instead of quarreling over non-essentials.
2. Resolving differences often involves a little give and take. Paul won the concession that the Gentiles would not be required to submit to the distinctive rites of circumcision and the law.
James saw to it that his Jewish friends expected that the “Gentiles abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled and from blood.” (Acts 15:20)
Learn how to make concessions so that both parties sense they have gained something in the negotiating process.
Ask the Lord to give you the wisdom to know the best ways to negotiate on substance, style and personality.
3. The Spirit of God showed the council how time tends to resolve many conflicts. The council of Jerusalem came to trust the Holy Spirit to work the necessary changes through the hearts of individuals and their congregations in God’s time schedule. Surely, the hardliners would have preferred to come away with strict guidelines, policies and procedures for all Christian churches.
In Jerusalem there was much more pressure to conform to the laws of Moses than in Antioch. In a Gentile city, people came to Christ from a different perspective and tradition.
Nevertheless, the Spirit showed the men of God how to let each congregation work out its own practices according to the principles of Christ’s grace, love and truth.
Ask God to help you wait on the His timing in resolving differences
4. Let personal purification issues be guided according to a Christ guided conscience. Make allowances for the different ways that some people see certain practices.
Do not be discouraged, distressed or chained by another’s world view. Paul wrote, “Who are you to judge the servant of another. To his own master he stands or falls…He who eats meat, does so to the Lord for he gives thanks. And he who does not eat does so to the Lord and gives thanks.” (Rom. 14:4,6)
Ask the Lord to give you the confidence that the Spirit will lead through individual conscience. Be careful not to judge another person using your own standards.
Let God be the judge of all people in every situation with every decision.
Do not spend much time with the angry scoffers who just love to fight.
5. When the decisions are made by a plurality of Godly elders implement them with gracious determination.
Refuse to become frustrated by the complexity, uncertainty or disappointment you may be feeling.
Many differences will not be resolved until we get to heaven.
Trust the Lord for the grace to change the things you can and the serenity to accept the differences that cannot be changed.
Ask the Lord to help you to not complain or boast, but determine to obey with an attitude of submission to His plans, people and processes.
6. Learn how to rest and rejoice in the greater wisdom, power and purposes of God’s church. There will be times when you are not able to understand or appreciate certain decisions.
Ask the Lord to help you to think like Jesus, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10)
Illustration:Errors to Avoid: How to turn a disagreement into a feud:
1. Be sure to develop and maintain a healthy fear of conflict, letting your own feelings build up so you are in an explosive frame of mind.
2. If you must state your concerns, be as vague and general as possible. Then the other person cannot do anything practical to change the situation.
3. Assume you know all the facts and you are totally right. The use of a clinching Bible verse is helpful. Speak prophetically for truth and justice; do most of the talking.
4. With a touch of defiance, announce your willingness to talk with anyone who wishes to discuss the problem with you. But do not take steps to initiate such conversation.