Summary: Like conflict in the family, conflict in God’s family, the Church, is resolved through trust, respect, and cooperation.
As a child, what was your favorite story? Was it Little Red Riding Hood? Or Snow White? Or Peter Pan?
As I prepared for this morning, I thought about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Now Goldilocks and the Three Bears was not my favorite childhood story but I thought about all that Goldilocks went through when she encountered the bears’ environment: This porridge was too hot, this porridge was too cold. This bed was too hard, this bed was too soft. Having found the right porridge and right bed, she did not enjoy her stay too long because a situation filled with conflict confronted her in the form of three unhappy and surprised bears and she took off.
I think that it safe to say that sometimes we have the same kind of feelings about the church like Goldilocks had about the bears’ home. On the one hand, we love the church and can’t live without her. On the other hand, we find sermons boring, the music either too old or too new, the people too friendly or too cold and the pastor too old or too young.
On one hand, we turn to the church in times of crisis and need to hear a word of hope. On the other hand, when things are going well church seems to be an interruption and we find her message a bit uncomfortable.
On one hand, we expect the church, to be all things to all people all the time. On the other hand, we sometimes feel inconvenienced when we are asked to help.
We have mixed feelings about the church. Why is that?
Well for one reason, the spiritual nature of the church. The church is not a for profit organization. It is the called of God, the ecclesia. The church deals more than just with a financial statements, business matters, and programming issues. It deals with matters of the heart and soul.
And those matters of the heart and soul are all about attitude, about priorities, about thoughts and behaviors. Matters that go to the very core of our humanity. Matters that cannot be redesigned by engineering departments or discussed with human resources.
Another reason that we have mixed feelings about the church has to do with conflict. It seems that when conflict rears its head, we begin to have second thoughts about the church. Why is that?
Perhaps we expect the church to be conflict free. Maybe we assume that once we are saved, then everything is all right and that there is no more conflict. That’s the ideal but not the real.
Or maybe we feel that conflict is "sinful" and that to admit to conflict is to admit that we are not perfect. Not all conflict is wrong. Some conflict is present because of the reality of good and evil in this world. Which very much involves the church.
This morning we conclude our month long look at conflict resolution with a look at how we can resolve conflict in the church. Something that is very important if we are to be effective ministers of Jesus Christ.
The Bible contains several passages, especially in the New Testament, in which conflict is present. In our text for today, Acts 6:1-7 we read of conflict that occurs not because something has gone wrong but because something has gone right. We read from verse 1 that there were "rumblings of discontent" that takes place during a period of rapid growth in the church. This particular rumbling had the Greek speaking believers believing their widows were being discriminated against while the Hebrew speaking widows were being taken care of during the daily food distribution.
So, a conflict arises. Needs are not being met. How is the conflict handled? We hope, in a very mature and Biblical way.
First of all as we read in verse 2, the conflict was acknowledged and addressed in an acceptable setting. The issue was not swept under the rug. "So the twelve called a meeting of all the believers."
The disciples acknowledged that there was a problem and, this is important, dealt with it in an appropriate setting. I sometimes wonder if part of the challenge of conflict resolution, not just in the church but everywhere, has to do with how and where we deal with the conflict.
Sometimes we seek to solve a conflict at an inappropriate time or place. We get rushed into making a hasty decision or we don’t take time to prepare for a proper way of creating a plan of resolution.
From the text we don’t know how much time passed from the rumblings of verse 1 to the posted meeting notice of verse 2. But, we do know that there was not a knee-jerk reaction to the issue. The conflict was dealt with in an appropriate manner. And it was dealt with in an appropriate manner because a critically important attitude was present. Respect.