Summary: How to deal with disputes with a Biblical outlook.
“There are always two sides to an argument; and they are generally married to each other;” a common expression which is all too common in the daily life of a married couple. Arguments, whether bitter or just a simple spat will occur from time to time, as if you didn’t already know that. Confusion over what each person means and why such an argument came about can be painful. Why is she getting so upset over the toilet seat being up, we’ve only been married 15 years and I have never put it down? Why is he getting upset after all this time over me forgetting to check the oil of the car? Even children are a part of family squabbles from time to time and they may not even understand the situation. If they don’t understand the situation, then they won’t understand why they are being punished. Maybe some better communication lines would help. Learning a better way to resolve conflict might be a very good idea. A good and seemingly eternal question is “how do we deal with it?”
Back in the year 1902, Argentina and Chile finally ended a long struggle over the borders between their two respective countries. To commemorate this event, they built an enormous statue of Jesus Christ at the center of the Andes. Everything seemed to be going fine until the statue had been completed. The Chileans saw that the statue faced away from them and towards Argentina. They were infuriated that such an act would have been done by their neighbors. As their anger raged, a news columnist wrote something very simple that calmed their emotions. “The Argentineans need more watching over than the Chileans.” The Chileans laughed and enjoyed the moment of hilarity. Another war had been averted by the kind and quick witted words of just a single man.
Does the bible say anything about dealing with arguments? One man in great authority had probably the worst dispute in the world to deal with. He had to deal with the Jewish leaders pushing their agendas on Rome without making the Roman emperor angry. Pontius Pilate found himself being woken up by a mob outside of his home; the praetorium. Pontius lived in an estate above the barracks. A Jewish mob had come to bring accusation against a man and have him killed. Pilate was the provincial governor and had the responsibility of handling the mob before it became a riot against Rome. If Rome found out that he wasn’t governing his own land, they would remove him and put someone else there. Yet, his job was to seek justice, and not personal gain. We may be able to learn a thing or two from Pontius whether from his mistakes or his good deeds. We can resolve conflict easier! It doesn’t have to be a bitter struggle to the very end. Pontius makes at least one good effort and two mistakes that we can learn from; first he listened to both sides of the argument, secondly he questioned truth, and thirdly he should have preserved justice. Pilate heard both sides of the story but when truth comes, he questions the very idea of it and soon enough he caves to the pressure to just give in to the mob. Let’s take a little bit and review the interaction between Pilate, Jesus, and the mob of Jews and see if we can learn some conflict management skills.
Listen: Openly and Unbiased (18:29-35)
“So Pilate came out to them and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man?" "If he were not a criminal," they replied, "we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law."
"But we have no right to execute anyone," the Jews objected. This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled. Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?" "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?
You can’t imagine that Pilate was too happy to be woken up at somewhere around 4 to 6 in the morning. He lived a life of leisure and luxury with his only responsibility to the throne of Caesar being to judge the people and keep them under wraps. As long as Rome didn’t have to come and deal with the province, Pilate would be left alone to do as he pleased. Now enter the mob of Jews who, on their Passover, would not even enter his home and speak to him. They didn’t want to be dirtied before the Passover. So he has had to get out of bed in the middle of the night and now he has to go to the gate of his home to answer these men. Pilate then takes the prisoner, Jesus, and asks them one simple question: What is the problem? What has this man done wrong that you need to come bother me? Knowing the Jews and their petty ways, he smelled something fishy. He tried to send them off knowing full well what they intended but they demanded death and so he listened. He needed more than just their side of the story and so he heads over to speak with Jesus about this matter. Now Pilate is trying to find the real problem here. He might even be trying to find the quickest solution but he listens to what each set of people has to say. Unfortunately he failed to be completely open because of the bias he had against the Jews. They had brought a bad name upon themselves. Now, regardless of the truth of the matter, Pilate would suspect them of foul play. They had lost credibility.