from Rachel: Stuck in Conflict

“Peace is not found in winning or avoiding conflict, but in rightly handling conflict.

“1. Start with love.”

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Philippians 4:1, English Standard Bible

“Verse 4:1 is easy to pass over too quickly to get to the juicy stuff. But in light of what is coming, we need to focus on the love.

“2. Confront.

“Face the problem head-on. (Imagine Euodia and Syntyche enjoying Paul’s letter, then BAM! Called out by name.)

“3. Be reasonable.

  • “Begin with questions, not accusations – verify facts, intent, feelings, etc. When God confronts in scripture, it’s always with a question (Adam and Eve, Cain, Job, etc).
  • “Don’t make a list – address the current problem only.
  • “Converse, don’t lecture.
  • “Respond, don’t react – set a healthy tone and stay there.
  • “Attack the problem, not the person – like God does (Who hates sin, but loves people)
  • “Why? Because ‘the Lord is at hand.’

“4. Think the best.

“Verses 8 & 9 – Whatever you have learned/heard/received from me, practice these things, and the peace of God will be with you.

“5. Do it, even if they don’t – take the high road.

“Trust God to give us peace, even the full resolution isn’t possible.

“So what?

  • “Are you one loving conversation away from peace?
  • “Where is your reasonableness not obvious?
  • “Tomorrow, what conversation will you have wanted to have?”

Dearest Rachel –

Our pastoral staff makes a point of not getting terribly involved in political matters; their assertion is that Christ came for all, regardless of political affiliation, and anyone can come to Him (and everyone needs Him) no matter where they stand on the political spectrum. Which is certainly more than fair. Although, as a counterpoint, I’ve heard of the IRS disallowing a Christian organizations tax exempt status because their reliance on biblically-based teachings are essentially associated with the Republican party, thereby rendering then ineligible for tax-exempt status. So even the government seems to assume that Christianity belongs to only one side of the aisle.

But that’s neither here nor there. Or maybe it is; I could’ve sworn that I’m on your notes what is a copy of all four stanzas of “The Defense of Fort McHenry” (which of course we all know as the Star-Spangled Banner). Failing that, and since there would be no sermon notes pertaining to any matter of patriotism, this one about conflict and how to deal with it seems about right, given the current political tenor.

Although, to be sure, the conflict that Paul is talking about here is between fellow believers – in this case specifically between a couple of women that we might well refer to as Karens in this day and age. And it’s interesting that you relaying the pastors message start off by pointing out that this all must be handled with love, agape love. Certainly in the world at large (and in our nation in particular), that’s in decidedly short supply. Even I find myself losing patience with it all. But we must be gentle and loving and patient and reasonable in order to resolve these sort of conflicts.

And they need to be resolved; they can’t simply just be swept under the rug and ignored, they must be confronted and dealt with. It takes strength, determination and wisdom to do so, but it is necessary in order to bring the body of Christ into a more harmonious order. Because any such conflict reflects badly on ourselves as His followers, and upon Him in turn. And we can’t have that, can we?

I confess to finding myself guilty of avoiding conflict, personally. To be honest, I don’t think I generally have the wisdom, let alone the grace or love, to appropriately deal with situations like this. And yet, I suppose this is something I need to learn how to deal with, so that these matters can be resolved rather than continuing to fester.

Wish me luck, honey.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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