You wanted to do a good deed for a member of your church, so you rented him/her an apartment in your home. The tenant loses her job and refuses to pay rent and vacate the apartment. What should you do?
Maybe you sold your used vehicle to a fellow believer. You believed the recipient would make all payments and you released the car to him/her. You received two payments for the car, but the new owner says the car needed repairs, so he refuses to pay. What would you do?
Newspapers and news channels have dulled our ears to the conflicts that abound in the world. On any given day, we are assaulted with news of a variety of conflicts: husband vs wife, parent vs child, supervisor vs employee, teacher vs student, and student vs student. The list can go on. Usually, if the dispute made the headlines, the results were probably disastrous. But we have come to expect that. What shocks us, however, is when those disputes occur within our own churches or among the Christian community.
Whether it shocks or disheartens, Christians should regard a dispute in the church as an opportunity to convey a larger truth.
According to Andy Crouch, the executive editor of Christianity Today, all mankind are image bearers. In Genesis 1, we read that we were made in the image of God. As image bearers, we carry the potential to project a true image of God. Conflict provides an opportunity for us to make a choice. We can choose to reflect or to refract a true image of God. That is to say, our actions can mirror some aspect of God or provide a warped view.
Being kind and nice to another person is easy. Jesus says, “And if you are good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that” (Luke 6: 33 NIV). “But love your enemies” (verse 34).
Jesus makes it clear what our goal should be when we are in conflict. Whether in a dispute with a Christian or a non-Christian, our goal should always be to demonstrate love and reflect the true image of God.
“Seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11 NIV). Whenever in conflict, our first inclination should always be to resolve the matter amicably.
Matthew 18 goes even further in establishing a protocol for achieving reconciliation when Christians are in conflict.
First of all, they can insure that no one becomes a false witness to the other. Secondly, they bring more objectivity to the dispute, hearing with less emotionalism.In this position, they perhaps clarify statements that may be misunderstood, which can result in better communication, making reconciliation more possible.They may even propose solutions that are amenable to both sides. However, in the event step two fails, there is yet another step to pursue.
Where ever people convene, conflict is a possibility. Christians have the power to resolve their own disputes and achieve reconciliation and reflect the love and patience of Christ; however, when all attempts at reconciliation fail, then the offended is free to lovingly pursue justice in the secular arena.
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