Sunday, April 12, 2015

Devotion 4.13.15

At some point in life, it is inevitable that you or I will fall headlong into a conflict.  It is built into our nature as sinful human beings.  The conflict can be between two individuals, families, a group of people, an organization, a corporation, a team, and even (and most certainly) within a church.  Conflict, handled correctly, can strengthen the relationship as is reflected in the proverb, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." (27:17)  Iron can only sharpen iron when the two come together against the other.  So, it can be done positively as when a knife slides against the sharpener, or it can be in hostility as on the field of battle.

We are, for a variety of reasons, told that Matthew 18 is a guide from Christ that instructs us on conflict.  This is true, to a degree, but the passage starts with Christ saying, "If your brother sins against you." (18:15)  Conflict can be between two righteous parties, and isn't necessarily about "sin" against one another.  Yet what is instructive in the Matthew 18 passage is Christ instructs us further in the passage, "...go and tell him his fault between you and him alone."  So, whether in sin or in conflict, go to your brother and talk to him out of love for one another.

A better place to go to view the handling of conflict is in Acts 6 which will be the basis for us through the week.  In Acts 6, we read the following:  "Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.  And the twelve summoned the full number of disciples and said, 'It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.  Therefore pick from you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.' And what they said pleased the whole gathering and they chose.... (seven men including Stephen)." (6:1-5)

Today, our first glance at this passage teaches us one important fact about conflict.  When the complaint came to the apostles, they did not shy away from it or ignore it.  How do we "shy" away from conflict?  We can ignore it and hope it goes away.  We can find blame for the existence of the conflict within others, not ourselves, and we can cast aspersions about the issue on to others to distance ourselves from this issue.  Not only can we find blame, we can fix blame on others as well like Adam in the Garden when God asked why he ate of the fruit - "That woman you gave me..." he began (Genesis 3:12). What we read in this passage is that as soon as the complaint found its way to the apostles, they made no excuses but called the problem to the attention of the assembly.

So, we pray we take ownership in conflicts that arise and that we don't allow it the situation to fester until it becomes sinful or unhealthy.  In our marriages, in our friendships, in our relationships, our work and within our church, we speak volumes in terms of how we address each other at all times.  We also pray that everything we do is out of love for one another.

Hope Men's Ministry

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