Into Thy Word -
We as mature Christians need to see the distinction of Gods providence working in the lives of His people, and the pettiness of our actions. God is in control and He will win no matter what we do. The tone of Pauls letters to resolve the various conflicts in the churches center on one crucial theme. Whatever the disagreement was, either the role of women, the spiritual gifts, the role of leadership, and the authority of the church all centered on surrendering to the Lord and not to the flesh. Two thousand years later, we are dealing with the same issues that Paul dealt with. So how do we respond? Just as Paul stated as led by the Spirit, we must allow ourselves to be taught by the Word and surrender to the Lordship of Christ and not ourselves! And Paul continues to remind us that we are to express our oneness in Christ by being loving and accepting to others because Christ was and is accepting and loving of us.
True wisdom will solve any conflict, and our desires will keep us from seeing it. Our envy and selfish desires will always get in the way, and Gods Grace will eventually mute our reckoning and bring the peace. So we must focus on the major issues and tenets of the faith, such as key theological issues just as Paul did. Paul took to task the issues of the physical Resurrection of Christ and Faith Alone by what Christ has done that saves us. Paul did not call us to be perfect but we should be able to handle moral and values as our Lord would. Thus the minor issues should be agree to disagree, such as the role of women in leadership. My denomination recently split over this issue, because the key areas of conflict management were not used.
It is always best to be a listener to God, so we are in tune with Him and not to ourselves! From our pettiness come the conflicts that ruin relationships and property. From our Lord come the Grace, Mercy, and Goodness that creates the Peacemaker. When we are in tune, then we will be that peacemaker with our submissive hearts, minds, and souls, which flow the good Fruits of the Spirit to be bearers of Righteousness and not bearers bringing contemptible actions into our relationships and His church! Remember James 3 & 4, and the true causes of conflict.
Taking the Lead
The leader of the church will face all sorts of attack and conflict and thus must be rooted in the principles we talked about in the chapter on The Leadership Challenge. So the result is we need to be in good and solid relationships with the people we serve, while at the same time are sensitive to their motives as well as frustrations. So the leader will be able to discern situations, the dynamics, and personalities involved without they themselves getting pulled into the conflict. Remember we are called to serve Christ and His body and not to fight. Yet people will take advantage of you and misunderstand your motives to resolve conflict. Most people, including Christians, have a spurious nature, a better understanding of strife, and a harder time accepting the Biblical principles of peace. A Mature Christian will respond to criticism with gentleness and never respond to anger with anger or power with more power, we are to respond in the character of Christ and truth.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. (Proverbs 15:1-3)
The leader must be willing and able to get above the situation without emotional or preconceived ideas, so we can be objective as well as to listen and share the Love of our Lord. The leader must be able to facilitate an atmosphere of trust and encouragement, so the congregation looks to them for their lead. If not, the conflicts will get worse. So the result of our actions will be to get closer to our critics and not push them away. Do not follow your natural tendencies to fight back or get even, God calls us higher. So see the people who are critical to the plan of peace and see them as opportunities to teach and model the correct way of church government from Gods Word. Leaders are not combatants, but are peacemakers who moderate and understand so they can intervene with the Grace of our Lord.
Maturity is the key interpersonal force that will seek the truth and, most importantly, the Holy Spirit to facilitate the growth and healing; because constructive criticism and conflict will be a catalyst to personal and church growth. This will create bonding and forgiveness and love will permeate, though there will be struggle in the process. The leader/moderator, when successful, must never give in to pride and self-glorification. Always be humble and realize your depravity and brokeness before a Holy God! Our will must be in surrender and our realization in the power of our Lord to heal in the situation. It is not about us, it is always about our Lord.
The leader is not a force of personality and strong-willed inclinations, but is a servant and a heart after His. So the result will be to give compassion to those who we feel do not deserve it, to love the unlovable, to help those who bite us, to lead those who want to go it themselves, and to do it with a smile and grateful heart. Under the veneer of the critical person is a child that needs to be guided. They may seem self-confident, but usually they are full of fear and mask it with the rough exterior of criticism. They may have had a life filled with conflict and shame and have no way of interacting socially but to be instigators of conflict because they grew up that way. The good news is what Christ has done, the acceptance and love He offers, and the healing and growth that will result from it. Remember the section on Spunk in The Leadership Challenge, risk is a necessary element of moderating and leading, not self-seeking and self-protection, they only lead away from our Lord.
When Do We Engage in Conflict
There are times when we as Christians are called to arms, as the song goes, onward Christian solders. As they said in the Middle Ages, if the cause is just
of course most of the causes were not just. But for us, if there is a situation that must be defended, we need to prepare ourselves and be willing to fight for our Lord. Conflicts that are worth fighting for are such as moral and value issues, spiritual warfare, evil desires, or physical attack.
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. (Galatians 2:11)
If someone is going to assault you or a family member and all means available to involve the authorities is exhausted, then we fight. I personally do not get into fist fights, but as a youth pastor, I was on a trip where one of my girls was being assaulted and I had to respond to that situation with physical force or the girl would have been raped. There have been numerous times I had to keep bad intentioned people away from my group to protect them and even use physical force. We as leaders must protect the people God entrusts to us. In working in some inner-city areas, I hired security to prevent potential problems with various events. Yes we are to trust in the Lord, but we are also to use commonsense and practical judgment. As Jesus told His disciples to buy a sword, so we to need to follow suit. I do not believe we need to literally be buying swords and wearing guns like the old west. But we do need to protect the people under our care.
A case in point, several years ago I was doing some intervention counseling with a couple. The husband was severally beating his wife. So I put her into a battered womens shelter. He then came to me very violently, threatened my life to disclose her location. The police were immediately called, but there was nothing they could do. I heard that the husband found out her location. So I took some elders with me to the womens shelter to protect the wife. She got scared and left the shelter and went home. The husband was in the process of literally killing her, when we showed up, the police were called and we had to wrestle him to the ground. He was a very big man. And I had to knock him out in order to subdue him. It was on of those situations that we may never have to deal with, but they do accrue. By the way it took the police over two hours to show up, as we sat on him; life in the inner city of America.
He said to them, But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you dont have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. (Luke 22:36)
We need to realize we have an enemy who is nearly eternal, and fully desires to interfere, steal and destroy us. So we are called to wage war on Satan and his onerous cohorts. We can do this by prayer and various techniques found in spiritual warfare resources available in most denominational resources centers and Christian bookstores.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:7-8a)
We need to battle our sinful nature and the evil desires that come up from that nature. If we put no effort in self-discipline, then we will not last long in tough situations or grow to be fully used by our Lord.
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:12-14)
Conflict is almost always necessary when the forces of darkness encroach upon the Christian Life. It is necessary to stand up for the rights of the unborn. It is necessary to fight for morals and values in our schools and government. It is necessary to not yield to Satan and our evil desires. For if we do not take a stand, our fall will be close at hand.
Ó R.J. Krejcir 1998, 2001 excerpt from the upcoming book Pew Sitting
Into Thy Word Ministries