If you've lived on this planet long enough to learn to walk and talk, you've probably experienced conflict - maybe on a daily basis. If you serve in ministry, you've definitely experienced it.
Misunderstandings. Differences of opinion. Hurt feelings. Offensive words or actions. Body language that speaks volumes. And if all that were not enough, social media provides a whole new realm for us to come into conflict since the there are no non-verbal cues to promote understanding.
Sometimes we are in the wrong. We react in an instant without considering the tone of voice or choice of words - or maybe without realizing our CAPS LOCK is on! It's easy - or at least easi-ER - to admit we're wrong when we recognize that we made a mistake. God brings conviction and we repent; we seek the forgiveness of the one we wronged and hopefully reconcile, moving on together with a little more sensitivity and thought the next time. Or so we hope.
But what about when we didn't do anything wrong? What about when we are confident that our words and actions were Spirit-led? Should we apologize for doing exactly what God led us to do? Would God lead us to do something that creates conflict? We expect conflict between us and the world as we seek to live for Christ - but are blind-sided when the conflict is not with the world, but with the person praying next to us on Sunday, or the person sitting beside us at our table.
Our sense of justice cries out that it's unfair. That we should be the one to receive an apology.
Jesus provides an interesting example for us in Matthew 5:23-24: " 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift."
Notice that Jesus does NOT say, "if you are offering your gift on the altar and there remember that you have wronged your brother or sister". The point is really not who was wrong or right, but that the relationship be restored.
Paul admonished in Romans, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18)
He does NOT say, "Stand up for yourself! Fight for your rights! Win at all cost!"
Our culture in America, though founded in many ways on godly principles and heritage, teaches a proud and rebellious spirit that is anything but biblical. The Word says to "13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right." (1 Peter 2:13-14) Yet the Colonists perceived they were being treated unjustly and rose up against that authority, and Americans have bristled at authority ever since. Instead of recognizing a unique and special circumstance where God intervened to overturn an unjust ruler, Americans have embraced and glorified the rebellion itself. We've passed down an ideology of demanding our rights whether it be from the government, our friends, our family, or our church. (Don't get me started on how we've expanded what we believe those rights should include!)
We've abandoned the priority of relationships over rights.
God's priority is always relationship over rights.
John 13:34-35 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Remember that Jesus spoke these words after showing them what this love looks like by washing the feet of his disciples. Even the feet of Judas Iscariot, knowing that in moments Judas would leave to betray him. Even the feet of Peter, who would soon deny that he knew Jesus.
Photo courtesy of Keiki Hendrix
That is the way Christ directs us to love - to wash the feet of the one who betrays us. To humble ourselves before someone who may not deserve such grace...just as we do not deserve such grace from Christ.
Romans 12:10 "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves."
Corinthians 13:11 "Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you."
Ephesians 4:2 "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."
God is all about relationships. Just as our salvation is not about doing a list of things but about having a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, so He desires that we prioritize relationships over our own rights.
It's not about saying that what you did was wrong - it it truly was led by the Lord. But it is about seeking reconciliation anyway. Ask forgiveness for the hurt caused, if not for the actual words or actions.
God has a way bringing humility to those who choose not to humble themselves. As one who has learned the hard way - it is better to humble yourself before God must do it for you!