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Friday, August 19, 2016

How to Deal with Conflicts and Arguments

How to Deal with Conflicts and Arguments

We cannot get away from conflicts and arguments as long as we live in this world. We find them everywhere and we have to face them more often than we think we should.  Sometimes we stay trapped in conflict with enemies for a long time allowing anger and hatred to slip into our thoughts and minds.  We can list all of the reasons why we should be angry at these enemies and it all makes sense.  But Christ calls us to live a life of love and to live by faith even when it doesn’t make sense!

As Christians we know that we have received the love of Jesus and we are called to spread that love to others.  It sounds so good but we run into a problem right off. How do we love the people who hate us when we would rather hate them back?  Shouldn’t we fight back when our enemies are trying to hurt us?  Doesn’t that sound reasonable? We go ahead and criticize our enemies and hate them but we know we are just getting by and that is not enough. Jesus never lets us off the hook as long as we hold onto hate. He just keeps challenging us to be more!

Let’s listen to what Jesus says about this: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you.  Do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.  That you may be sons and daughters of your Father in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and the good.  And He sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Doesn’t everyone do that?  And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what do you do more than others?  Therefore, be ‘perfect’, just as your Father in heaven is ‘perfect.’  (Matthew 5:44-48) 

The word “perfect” doesn’t mean what you are thinking.  It means “complete”, “whole” and “mature”.  Just as your Father in heaven is complete in loving the wayward person, so must you try to be.  Have complete love.  You are to be different than the average person.  We are children of our heavenly Father and by faith we are to resemble our Father.  We live by faith and not by sight.

I believe that when we allow revenge and hate to seep into our souls we poison ourselves with these toxic things.  We were not created to live with hate.  It will destroy us. God our heavenly Father has commanded us to live in love and not to live with hate perhaps because He doesn’t want us to hurt ourselves and pass these hurts along to others.  We can hate the evil a person does without hating the person. Hate destroys people, organizations, homes and nations.  And we may never know what we are missing.

And the power of love blesses us more than we may realize.  I have always wondered why those early Christians who made up the very first church in Jerusalem were so full of the Holy Spirit.  Those early Christians all had such joy and love for one another. There were healings and miracles among them every day!  Thousands of people became Christians because of their witness and influence.  Why doesn’t the Holy Spirit work among our churches today the way He did among that first church? 

When you read the story of those very first Christians recorded in the book of Acts you can become so impressed with all of their healings and miracles that you might miss the passages that tell us that they were careful to love one another and protect their unity.  And they all put their money together and everyone shared everything.  Sounds almost too good to be true!  But for a little while it worked.  And while it worked, they healed the sick, performed miracles, brought thousands of new people to the Lord and even raised the dead!  Was this very first Christian church given such Holy Spirit power because they loved one another so and because they refused to let differences destroy their unity?  Perhaps if we could love that way today, our churches would be open to the power of the Holy Spirit the way that first church was!    

 We may want to be loving to our enemy  but we feel that we must “fight” against the person who is trying to hurt us otherwise our reputation will be ruined or we will lose out in other ways.  And yes, perhaps we will lose out in the short run.  But time is on our side and in the long run God promises to take care of us.

 Time is greater than space.  This principle enables God (and us) to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results.  Trusting God helps us to patiently endure difficult situations.  We want to rush in and take over our rightful space.  Assert our power and madly attempt to keep everything together in the present.  But fools rush in where angels fear to tread.  If we step back and pray and love the enemy and let God work in the background, He will work in ways that we could never imagine!    

God speaks to us through Scripture and tells us that He will bless us and fight for us.  And again He challenges us to live by faith and obey His command to give up hate and thoughts of revenge for people who are hurting us.  Our job as followers of Christ is to trust and obey.    

Let’s listen to God’s answer to what we should do when we are having conflicts with others: “None of you repay evil for evil. … If possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all people.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves but rather put away your anger: for it is written, ‘Revenge is Mine, (God’s) I will repay,’ says the Lord. “(Romans 12:17a,18-19) Jesus warned his disciples and all of his followers that there are things we cannot yet understand.  We just need to accept them by faith.  (John 16:12-13) Accept the fact that God is the Judge and He will deal with your enemies in His time frame.

In the parable of the weeds among the wheat, (Matthew 13:24-30) the farmer plants good wheat seeds in his fields but then the enemy comes at night and plants weeds hoping to ruin his wheat crop.  The workers on the farm ask the farmer (owner) if they should pull the weeds up out of his field.  But the farmer/owner of the wheat field tells them to wait and leave the weeds growing with his wheat until the final harvest. His reasons are that some of the good wheat may be pulled up with the weeds. The farmer/owner leaves the job of pulling the weeds until the last day – the harvest time - when the wheat will be harvested and the weeds destroyed.

This parable illustrates that the enemy can intrude and cause us (the wheat) harm, but ultimately in the end he will be defeated by the Owner (God) of the field of wheat.  We are commanded: “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:21)  

When a conflict arises, there are several ways of dealing with it.  Some people pretend to ignore it.  Others criticize and fume and become prisoners of it.  Perhaps the best way to deal with a conflict is to face it head on and resolve it if possible.  That is best accomplished when we care about the person or persons we are having the conflict with.  We must be prayerful during conflicts, ready to negotiate and ready to try to see and sympathize with the other person’s side of the problem, even when we cannot agree.  But we should never think less of the person who disagrees with us and never call them names or cut them off. Never allow the conflict to break our unity.    

If we cannot agree with our adversary we can go beyond the surface of the conflict to see the person who disagrees with us in their deepest dignity.  We must continue to love and honor that person even if we cannot agree with them.  Agree to disagree and refuse to allow the disagreement to break the unity we have in Christ.  Unity is greater than conflict.  Live a life where conflicts and oppositions can achieve a diversified life-giving unity.

Christ is our peace and has made all things one in Himself. (Ephesians 2:14) The Gospel message always begins with a greeting of peace.  Obviously peace and unity are all important to the Lord.  And peace is possible because the Lord has overcome the world and its constant conflicts “by making peace through the blood of His cross.”  (Colossians 1:20)   

I took many ideas and excerpts for this blog from “The Joy of the Gospel” written by Pope Francis.  Pages 155-164.   

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