At Gateway Church in Austin we continued a new series called “The One Anothers”
Relationships are a wonderful thing. We find companionship, comfort, wisdom, strength, intimacy, and so much more with other people…until conflict happens, that is. But when others hurt or anger us, we sometimes feel excused from loving them if that means speaking the truth with gentle grace, which God has commanded us to do. So is it worth it to push through our fear, hurt, and anger to pursue reconciliation in our relationships? How does God want this process to look in our lives?
Audio of the Message I Shared:
Here are the message notes by John Burke:
We’re in this series called The One Anothers, looking at how God the Father adopts us as His children if we’re willing, brings us into a New Family, and in the Bible gives us all these One Another commands—New Family rules showing us a New Way to be human. It’s how we grow up from spiritual childhood into spiritual maturity. I have to say, there’s not another place I’ve seen Adults act more childish than how we deal with Conflict. People so often destroy their relationships for one reason and one reason only: They don’t know how to speak the truth in love. God’s family rules are not to blow up, gossip, slander, or hit back when hurt, but Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ…. Ephesians 4:15 “…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)
But rarely, do we do conflict and confrontation in healthy, loving ways as God intends. But when we do, it makes us better people because it gives us an opportunity to grow, and that builds the friendship because it actually deepens trust and authenticity—it increases depth of friendship.
Jesus laid it out very clearly how we are to deal with One Another as His Family when we feel wronged. It’s found in “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Matthew 18:15-17 So first, Jesus says…
If wronged… Jesus says, “If someone you’re in relationship really wrongs you. Sometimes they didn’t really wrong us, or it’s not a sin issue, and we need to lighten up. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)
Another translation says “Be patient, making allowance for each other’s faults.” I think there’s a misconception that the churches in the Bible were places of perfect harmony. When you read the Bible, you’ll see they were really just bundles of conflict. In fact, a lot of the books of the New Testament are Paul helping the congregations work through conflict and problems. Paul was passionate about right and wrong when it came to big issues of the faith. But here Paul is in essence saying, “Lighten up a little.”
New Testament churchgoers argued over who was observing certain traditions or who was eating what food or who was working on which day. Today, we might argue over music preference, or who voted for whom, or who forgot to say thank you for our wedding gift, who didn’t invite us to the party, or who backed into our car and dented it without leaving a note.
The first question we ask is “How big is the issue?” However, you can’t just ask that question in isolation because the other half of the equation is “How close is the person?” If someone is really close to us, it is appropriate for us to let him know. If the person is a casual acquaintance, let it go. Additionally, we need to stop giving perfect strangers the power to ruin our day. Some issues you pursue no matter what. For example, if your new neighbor is parking his Ford Explorer El Grande in your front yard, you have some creative conflict to pursue. The bottom line is that we need to choose our conflict carefully, and sometimes we just need to lighten up if they haven’t really sinned against us.
But sometimes, things happen, and people have really wronged us. Jesus says if you are angry because someone has hurt or wronged you, here’s what you must do. Go in private. “…just between the two of you….” The way of Christ is really simple…if someone wronged you, go to that person in private. Go to them with it. It’s real simple, but I want to tell you, I think this is the hardest thing for people to do. I’m convinced we do more damage to the Family that God wants to create among us because we just can’t get this one right.
God’s new family is to “…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50) “Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16) We are trying to do life together…in harmony with One Another, to love each other. And when that happens as God designed, it’s like making music. When two business partners combine their gifts and talents, visions and ideas, and go at something together it can be a beautiful thing for society and for their families. When two people serve or grow in church next to each other and become friends, share with One another, and support One Another through highs and lows—it’s a beautiful thing. When a husband and wife give of themselves sacrificially for the good of One Another, when they quickly resolve conflict–that’s love. It’s a beautiful thing. Our lives are in tune to what God wants for us relationally.
But, all of us sin against each other, we hurt and wrong one another. And when we do, it’s because our lives are not fully in tune with God’s will for us. We all do this in various ways at various times- sometimes accidentally, sometimes not. We all get out of TUNE to God’s Will and it hurts others But here’s what happens, instead of doing it Jesus’ way, we go our own way. Jesus’ way takes courage, we usually go the way of the coward. God’s desire is that we would help each other get in Tune. But the goal of doing confrontation God’s way is to help each other get in tune and live in Harmony. But instead
When Wronged, We Often… Go public. Jesus says, keep it private, just between the two of you at first. But I don’t say anything to him, even when he asks. Why? Cause I don’t have the courage to do what Jesus said. So what do I do instead? I get someone else involved. It does you NO GOOD; you just feel more anger, it doesn’t restore relationship. It does that 3rd party NO GOOD, you’re inciting them against that person—it’s Gossip, that’s sin. Scripture says, “A gossip separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28
Friends, talking about someone before you talk to them is WRONG! It divides, it separates close friends, it tears apart community, it destroys what God’s trying to build in his New Family. Don’t participate in it. If someone comes to you, and they are angry or hurt or bothered about what another person did…don’t be the gossip who separates friends. If a Christ follower talks to you about another person–ask them this “Have you talked to that person yet about it?” Answer will almost always be, “NO.” Stop them and say, “Let me pray for you to have the courage and go to that person in private and do Matthew 18. Refuse to keep on talking about it. Why? Because it’s not going to help tune him or the offender to God’s will.
Now, here’s the other wrong way we deal with conflict. Jesus says “Go to her”, but we try to forget it. If it’s hurting the relationship, but we’re afraid of how that person will respond, so we try to just forget it—that’s not truth or love. But remember, how that person responds is not your part to own—that’s his business before God. Your part is to speak truth in love. But often, we try to bury the hurt or the pain or the humiliation or the anger, just wish it away. But if it slowly destroys your relationship, that’s not God’s new family way.
That’s why scripture says: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Proverbs 27:5 If you really want to be a friend to someone, if you really care about someone…then speak the truth in love to them. It may hurt at first, but it builds deep trust in the end if it’s done with the right motive—and it gives them the opportunity to grow! So here’s the question to ask when you’re hurt and trying to decide if you should just “Forget it.” Ask, “Will saying nothing most help this person and our relationship?” In some cases, the answer could be “yes.” But if the only reason you’re not saying anything is to avoid discomfort of confrontation…be courageous…go in private like Jesus commands.
Confront in Love “…go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” Matthew 18 Jesus says, spell out what happened and how it affected you. But the motive in this is love. Jesus says, the goal is to win your brother or sister back. In other words, you’ve lost something. When one person wrongs another, something is lost…trust, a part of the friendship, willingness to be vulnerable, respect. And the goal of confronting the wrong is to restore the relationship. Truth + Love = Growth You’ve got to have both parts to make it work. Often when we pursue careful conflict all the way to this step, we blow it here. We can blow it by only sharing part of the truth or sharing truth but not with the motive of love we do it to get it off our chest, out of frustration or not care for the person or relationship, not from love. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head.” Ephesians 4:15 This is the way the church is to function so that we all grow up together, and the metaphor is that we function like Christ’s body here on earth—He’s the head. But conflict mismanaged destroys what God’s building. It’s not just about you and that other person—it’s about God and what He is building. And this is a good way to approach confrontation. To remember that it’s bigger than just you and them—how you do this affect God’s Kingdom on earth.
One more important family rule: You Break It; You Buy It. Even if what’s broken is only five percent your fault, you need to buy it; you need to own that part. Maybe the other person told a malicious lie about you, and you understandably responded with harsh words about them. When you go to confront, You need to own your percent. Conflict is almost never all one sided. Often we don’t want to admit we did wrong too because we think it will make our position weaker. We think it’s poor negotiating to admit our own mistake. Jesus said: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye Matthew 7:3-5
What potentially life-saving advice are we given every time we sit down in an airplane seat? If the oxygen masks pop out of the ceiling–Put on our own mask before trying to assist others. So Jesus tells us there is a role for helping your brother remove the speck. But you have to own up to our own % of plank first. If you helped break it, you buy it.