Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Paul's perspective on Conflict resolution

Well it’s been a while since I have written anything. Life has been busy as the kids are getting older and I haven’t really felt lead to write too much.  Over the last several months though, God has opened my eyes to some things and laid some things on my heart that I will be sharing over the next several months.  Today I wanted to share some thoughts on some scripture from 2nd Timothy.

14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15 You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.  2 Timothy 4:14-17

As we all know life isn’t always smooth.  Life is always changing and conflict is a part of our daily lives.  We have conflict with our spouse, our kids, our families and our co workers. Christians experience conflict like this too but we also have conflict with people that oppose what we believe.  Sometimes opposition comes from people inside the church and sometimes it’s comes from the outside. Conflict isn’t something that should come as a surprise to the Christian though; rather it should be expected because if we are going to be someone who professes and lives out our faith daily then we are going to also be a target for criticism.

The Apostle Paul knew this well. Almost everywhere Paul went conflict awaited him. But Paul endured and he never let conflict get in the way of his task of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In Paul’s second letter to Timothy He gives Timothy some great advice that we should all take to heart. I know that it's easier said than done sometimes, but if it worked for Paul then it will work for us too.

Notice in V14 of the Scripture above that Paul says, Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm”.  Here Paul is nearing the end of his life and he is thinking about this man that he has obviously had a previous conflict with. Now the Bible doesn’t tell us much about Alexander, but we do know that in Paul’s mind Alexander has hurt him and his ministry deeply.  But here is the critical thing for all of us in handling conflict. Look at what Paul goes on to say in V14, “The Lord will repay him for what he has done”.

Now our normal reaction when conflict arises is to react or to defend our position, or in some cases to get our payback. I know I have failed many times in this way.  But Paul is saying, step back, calm down, and don’t worry about it. Let God take care of it! God will repay the person for what they have done.  Paul stayed focused on his mission of advancing the gospel, and he knew Timothy would face similar opposition too, if not from Alexander then from others like him. See there is nothing Satan would rather us do then get bogged down in a war of words with those that oppose us.

For every person that has committed themselves wholeheartedly to Jesus Christ there is going to be conflict. Get ready for it! Expect it! Embrace it even!  Jesus said in Luke 6:26 a, “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you”.   If you have no conflict in your life because of your claim to be a Christian then are you really standing tall in your faith? If there is no hardship, no opposition, no struggle because of our faith in Christ then we need to take a look in the mirror and see if we are truly moving forward in our faith or if we are dead in it.  Paul understood conflict well, and his commitment to overcome it and to march on proclaiming Christ meant that he had to leave the resolution of that conflict in God’s hands. Paul is telling Timothy, “Be ready for this because it’s going to happen, and this is how you should handle it”.

Notice in V16 that Paul tells Timothy that nobody stood up for him during his conflict either. Have you ever felt like you were by yourself on an island when a conflict came up?  Paul knows this feeling too because when Paul was opposed, Paul's supporters deserted him.  Jesus understands this too! When Jesus was arrested His disciples scattered! The reality is that humans will fail each other almost every time. We just do. We get scared.  We aren’t there for each other when we should be. We say the right things, but do the wrong things. We are flawed, selfish and sinful creatures that will make a mess of life when we are left to our own devices.

 In spite of all of this though, Paul goes on to tell Timothy what he wants done, “May it not be held against them”.  It is as if he is telling Timothy, “I know your flesh might be telling you to teach them a lesson, but don’t. Let it go”. It was Paul’s’ prayer that God would not hold this against them, and his hope that because of how they chose to handle the conflict that these Christians would be strengthened so that they might be able to stand strong in the future. Many times we get so focused on the conflict in our life that we forget that there are people in our periphery that are observing us to see how we handle difficult situations.  Are we going to blow up, or are we going to handle things the way Christ desires for us to?  Paul gives us the key to handling conflict the right way, it is up to us whether we choose to follow his lead.

I will leave you with this. When the inevitable conflict comes your way remember what Jesus said in Luke 6:22-23, Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.”

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