Be at Peace with One Another-Part Two

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Be at Peace with One Another-Part Two

July 25, 2004 | Randy Smith
Transcript

Be at Peace with One Another-Part Two

Romans 12:18
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Pastor Randy Smith



After 125 years, the infamous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys is finally history. Sixty descendants of the original clans gathered on Saturday, June 14, 2003, in Pikefield, Kentucky, to sign a document declaring an official end to more than a century of hatred and bloodshed.

Most think the feuding between the McCoys of Kentucky and Hatfields of West Virginia began in 1878 when Randolph McCoy accused one of the Hatfields of stealing a hog. The Hatfields won the "hog war'" when a McCoy cousin sided with the opposing clan.

Feelings festered and other incidents occurred that finally resulted in the shooting death of Ellison Hatfield in 1882. Retaliation begat retaliation until the feud claimed 11 more family members over the next ten years. Subsequent conflicts between the two clans have involved court battles over timber rights and cemetery plots.

The treaty calling for peace reads: "We do hereby and formally declare an official end to all hostilities, implied, inferred, and real, between the families, now and forevermore. We ask by God's grace and love that we be forever remembered as those that bound together the hearts of two families to form a family of freedom in America." (Stephen Leon Alligood, "American Profile," CBS News.com (6-14-03)

We are all familiar with the Hatfields and McCoys, a faceless clan who has become the infamous model of interpersonal conflict. They epitomize a relationship in turmoil complete with all the fixings of anger, bitterness, manipulation, intimidation, assault, pride and unforgiving spirits. They've become a cliché, a laughing matter within American folklore.

However, conflicts within the church are no laughing matter whatsoever. Too often they result in much pain and a weakened testimony. And too often they go unnoticed and unmended. Brothers and sisters this should not be.

Ephesians 6:12 (NLT) says, "For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms." Every Christian is a warrior. We are called to "fight the good fight" (1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12). We have been endowed with spiritual artillery to fight the enemy. However, there is something drastically wrong when God's people turn their weapons of warfare on each other. There is something drastically wrong when those identified as being one with the "Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6) live amongst conflict with fellow sheep of God's flock.

Puritan preacher, Thomas Books once said, "Labour mightily for a healing spirit. Away with all discriminating names whatever that may hinder the applying of balm to heal your wounds...Discord and division become no Christian. For wolves to worry the lambs is no wonder, but for one lamb to worry another, this is unnatural and monstrous." (A Puritan Golden Treasury, Banner of Truth, 1989, p. 304).

We are called by God to live at peace with one another. That includes treating each other with love, respect and dignity and going to the utmost to resolve any tension in our relationships.

This morning, I'd like to conclude this message on conflict resolution with a practical step-by-step outline that will help you restore broken relationships. But before we do that, allow me to briefly provide four reasons why conflicts, especially Christian conflicts, must be resolved because the application will be meaningless until we are personally convinced of the need to live at peace with one another.

1. Unresolved conflicts bring emotional pain

We have all experienced the emotional pain of a strained relationship. The hurt when somebody intentionally avoids you. The hurt when somebody speaks negatively about you. The individual you once called friend who now receives you as enemy.

Believer, we live in a fallen world that touches each of us with relational difficulties. Moreover, as Christians, we experience spiritual persecution from those outside the church, often times from the hands of family members. Jesus told us these things would be so. "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (Jn. 15:20). However, there is no excuse when His people come to His church and are ridiculed, ostracized or hated. This auditorium is called a sanctuary. It is to be a place of peace in our relationships with each other. Many of us in the world experience conflict around the clock. We don't need it to extend when we are around other believers.

2. Unresolved conflicts are disobedient to God's Word

Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (Jn. 10:27). The mark of God's flock is following God's Word and the Scriptures could not be clearer as to God's will in this area. Throughout the Bible we read of God's desire for a unified church.

In Ephesians 4:1-3 Paul said, "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." We are called to aggressively end conflicts in our lives. "So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another" (Rom. 14:19). Additionally, disunity is so offensive in the eyes of God that He calls our worship unacceptable until we have reconciled our differences with others. "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering" (Mt. 5:23-24).

3. Unresolved conflicts fail to glorify God

Not only does direct disobedience to His word fail to glorify God, but a disunified church fails to reflect His character. God is one of order. He is a compound unity, "the Lord is one" (Dt. 6:4). God is one who wants His church to reflect the unity or the "oneness" demonstrated within the Trinity. Jesus prayed, "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me" (Jn. 17:22-23). A disunified church fails to mirror His character as we are called to be "one body" (Rom. 12:5) or "one flesh" (Gen. 2:24) in our marriages. Moreover, it fails to show the world that we really understand what it means to be reconciled. It also fails to show the world that God's grace is sufficient to help us overcome these "difficult" sins and exercise forgiveness, humility and love for our enemies. A disunified church does not mirror God's glory. On the contrary it only mirrors the world.

4. Unresolved conflicts question your own salvation

Lastly, we must understand that a prideful attitude that refuses forgiveness and reconciliation potentially indicates a heart yet to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

You see, love for God is always equated with obedience to His Word. Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." I already made it clear that one of His commandments is to reconcile relationships. How about another commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt. 22:39). The consequence for not obeying what Jesus called the second greatest commandment is tragic! 1 John 4:20-21, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. Should we be surprised when Jesus said, "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Mt. 6:14-15; cf. Mk. 11:25-26). Failing to love others is the same as failing to love God. And failing to love God is a sure sign of an unregenerated heart.

My friends, it makes no sense. How can we who have received reconciliation with God, a reconciliation that came at a great cost to Jesus and a reconciliation we didn't deserve, not seek to restore relationships with others who may have offended us. "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 Jn. 4:10-11).

I hope you are convinced of the need to actively restore relationships and live at peace with one another. These theological truths now naturally lead to practical aspects to help us resolve conflict.

Last week I presented you with three ways people incorrectly resolved conflict. By way of review they were:

  • Fight to Win-Seek to resolve the conflict with a win-lose mentality. So long as they are proven 100% correct, they will agree to "bury the hatchet."

  • Withdraw-Seek to avoid the conflict and hope it will just go away by itself.

  • Yield-Seek to appease the other person to avoid continued friction.

Before I provide the steps to assist in biblical conflict resolution, allow me to give you some do's and don't's that will provide some assistance.

DON'T

  • Assume you know all the facts. Never pass judgment without hearing the other's side of the story (Pr. 18:17)

  • Betray confidential information to "bolster" your case (Pr. 11:13)

  • Wait for the other person to initiate the resolution process (Mt. 5:23-24)

  • Compromise the Word of God to resolve a conflict (1 Thes. 2:13; 2 Tim. 4:1-4)

  • Minimize sin (Rom. 6:23; Jas. 1:15)

  • Try to read the other's mind or expect the other person to read your mind. They may be unaware that their actions were wrong and/or hurtful (1 Cor. 13:7)

  • "Unforgive" that which you have previously forgiven someone (Jer. 31:34)

  • Vilify the person. Odds are, they are not as evil as your mind has concocted them to be (Tit. 3:3)

  • Justify your wrongs by the repeated use of blame shifting, excuses and "but" statements (Lk. 14:18)

  • Expect sinless perfection in the other (Rom. 15:1)

DO

  • Take time to cool off and pray (Pr. 29:20)

  • Pursue genuine peace as soon as possible (Rom. 14:19; Heb. 12:14)

  • Control your spirit. Especially be slow to anger (Pr. 12:16; 15:1; 16:32)

  • Keep your emotions in control, but still be sure to express your feelings.

  • Overlook insignificant offenses (Pr. 19:11) unless they are:

    • Dishonoring to God

    • Damaging to the relationship

    • Hurting or might hurt others (including the offender)

  • Trust God for the results, ultimate justice (Rom. 12:19) and His work in the other's life

  • Attack the issue, not the person (Gal. 5:15; Jas. 4:1-3)

  • Ask Questions. Questions soften the blow and stimulate thinking (Jn. 21:15-17)

  • Reaffirm your love for each other and all that you have in common (Phil. 2:2)

  • Forgive on the basis of one's statement (1 Cor. 4:5)

With these principles in mind, let's conclude with the steps to conflict resolution.

Steps to Resolving Conflict:

  1. Go to God in prayer (Eph. 6:18)
    1. Ask God to search your heart (Psm. 139:23-24)
      1. Confess your sins to God (1 Jn. 1:8-9)
      2. "Take the log out of your own eye" (Mt. 7:3-5)
    2. Ask God for humility (Jas. 4:6)
    3. Ask God to help you love the individual (Mt. 5:44-45; Rom. 12:9-10, 21)
    4. Ask God for wisdom (Jas. 1:5)
      1. Correct perception of the situation
      2. Knowing when to go (Ecc. 3:1, 7), what to say (Pr. 15:28) and how to say it (Pr. 15:4, 28; 16:21)
  2. Go to the individual in private (Mt. 5:23-24; 18:15)
    1. Pray together before the meeting begins (Jas. 4:2)
    2. Review and agree upon the "Rules of Engagement" (see below)
    3. Come to a mutual agreement on the exact issue of conflict
      1. Deal with one issue at a time
    4. Ask each other to specifically express personal concerns
      1. Confess any necessary sins (Pr. 28:13; Jas. 5:16)
      2. State a plan of repentance to prevent the sin from reoccurring
      3. Make restitution if necessary (Lk. 19:8)
      4. Forgive one another (Mt. 18:21-22; Eph. 4:32)
    5. Mutually determine specific steps necessary that both of you will take to resolve the conflict - be realistic
    6. Restore the peace with others who may have been adversely affected (Eph. 4:3)
    7. Enlist accountability from others if necessary (Pr. 11:14)
    8. End the meeting in prayer (Jas. 5:16)
  3. If the conflict still cannot be resolved:
    1. Seek a mediator (objective outside individual(s) who can hear both sides and offer solutions - Pr. 11:14)
    2. Seek an arbitrator (same as above, only now the individual(s) offers a binding decision to settle the conflict to be agreed upon by both individuals in conflict - 1 Cor. 6:4)
    3. Seek a witness (most likely one from above) and initiate/continue the process of church discipline (Mt. 18:16-17)

Ten Rules of Engagement ( R E C O N C I L E D ):

  R Respect the relationship more than winning the argument • (Rom. 15:2)
  E Enlist Scripture as the final word • (2 Tim. 3:16)
  C Concede to each other the benefit of doubt • (Rom. 12:10). Believe and hope all things • (1 Cor. 13:7)
  O Only speak the truth in love • (Rom. 8:6-8; Eph. 4:15)
  N Never gossip with those not involved in the situation • (2 Cor. 12:20)
  C Consider one another with respect, love and dignity • (Eph. 4:32; Col 3:13)
  I Involve other people only when agreed upon and absolutely necessary • (Pr. 25:9; Mt. 18:15)
  L Let each other have the opportunity to be heard • (Pr. 18:2, 13; Jas. 1:19)
  E Earnestly work together until the conflict is resolved • (Rom. 12:18; Phil. 2:1-4)
  D Desire God's glory • (Jos. 22:5; 1 Cor. 10:31) and the testimony of His church as the highest goal • (1 Cor. 6:7; 10:32)

My friends, I am not saying confrontation is easy. I'm sure we've all experienced the lump in our throat or the knot in our stomach when we need to approach someone at odds with us. We never know what will become of these meetings. We may unearth memories that were forgotten or strike a nerve in a contentious individual. We may walk away with the situation worse than when we started. We may walk away humbled realizing that much of the conflict was our own fault or own imagination. We might see how our own sin or ignorance or arrogance hurt another.

It's not easy, but it's the commandment of God. And like all His commandments, He gives us grace to fulfill His expectations. We should want to be at peace with others, but more importantly, we should want to be at peace with God knowing that we are walking according to His will by loving His other children with the same love He has given to us. When we walk according to His will, He is glorified and we receive great blessings. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Mt. 5:9).

Like the treaty between the Hatfields and McCoys may we "formally declare an official end to all hostilities, implied, inferred, and real…now and forevermore." May we "ask by God's grace and love" to remember that we are many hearts "knit together in love" (Col. 2:2) reconciled by Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-19). May we make every effort to demonstrate that to each other and to the world.


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