Thursday, November 09, 2017

Conflict Resolution

Disclaimer: This is not my recommended five easy steps to resolve conflict! Not at all. It is a confession followed by what I’ve learned during the Liquid Church LoveComesToTown series…

I am bad at conflict resolution. I begin as a TURTLE. Before an argument gets heated up, I change the subject or I offer excuses (often very lame ones). I toss out the forgive-and-forget cards before their appropriate time, and so the conflict does not resolve, it only gets kicked down the road. If the conflict continues, I lapse into the MOCKING BIRD. I do not directly attack, but I make snide, sarcastic remarks. I complain to my friends. I‘m passive aggressive by attempting to manipulate others and trying to get my way through a workaround. I try to enlist other people with influence to assist me because after all I only want to “help” make the situation right. Finally, as the conflict escalates I become the SKUNK and stink up the place with my harsh words, demands, and idle threats. Yes, I am very bad at conflict resolution!

Jesus, in contrast, was excellent in conflict resolution, as Mark 3:1-6 (GNT) illustrates:

Then Jesus went back to the synagogue, where there was a man who had a paralyzed hand. Some people were there who wanted to accuse Jesus of doing wrong; so they watched him closely to see whether he would cure the man on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man, “Come up here to the front.” Then he asked the people, “What does our Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To help or to harm? To save someone's life or to destroy it?”

But they did not say a thing. Jesus was angry as he looked around at them, but at the same time he felt sorry for them, because they were so stubborn and wrong. Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it became well again. So the Pharisees left the synagogue and met at once with some members of Herod's party, and they made plans to kill Jesus.

Jesus was not a TURTLE. He did not avoid this conflict. He initiated it. He knew there was an elephant in the room and refused to step around it. He was not merely concerned with healing the man with the paralyzed hand. He was concerned about the condition of the hearts of the Pharisees, those who wished to accuse Him. Jesus could have avoided the confrontation by healing the man the next day or in private. But He didn’t. He did not try to appease the Pharisees and others who were trying to accuse and destroy Him. He did not fear their reaction or retaliation, even though they were the ones with the political power. He brought them the truth and left the results and their reaction up to them.

Jesus was not a MOCKING BIRD. He did not sink to ridicule or sarcasm.

Jesus was not a SKUNK either. He did not rant or accuse them of wrong-doing. He did not command them to do anything. Although clearly angry, He demonstrated self-control. His remarks were simple and to the point. He asked a succinct question that demonstrated what was in their hearts. In the end, Jesus was the one who did good by healing the man’s hand. The Pharisees did evil by making plans to kill Jesus.

Jesus was angry here, but He did not sin. His motive was pure. He was grieved because of the hard hearts of the Pharisees because they were His people who represented God to the nation of Israel. They were more interested in following their rules than compassion. Jesus demonstrated His love for them because He used the opportunity to show them the truth even though it cost Him.

Jesus was more interested in truth than in the reactions of others. And yet, He was not about proving He was right as much as trying to get them to see the condition of their own hearts.

Paul tells the Ephesians (5:21) Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. We think that means we need to be nice to everyone at all times, no matter how they are acting. I think we misread it. I think we need to be led by the Spirit to first to determine what is the loving thing to do or say dependent on the situation and people involved. Paul also told the Thessalonians (5:14) And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Some people need to be warned, others encouraged and helped. Sometimes I need to humble myself and ask for forgiveness! How can I tell the difference? Certainly not by a list of rules.

In order to resolve conflict first I need to gently ask questions and patiently listen to others. Unlike Jesus, I cannot assume what is on anyone's mind unless they tell me.  I must examine my own motives. I need to rely on prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit to discern what God is leading me to do and the courage to do it. Although sometimes, as it did for Jesus, it does not turn out well, I need to follow the Spirit and trust the outcome to God.

Dear Jesus, please help me listen first and turn to You for the discernment and courage I need to resolve conflict in a way that honors You!