March 3, 2010

Conflict Management

God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)

And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3)

Do you ever live in the calm between the storms? Where you know that conflict exists, but you're going to do your best to resolve it in a Godly manner, so you are waiting for the face-to-face moment. So you're in that peaceful stage where you can either think about how much the other person has wronged you, how very right you are in all things, or perhaps you can focus on the words God gives us about loving one another.

As I've been studying the letters of Paul for class, we've talked about his letter to the Corinthians. There were divisions in the church of Corinth, and one man who, after the time of 1 Corinthians, made such a big deal about getting in Paul's face that he (Paul) chose not to return to Corinth on his way back from another land, as he had originally planned. Not that Paul was afraid of this man, or afraid of conflict, but he chose to save himself and the church a great deal of trouble by staying away.

But he had already given the church the tools they needed to deal with this man (who eventually saw the errors of his ways and repented). It is in 1 Corinthians that you see that beautiful treastise on love. For there are two parts to the reality of division between two people. First there is the division itself, and the fact that we must try to avoid it even happening. But then, if something does, what do you do next? You reach out to each other in love. You do not keep a record of right and wrong, but in humility accept that the other person might be absolutely correct and you might be completely wrong.

It is this love for the other person which will allow you to apologize even when it's not your fault but the other person will not. It is this love which will even allow you to bring correction to the other person, if you are in a position of authority over them. For you will not see them as a terrible person, but rather another member of the body who has somehow become misaligned, and needs to be brought back into place. But while you are doing that, you are also keeping yourself open to hearing what they have to say, and listening to the truth in their words. For you are not perfect, and in all things we are given opportunity to know ourselves better and walk in humility to allow ourselves to be told when we are perhaps a bit off the mark ourselves.

So in this calm between the storms, when the flare-up has already happened, and you have scheduled time to speak with the other person, spend this time now wisely. Put yourself in the other person's shoes and ask what about yourself could have lead to this conflict. Then with calmness and a prayerful attitude, determine where the other person may have gone off-track in their thinking or actions. And then, with love, erase the conflict in your own heart. Remove the need to be right, to tell them that they are wrong. But rather list what you love about them, so when you do meet, you are able to show them that you do not desire to push your own agenda, but rather God's.

And then (as in all things) pray to your heavenly father for guidance, for grace, for wisdom, for humilty, and for the strength of character that you will need to retain all of the previous gifts when you are standing face-to-face with the other person. And then, pray some more, because you can never do that enough, anyway. :)

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