Friday, 22 March 2013

The Gospel-centered Approach to Conflict - Part II

This posting will mean much more if you have read Part I, so I would encourage you to do so.  For those who read Part I, I’m surprised you are coming back for more.  Again the basis for these postings comes from The Gospel-Centered Life publication.

The Dreaded Chart

The chart that appeared in Part I is only dreaded because it calls me out, it identifies my unChristlike responses to life’s challenges. I must continually remind myself that God can always use conflict in my life as an opportunity for me to grow.  It is my response to conflict that will determine the outcome.   In this posting I will attempt to give you a brief description of the words contained in the chart in Part I, under column one entitled “Aspect”.

Heart Foundation – the best response to conflict is to be repentant for my contribution to the conflict and to seek forgiveness.  Running from conflict or being self-righteous will never bring about a satisfactory resolution.

Power Source – Whenever the flesh is in control my response will be less than God honoring.  It matters not whether my response is driven by my pride or my fear the end result will be less than desirable.  It is only through the Spirit that I can respond well.

Commitment – The only beneficial approach to addressing a conflict is to seek a resolution that will glorify God.  If my agenda is anything else, i.e. to win or to avoid, everyone loses.

Direction - We can choose to appease the other person with whom we are in conflict.  By just giving in I can avoid unpleasantness.  We can attempt to subdue the other person, to exert control and dominate.  This approach is never effective in the long run.  You should respectfully and honestly talk about your thoughts and feelings and invite the other person to do the same.

Feeling and Goal – “Begin with the end in mind” was the sage advice of a business book written several years ago. If there is a conflict there is a cost to resolution.  Ideally you can arrive at a win-win but that is not always possible.  The end in mind should always be one that brings glory to God.  Understand what each person has at stake and specify what steps need to be taken.

Result – If I’m on the attack I hurt the other person.  If I withdraw I become bitter and resentful.  Neither position allows the parties to walk away feeling reconciled.

As a keen observer of the obvious I hope you realize that what the chart describes are the behaviors that many husbands and wives bring to conflict in their marriage.  Stay tuned for Part III.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

A Gospel-centered Approach to Conflict - Part I

Do you find that there are certain passages in Scripture that you would prefer aren’t there?  You know like Matthew 6:15 which says, “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  So, if you are like me you either search for a different translation or tell yourself that in the original Greek it must mean something else.

I’m talking about the “C” word, you know conviction.  Lately I’ve been feeling like the Holy Spirit has taken me on as a special project.  So it was yesterday as I was sitting through a staff meeting minding my own business.  One of our leaders was tasked with the job of covering the subject of conflict using The Gospel-Centered Life materials.  Now I have written on conflict several times and I even have the draft of my book on the topic sitting on my desk.  Since the book is only four pages long including the Table of Contents and Index I am holding off publishing it.  You’re probably thinking, "get to the point already."

The point is after a 45 minute lesson on conflict I felt as though I had been run over by a steam roller.  I was reasonably able to ignore much of the beginning of the presentation since as a general rule I avoid conflict like it was a plague unless of course I am counseling in which case I “might” come across as self-righteous, antagonistic or argumentative.  Wouldn’t you like to have me counsel you?

Then the dreaded chart nailed me.  It compared the two most typical responses to conflict with a gospel response.  See below:

Heart Foundation
Repentance, forgiveness
Power Source
Flesh, pride
Flesh, fear
The Holy  Spirit
To be right
To avoid conflict
To understand and engage
To argue or subdue
To deny or appease
To convey and invite
Life is safe
Life is less painful
Life is challenging
God’s glory, their good
Hurt, divisiveness
Bitterness, separation
Healing, reconciliation

 I wouldn’t have been surprised to find that I fell into the withdraw column.  What bothered me is that I think I fall into the worst parts of column two and three and perhaps attempt to conceal my response as coming from column four.  Specifically I know there are times when I sound self-righteous even to myself and I know that my pride and ego make occasional appearances.  But I’m as likely to seek a less painful life by failing to speak the truth in love and seeking peace.  Enough true confessions, the next installments cover how we can learn to handle conflict in a gospel-centered way.



Monday, 18 March 2013

Only with God's Love

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son[a] into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for[b] our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1John 4:7-12
Almost fifty years ago the Righteous Brothers popularized the song “You’ve Lost That Lovin Feelin”.  As a marriage counselor I hear the words to that song with regularity, though the melody may be different.

If the word love is a noun and it means that love is essentially a feeling that one can lose, it raises some questions about the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22: 37-39

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it “ Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It seems as though where the Lord is concerned, love is a divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful verb. God is love and as the Scripture says, “love comes from God.”  The Holy Spirit living in us enables us to love our neighbor, not to mention our spouse, kids and the cantankerous boss we work for.

So if I am not feeling loving I need to ask myself, “Self – has God withdrawn His love from me?”  Surely the answer to that question is no, not if I have accepted Christ as my savior.

As someone once said, “if you are not sensing God’s presence, guess who has moved?”  My ability to love my wife comes from the Spirit so if I am not loving my wife as I should there is a reasonably good chance that I am not spending time in God’s Word, I am not spending time in prayer, and I am not spending time with those in community who can be a source of encouragement.