In the heat of the moment
Living with family is hard. We have different likes, preferences, reactions, attitudes, and opinions. With all of these differences, conflict becomes a “when” not an “if”. When we get into the heat of conflict, it is pretty difficult to remember in that moment all of the ways we should be acting toward the other person. Trying to guard our tone, volume, our word choice, and to listen before speaking are all very difficult to remember when we’re in the middle of defending our position.
A list of conflict resolution skills to practice is helpful…but only before the moment arrives. When conflict hits, we’ll remember one or two of them, at best. Since the way disagreements are handled can make or break relationships, it’s important to ask,
“Which skill or attitude is the most important? What is the one thing to remember when conflict comes?”
In his letter, Paul coached the Colossian believers on how to prepare themselves to handle conflict within God’s family. Earlier, he listed five character traits that they were to practice putting on, just like they would put on their clothes. As they practiced the traits of heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, they would be able to accept and forgive each other when issues arose.
However, the heat of the moment is a difficult time for those involved. That’s why I think Paul continued with this piece of guidance:
Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts.
This is the “if you forget everything else, remember what I’m about to tell you” moment in Paul’s letter. Paul flags this most important direction with the key phrase above all. So above all the Colossians are to remember to put on love. They are to get dressed in the same kind of love that God has extended to us in Christ Jesus.
Jesus himself gave the same answer when He was asked which section of the Jewish law was most important. The person asking wanted to know what part of Moses’ law would be a guiding principle above all the other laws:
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Jesus said that for us to love is our highest aim…but also notice that everything else flows out of that love. Paul is telling the Colossians the same thing – Above all, put on love. The other characteristics would flow out of how well we love, especially in the midst of conflict.
But how do we know what is the best way to show love? How will we know what is best for the other person when we’re in the middle of a fight?
To that, Paul throws in an “and”. The Colossians were to let the peace of the Messiah control their hearts. The peace of the Messiah was what Jesus brought to the sin-caused conflict between the human race and God. Jesus was willing to give Himself up to address the problem head-on, so that our relationship with God the Father could be restored.
Paul uses an interesting word for what this kind of peace is supposed to do to us. The Greek word for control comes from a context of athletic games, where an official would serve as an umpire in the match. Paul wants the peace of the Messiah then to guide, direct, and umpire our love for the family member we’re clashing with. So when family conflict comes, and it will, this all we need to remember:
Above everything else, let’s aim for peace because we love them.