Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: conflict

To run or to fight?

Some battles are worth fighting, and other times we’re better off just walking away.  It would be easy to talk in these terms about conflict with other people…but let’s ask the harder question instead:

How do we know the difference – when to run and when to fight – when it comes to our internal struggles and desires?

Because here’s our dilemma:

If we run when we should fight, it is a clear loss.
If we fight when we should run, then we waste time in a losing battle and risk injury or ruin.

Last time, we looked at Paul’s warning to Timothy regarding the seductively destructive desire for money and wealth.  Paul’s advice for dealing with money-love? RUN AWAY

1 Timothy 6:9-11
But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

Now you, man of God, run from these things;

Loving money and what money can do for us will inevitably pull us away from God.  That pull can be as subtle as a distraction or as painful as a trap.  As such, Paul says having money as our primary driver is something to get away from.  And rather than dreaming of riches, Timothy needs something better to chase after:

1 Timothy 6:11-12
Now you, man of God, run from these things;
but pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

Fight the good fight for the faith;
take hold of eternal life,
to which you were called
and have made a good confession
before many witnesses.

Paul has presented a practical contrast for Timothy:

He is to run from the trapping desire to get rich and get away from loving/craving money.
Instead
He is to fight to acquire the eternal life qualities of God and what God has called Timothy to do.

Beyond the direct application of Paul’s instruction (which would be extremely helpful), we can also draw out these principles:

We are to run from – the attitudes and actions that pull us away from God, from those things that try and take His top place in our lives.

We are to fight for – the attitudes and actions that draw us closer to God, for those things that keep Him in the top place in our lives.

When (not if) we find ourselves presented with an internal conflict, we need to check which direction we’re being pulled in…and then choose to either run or fight accordingly.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

How to deal with conflict

Ever get the urge to just “knock some sense” into someone?

Or at the very least, give them a verbal beat down that will “set them right” – and maybe let us blow off a little steam?

Take Paul’s protégé Timothy as an example.

He’s in a major metropolitan city he didn’t grow up in, he’s (at most) 30 years old, he’s in charge of the entire Christian church family in the city, and Paul has charged him with combating false doctrine and incorrect teachings of others.

How much conflict is going to come his way?  How many folks will be coming at him to argue with him?  Think he’ll have days where he feels the need to put someone in their place?

The Greek word for rebuke means just that – to strike or beat upon, to chastise with words.  I’m sure there were more than a few people (even some of them believers) who would have needed a strong dose of correction.

But look at how Paul says the young leader Timothy should handle those people:

1 Timothy 5:1-2
Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and with all propriety, the younger women as sisters.

While a rebuke would be a sharp, cutting word of correction, Timothy’s choice to exhort the person sits at the opposite end of the spectrum.  The Greek word translated exhort means to call to one’s side, to encourage and strengthen by consolation, comfort, or instruction.

Paul knew his Old Testament well.  As he directed Timothy, he likely had this proverb in mind:

Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.

In a separate letter, Paul reminded the believers in Rome:

Romans 2:4
Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Going toe-to-toe with an angry patron would make it difficult for Timothy to reach them with lasting correction and change.  Nor would harsh words model how God treats us.

One last observation to make.  Did you see the extra note Paul included for Timothy’s interaction with younger women?  With all propriety, [exhort] younger women as sisters.  We’ve all seen it too many times.  A high-ranking church leader losing his reputation, his job, and his influence for Christ due to an inappropriate relationship with another woman. 

Men, hear me clearly – if we do not keep ourselves intentionally pure and sinless in this area, especially with younger women, then we are inviting destruction into our lives.  Carelessness in this area will bring shame to ourselves and significant damage to God’s reputation in this life…and then we’ll have to answer to Jesus at the Bema Seat judgment.  You don’t want that.  I don’t want that.  We must take any steps necessary to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

So, here’s Paul direction to Timothy, all fleshed out:

Do not rebuke and older man, but exhort him as a father
Do not rebuke a younger man, but exhort him as a brother
Do not rebuke an older woman, but exhort her as a mother
Do not rebuke a younger woman, but – with all integrity – exhort her as a sister.

Put these into practice, and you will reflect God to others.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

 

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:

Colossians 3:14-15
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:

Matthew 22:37-40
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. 

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Avoiding foolish controversies

We like to argue and debate.  From the local bar to nationally televised Presidential campaigns, we love to discuss the issues.  Even those of us that avoid conflict will tune in to a radio broadcast or to TV shows “just to hear what they’ll say next”.  Controversy also drives our 24 hour “news” networks.  We’ve even gotten to the point as a society that if there isn’t controversy, then we’ll make a situation into one.  We gripe about it, but then we turn around and eat it up like junk food.

However, when the levels of controversy we observe in society is found within our homes, life gets messy real quick.  Lines are drawn and feelings are hurt…finding consensus is difficult, if not sometimes impossible.  Relationships break down due to prolonged arguments and quarrels.  While there are subjects that are critical to a family’s foundation, we must guard against making mountains out of molehills.  As our children have grown up, my wife and I are constantly checking with each other to ensure that main things are still the main things…and that we’re not having controversies over subjects that, in the end, really don’t matter or don’t have a significant impact on how our family functions.

The same trouble with minor topics becoming major controversies can be found within the church family, and it is not a new problem for God’s family.  After encouraging Titus to instruct the Cretan believers to devote themselves to doing what is good, Paul immediately follows up with this warning:

Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.

Within the immediate context of Paul’s letter, these arguments and quarrels about the law were most likely coming from those in circumcision group Paul noted in Chapter 1.  These were the people who wrongly insisted that the gospel was “Jesus + the law = salvation from sin”.  However, they would often argue about what, exactly, adherence to the law really meant.  They would debate things like “How many steps a person could take on a Sabbath before walking becomes work and you break the commandment of keeping the Sabbath holy?” or “Should a Jew eat an egg laid on a festival day?” or “What sort of wick and oil should a Jew use for candles he burns on the Sabbath?”

While debating these kinds of questions may seem silly to us, the vast majority of church splits in modern times have nothing to do with doctrinal issues.  Churches have split over the color of the carpet in the sanctuary, the pronunciation of a Hebrew letter, the style of worship music, and even a piano bench…just to name a few examples.  

Paul is instructing Titus not just to avoid these pointless arguments, but to confront them head-on:

Titus 3:10-11 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time.  After that, have nothing to do with him.  You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

They were warped, sinful, and self-condemned because the controversies they were wasting their time with were ultimately self-centered endeavors – these divisive people were motivated by pride and self rather than by a relationship with God.  The same rings true for those involved in most modern-day church splits, too.

Let’s keep the main things as the “main things” and not waste our time on minor-level preferences that focus on our individual wants.  Instead, let’s follow Paul’s instruction:

Titus 3:8 I want you to stress these things [healthy teachings of salvation from sin], so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.  These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Keep Pressing,
Ken