Dealing with Conflict

Posted on 02/05/2012 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***

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*** listen to the audio for the message introduction ***

A few days ago, I was reminded of just how important it is for us to know what the Bible tells us about conflicts we have with others, and how we should respond to them.

How many of you have ever been verbally attacked by someone? If you spend much time communicating with others on the Internet, that question should probably be changed to "how many of you have been verbally attacked by someone today?" or maybe even "in the last hour?"

Well, today, I'd like for us to consider a couple of things: First of all, what motivates people to attack us? And second, what response should we have?

Okay, let's start with the first one:

1. What motivates people to attack?

There isn't a single answer to this one.

Someone might attack another person because that person isn't the way they think they should be, which is usually the way THEY are. For example, someone might not like you because you have a personality that clashes with yours; or perhaps your thought process is not like theirs; maybe it's even because they don't like the way you dress. In any of these cases, the reason they're reacting negatively to you is because you aren't them. You're a separate person, and you are different from them in ways that cause them discomfort.

Another reason might be a doctrinal disagreement. Usually the one launching the attack is convinced they have the truth, and that you don't agree with them simply because you are ignorant, unspiritual, or badly deceived. And of course they're just doing their job by putting you in your place.

A third reason people attack others (and as we're about to see, this is at the heart of all argumentative attacks), is pride. And let me stop right here and say that I've done my share of attacking others in the past, whether it was in self-defense or I was the instigator. Most of not all of us have attacked others in some form or fashion for one reason or another. But let's be honest not only about the faults of others, but about our own faults as well.

Proverbs 13:10 (KMV) says this:

10 Pride and arrogance produce strife, but with the well advised is wisdom.

The word translated there as "well adviced" can also be translated "to advise, consult, give counsel." So the last part of this verse could read, "But with lots of counsel is wisdom."

The person reacting in pride will counter-attack, while the one with the spirit of humility will consider what is being said, and will gain wisdom.

That wisdom could be in considering what they said, even if they said it in an ungodly way. Is there anything at all you can learn from the encounter? I dare say there always is. In fact, it's an absolute fact that, for the Christian, every single encounter like that works out for good. Romans 8:28 says that ALL things work together for our good. So whatever someone says or does to you, thank God for the good that is most certainly going to come out of it.

Another way wisdom can come out of an unpleasant encounter is this: you just MIGHT be wrong, and they just MIGHT be right, even if you feel absolutely certain that just can't be.

There have been times in my past that someone has disagreed with me on a matter, and I got defensive and even a bit argumentative because I was convinced that I was right and they were wrong. Later, maybe after a number of years went by, I realized that they were right, and I had been wrong. Personally, I'd rather learn from my mistakes and listen to opposing views with humility, rather than react with immaturity and not only miss the voice of God, but also have to deal with more personal embarrasement down the road if I some day realize I was the one who was wrong.

And that's an important point: we tend to take a challenge personally. We identify with what we think is true, so if something we believe is challenged, we feel as though WE are being challenged too. We just KNOW that WE can't possibly be wrong; after all, if such-and-such wasn't true, then we wouldn't believe it! But we should stop and consider that the same is true for pretty much everyone else too. Sure, there are plenty of cases of self-deception, but that's not what I'm talking about here. Instead, we should step back and swallow our pride; we should humble ourselves and acknowledge that we aren't any superior to the other person; and whether we ever agree or not, we should treat the person with respect, and should treat their beliefs the same way we want them to treat our own.

So as we read in Proverbs 13:10, "Pride and arrogance produce strife." I'm sure you've run into people who LOVE to argue. I'm constantly getting challenged and attacked by Atheists who are looking for their next big fight. And sometimes, every now and then, the pride-filled person who's picking the fight is a Christian.

And what should we do when that happens? Bless them. Pray for them. Don't stoop to their level and start throwing punches, but be gentle, peaceable, merciful, and willing to yeild.

James 3:17 (NKJV) says this:

17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

Keep that in mind, and make sure you interact with people according to these principles. After all, it's possible to speak the word of God and be telling the truth, but also be acting out of the flesh and be, by your manner, in opposition to godly wisdom.

Let's back up a few verses and read starting with verse 13:

James 3:13-16 (NKJV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.
14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.
15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.
16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

And take careful notice here of the fact that this passage does NOT say that the so-called wisdom is earthly, sensual, and demonic because it is not in line with sound doctrine. In fact, it could very well be the absolute truth. But if it comes out of price, or bittery envy, or self-seeking, then it becomes boasting against the truth; it becomes earthly, sensual, and demonic, and it does NOT come from above.

Of course it's also worth noting that, along with any bits of truth, such a carnal mind set is bound to produce error. And if you see any of those things in yourself, the chances are greater that some of the things you believe are in error.

There's a religious group who operates mostly over the Internet, and are highly active on YouTube. If you disagree with them or with their prophetess, they put you on their enemies list and pray curses over you. As unbibilcal as that sounds, and despite the fact the Bible commands us to LOVE our enemies and do good to those who even curse us and do us harm, they actually think they believe and live by God's word.

And this example also can be traced back to pride. They think God reveals things to them that all the other Christians are too wicked or unspiritual to accept. And by belittling others like that, they indirectly exalt themselves; after all, they DO accept their beliefs, so they must be righteous and spiritual enough to do so. And even if people with that mindset insist that it's not about their own goodness, their self-exaltation can't really be ignored.

So how should we respond to such a thing? With godly wisdom, which is "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy."

Now I'm not saying you shouldn't speak out to defend someone else who's being attacked, so this isn't intended to be a correction aimed at anyone who may have defended us recently. The incident that prompted this message simply reminded me that we all go through these types of situations, sometimes much more often than we would prefer, and it's important that we remind ourselves of what the word of God says, so next time any of us are attacked, or next time we find ourselves wanting to start an argument or attack someone else, we'll stop and consider the mindset Jesus told us to develop, and we'll also consider that the other person just might not want to get attacked by us any more than we want to get attacked by them.

We might not agree with everyone, but at least on our end, we should be at peace with them all.

In Luke 6:27-38 (NKJV), Jesus says this:

27 "But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.
29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.
30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.
31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
32 But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.
35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.
36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
37 Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."

This passage is all about selflessness and love. And if we really grab hold of the mindset Jesus is promoting here, and we made it the foundation from which our thoughts, feelings, and words and actions rise, then I think we'll find that our desire to argue continues to shrink, our tendency to lash out at others who attack us continues to diminish, and our manner of correcting people we think are in error will become more and more pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, and full of mercy.

Lord God, we thank you for your word, and we ask that you continue to work in us so that we love our enemies, we do good to those who hate us, we bless those who curse us, and we pray for those who spitefully use us.

Help us to be more selfless, to demand our rights less, to be humble and willing to yield to hear what others have to say. Help us to turn the other cheek, and to show mature, godly love even to, and especially to, those we think deserve it the least.

And we ask for these things in the name of Jesus, so that you will be glorified, and so that we can draw even closer to you.

Let's close this service with a time of prayer and ministry. This altar is open, and you're all invited to get out of your seats and make your way to the front.

If you'd like someone to talk or pray with you, feel free to instant message Mariposa or me. Whenever you need to leave, you're dismissed. And if you can stay until after this time at the altar, you're invited to go to the Fellowship Room to your left, and chat with us for awhile.

Come, and let's dedicate ourselves to becoming peacemakers who step out of the way and let the mercy, love, and wisdom of God shine through.