A Well-Managed Home-Part Six
Scripture: 1 Timothy 3:4
A Well-Managed Home-Part SixI Timothy 3:4
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Pastor Randy Smith
Millions of people are gathering in churches as I presently speak to recognize what is traditionally called, "Palm Sunday." Palm Sunday, as I read about it earlier in the Bible (Mt. 21:1-11), is the day that Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Unfortunately those who hailed Him as a King that day (Mt. 21:9; Jn. 12:13) were probably the same ones only a week later that demanded He be nailed to a cross and crucified (Mt. 27:22).
"Palm Sunday" gets its name for the leafy palm branches that were cut from the trees and placed on the road before Jesus (Mt. 21:8; Jn. 12:13). Quite often churches associate this day with nothing more than the palm leaves that are distributed in their services. But is there anything more significant about Jesus' entry to Jerusalem that most people overlook? And the answer is definitely, "yes."
Although we commonly call it the "Triumphal Entry," Jesus shattered all the common stereotypes of worldly triumph. He came not on a white horse, but a donkey. He came not to rule, but to die. This was not the traditional way kings enter the capital city!
Unknown to most, even His own puzzled disciples, Jesus was on a mission entrusted to Him by the Father. King Jesus knew that awaiting Him at this time was not a crown, but a cross. His mission was simple. As He told His followers earlier, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up" (Mt. 20:8-19).
The time had come. Jesus was about to fulfill the primary purpose for His arrival, which was "to seek and to save (the) lost" (Lk. 19:10). On the cross, Jesus as our sinless substitute would accept the sin of the world upon Himself. He would experience the holy wrath of the Father that we deserve. He would then make salvation available to all who turn to Him in faith and repent of their sins. Due to His death on the cross, the opportunity for forgiveness is now available. Though our sin once separated us from God, Jesus has provided the way for God and humanity to be reconciled.
Listen to some verses: Romans 5:10, "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." Colossians 1:22, "He has now reconciled< you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach." 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, "Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation."
Once at enmity with God - now reconciled to our Creator through the death of Christ. Due to the loving and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, the greatest conflict in our lives has been resolved.
Therefore having received and still experiencing this privilege, we Christians of all people should understand the obligation and possess the skills to be reconciled with fellow humans. Think about it! How can we gratefully receive this gift of reconciliation with God that we did not earn or deserve and then fail to seek to make things right in our relationships with other humans? Sadly, I am afraid too many families and churches having ignored the command to "be at peace with all men" (Rom. 12:18) exist in an atmosphere of conflict and are unaware of the need and the skills to resolve interpersonal conflict and reconcile relationships as God would desire.
On "Palm Sunday" Jesus came to make peace. As we conclude our series this morning entitled, "A Well-Managed Home" (1 Tim. 3:4), I would like to devote the remainder of our time this "Palm Sunday" to conflict resolution. And as I said last Sunday, a well-managed home is not perfect, but a well-managed home is able to properly deal with conflict when it arises.
1. A GENERAL LOOK AT CONFLICT
Let's begin with a general look at conflict. And please permit me to say that much of my material comes from Ken Sande's excellent book entitled: The Peacemaker-a highly recommended read for everyone in this church!
Conflict can basically be defined as: "A difference in opinion or purpose that frustrates someone's goals or desires" - Sande, p. 29).
In one sense we as Christians should be individuals who avoid conflict. We are called to live lives that are "peaceable" (1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 3:2). James even says that the "the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable (and) full of mercy" (Jas. 3:17). Christians always in the center of controversy are a problem and a living contradiction to the command "to lead a quiet life" (1 Thes. 4:11; cf. 2 Thes. 3:12; 1 Ti. 2:2). Oftentimes those with abundant interpersonal conflict experience it because they fail to listen, fail to communicate properly, act like busybodies, jump to hasty conclusions, lack perspective, display an obstinate or thick-headed mentality or are simply way too sensitive. Some harbor a contentious or pugnacious attitude. Others sadly know nothing but conflict and are almost uncomfortable in the absence of it. Oftentimes conflict along all these lines that I just mentioned is sin and able to be avoided in the first place.
On the other hand, at other times, conflict is unavoidable. We live in a sin-tainted world. In the world of conflict "it takes two to tango." Yes, sometimes it is our sin. But even if we contributed nothing negative (which is rare) to the matter, oftentimes we are drawn into conflict by the sin of another.
James 4:1-2a, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel." Consider the deeds of the flesh mentioned in Galatians 5. No doubt they add much to our present conflicts. Peace is always unattainable when the other party is manifesting strife or jealousy or anger or dissentions or disputes or factions. Other times it may be an inability to submit to the authorities God has placed in their lives. Sometimes it may simply be the inability for the other person to listen or understand or consider the other side of the story.
Furthermore, we all share different values and goals and gifts and callings and priorities and expectations and interests and opinions. These accepted differences can also easily erupt into conflict when they are not handled correctly by one or both of the individuals. Recently I was reading to my children the "sharp disagreement" in Acts 15 between two godly men named Paul and Barnabas over whether or not an individual should join them on a missionary trip (Ac. 15:39).
Bottom line, if we live among other people, especially in intimate proximity like a family, conflict this side of heaven is bound to occur.
So when it comes, how do we deal with conflict? Do we let it rock our world and leave us paralyzed and depressed? Do we try to sweep it under the carpet hoping that it will go away by itself? Do we enter a state of denial and pretend that everything is fine? None of these responses resemble how God worked conflict resolution for us!
As we have freely received, we are to freely give. All the tools are at our disposal. And conflict when viewed as a sovereign opportunity and dealt with God's way, actually has the potential to bring us many blessings.
Few people think about it from this perspective, but I can personally testify to the benefits of God-ordained conflict. It has never been pleasant, but I believe it has added much to my spiritual growth.
- It has increased my tenderness to the pain and affliction of others.
- It has broadened my outlook that life is not as black and white as I often think.
- It has helped me to listen better and understand perspectives that differ from mine.
- It has encouraged me to search the Scriptures and be able to better articulate my beliefs.
- It has pushed me out of my comfort zone and increased my faith in God and in His Word.
- It has taught me to work harder to be a more effective communicator.
- It has helped me consider other people more important than myself.
- It has helped me understand that relationships are more important than the conflict and compromising (when biblically appropriate) is more important than being right.
- It has increased my love for unity.
- It has manifested the love and power and forgiveness of God both received and extended.
- And in many cases, when resolved correctly, it has even strengthened the specific relationship.
2. DEALING WITH CONFLICT
So once we understand the benefits of conflict and the need to resolve conflict, the next logical question is how do we resolve conflict in a way that most honors our Lord? - The second point on your sermon outline.
I know we have covered these in the past, but they are worth repeating.
Oftentimes when we are in conflict we almost always seek to resolve the matter in one of three ways.
The first way is: Escape. These tactics are common, and we are all guilty of employing them. They also vary in levels of intensity.
It could start off with simple denial-a refusal to acknowledge that a problem even exists. This may give some temporary relief, but it often only increases the conflict. Nothing is more frustrating to a person than when a serious problem exists and the other party refuses to even acknowledge it.
A few months ago we learned about the conflict between Eli and his sons in 1 Samuel. The matter only increased in intensity because neither party was willing to deal with the breach in their relationship as God would have intended.
Another widespread escape tactic is running away from the problem. I am not dismissing the need for a "cooling-off" period nor the fact that situations like physical abuse and heretical doctrine may warrant an extended escape in some cases. But I am convinced that too many spouses leave the marriage, too many children leave the home, too many friends leave the relationship and too many Christians leave the church over situations where reconciliation should have been sought.
The last and most extreme way to escape from our conflicts is the permanent response. Suicide concedes that all hope is lost and death is the only alternative and solution.
It goes without saying that all of these escape tactics fail to trust God and prefer the other individual. They are unbiblical, unloving, unproductive and unacceptable.
A second improper strategy people use to deal with their conflicts are attack responses. Like escape responses they vary and increase in intensity.
Attack responses often start off with simple assault. Someone has hurt you so you take matters into your own hands to execute some revenge. Possibly it is a verbal attack to the person's face like angry words, or behind their back like gossip and slander. Maybe it is an effort to ruin them financially or professionally. Maybe it even goes so far as to damage their property or injure them physically. Consider the Jews in Acts 7 who stoned Stephen because they were offended by his message (Ac. 7:58-60), or the men who sold their bother Joseph into slavery because of sheer jealousy (Gen. 37:26-27).
Sometimes people take their attack responses further and it results in litigation. This was a problem in the Corinthian church addressed and refuted by Paul. "Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?… I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren" (1 Cor. 6:1, 5-8).
Finally, the severest attack response is murder. Like before, the ultimate and incorrect way to escape from your problems is to kill yourself, or now, to kill the other person. And although this response is obviously extreme, let's not forget the words of our Savior when He said anger in our hearts toward another in His eyes is murder (Mt. 5:21-22). Think about this. If we have the attitude that we want someone out of our family or out of our church because of our own interpersonal conflict, are we not participating in the spirit of murder? Oh we may never pull the trigger, but are we seeking to eliminate people through more civilized means?
So with both wrong responses stated, permit me to close with the proper way God wants us to deal with interpersonal conflict. It is called the peacemaking response. In the words of Jesus Christ, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Mt. 5:9).
As I already mentioned, God wants us to be at peace with others, especially those within the home and church family. Romans 12:18, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." Romans 14:19, "So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another." Ephesians 4:1-3, "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
To pursue this peace and preserve the unity our Lord has provided for us two easy to follow options.
The first option is to overlook the situation. Proverbs 19:11, "A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression" (cf. Pr. 12:16; 17:14; Col. 3:13; 1 Pet. 4:8).
People sin against us and offend us daily. Not everything needs to be addressed or taken so personally! Overlooking a transgression is "a deliberate decision not to talk about it, dwell on it, let it grow into pent-up bitterness and anger (or use it against the person later)" (Sande, p. 83). Overlooking a transgression is taking the "high road" and suggested when the offense is not creating a wall between you and the offender or the offense not causing serious harm to God's reputation, others or the specific individual (like a child doing drugs or a divisive individual within the church).
While overlooking is passive, the second option is active. If the situation cannot be overlooked you have a biblical responsibility to address the other individual. Again your goal in all this is to preserve the relationship and honor the Lord.
Because this can be so volatile, permit me to provide some biblical suggestions.
- Pray before, during and after the time together (1 Thes. 5:17).
- Get together and talk about the matter face-to-face.
- Be sure to go to the individual in a loving and reasonable and gentle manner (1 Cor. 4:21; Eph. 4:2; 1 Tim. 6:11).
- Make sure you have removed the log from your own eye before you seek to remove the speck from your brother's (Mt. 7:3-5).
- Go seeking to believe the best (1 Cor. 13:7). Hear the other side of the story (Pr. 18:17).
- Attack the problem not the person. Value the relationship more than the issue.
- Deal with one problem at a time.
- Find common ground. I hope as Christians you both want God's glory and unity - start there (1 Cor. 10:31)!
- Add how you may have contributed to the problem. People will always listen to how you might have wronged them (Pr. 28:13).
- Be prepared to extend and receive forgiveness if appropriate (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13).
- Seek to fully reconcile the relationship and put the matter behind you. Remember, there is a big difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.
Listen beloved, if a matter cannot be resolved and conflict is present in a relationship, you have a responsibility to pursue the other individual. Biblically speaking, there is never a time for you to "sit and wait." For example, if you have a problem with another person you must go! Matthew 18:15, "If your brother sins (against you), go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother." And if you know another person has a problem with you, you must go as well! Matthew 5:23-24, "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering." Zealously pursue peace with all men as much as it depends upon you (Rom. 12:18)!
In the Peacemaker, Ken Sande said, "According to the teaching of Jesus (see Mt. 5:23-24) we must seek reconciliation with a brother (or sister) even ahead of worship! He teaches that we cannot love and worship God properly if we are at odds with another person and have not done everything in our power to be reconciled (1 Jn. 4:19-21) (p. 49). He goes on to say, "Christians (must) agonize for peace and unity. Obviously, token efforts and halfhearted attempts at reconciliation fall far short of what (the Bible) had in mind" (p. 52).
Escape responses focus on "me" and make me a "peace-faker." Attack responses focus on "you" and make me a "peace-breaker." But peacemaking responses focus on "God" and make me a "peace-maker".
Parents, are we promoting this attitude toward peaceful relationships in our homes? Moreover, are we ourselves modeling this behavior as it pertains to the conflicts we are presently experiencing? For I am convinced that this is a clear indication of a well-managed home.
Someone once said 6 qualities of a strong family are: Commitment to the family, desire to spend time together, good communication, appreciation and respect toward each other, spiritual priorities in order and the ability to resolve conflicts among each other (author unknown).
Conflict resolution must be understood and practiced in the home before it will ever be experienced and enjoyed in the church. Does the Prince of Peace reign in our homes and in our church?
So may we forever look to Jesus Christ! And on this Palm Sunday, remember His mission as He set His face toward Jerusalem. May we remember the conflict that He resolved to reconcile us to God through love, humility and sacrifice. And may we imitate Him in our relationships with each other.