Saturday, October 18, 2008

Facing Disagreements

Life is full of messy stuff, isn't it? Relationships can be unsettled by disagreement, which, if not resolved, can lead to relational death. Sometimes "letting go", "going along to get along", biting your tongue-however you want to say it, seems like the wise thing to do. That doesn't always lead to reconciliation, though, and, as Christians we are called to the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

I have jotted down a few things I've read recently, and I've been reviewing them as a reminder of how to deal with disagreements in a way that leads to reconciliation.

From JT at Between Two Worlds:

How do I know when to confront something and when to overlook it?

The short answer is that it is a matter of wisdom or discernment. Each time you are offended, you need to wisely decide whether or not you need to bring it up. Only you can make the decision, but several diagnostic questions can help you work through it.Here's an outline of the questions:

Before confronting, ask, “Have I examined myself yet?”
Before confronting, ask, “How sure am I that I am right?”
Before confronting, ask, “How important is this?”
Before confronting, ask, “Does this person show a pattern of this kind of behavior?”
Before confronting, ask, “What do wise people counsel me to do?”
Before confronting, ask, “What else is going on in the other person’s world?”

If, after asking those questions, we determine that the matter is important enough to pursue:

From Rob at The Spyglass:

Christian unity costs us something. It costs us our egos, our comfort zones, and our ease. It calls us not to avoid those with whom we disagree, or with whom we have issues, or with whom we’re in conflict, but rather to confront them head-on—and to do so not with anger, or self-assertion, but with love and grace. This is not to say we must do so with approval; there are times when rebuke is necessary, and refusing to speak the hard truths is a violation of unity just as much as refusing to repent of our own sin and ask forgiveness. It is to say, however, that we cannot hang back from the work of reconciliation, and we cannot let mere disagreement become grounds for disunity. We may be rejected by others—but we cannot in good conscience be the ones to do the rejecting; and though there are times when God calls us to correct one another, even correction must be offered with open arms.

Of course, once we've gathered the courage to have that difficult conversation, there is that one last, difficult step.

From Ray Ortlund, quoting Spurgeon at Christ Is Deeper Still:

"When Pompey was killed, Julius Caesar obtained possession of a large casket, which contained a vast amount of correspondence which had been carried on with Pompey. There is no doubt whatever that in that casket there were many letters from certain of Caesar's followers making overtures to Pompey, and had Caesar read those letters it is probable that he would have been so angry with many of his friends that he would have put them to death for playing him false. Fearing this, he magnanimously took the casket and destroyed it without reading a single line. What a splendid way of putting away and annihilating all their offenses against him! Why, he did not even know them, he could not be angry, for he did not know that they had offended. He consumed all their offenses and destroyed their iniquities, so that he could treat them all as if they were innocent and faithful.
The Lord Jesus Christ has made just such an end of your sins and mine. Does not the Lord know our sins, then? Yes, in a certain sense. And yet the Lord declares, 'Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.' In a certain sense, God cannot forget. But in another sense, he himself declares that he remembers not the sins of his people but has cast them behind his back. 'The iniquities of Israel,' says he, 'shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found.'
An accusing spirit might have said to Caesar, 'Do you not know that Caius and Florus were deeply involved with your enemy, Pompey?' 'No,' he replies, 'I know nothing against them.' 'But in that casket there is evidence.' 'Ah,' rejoins the hero, 'there remains no casket. I have utterly destroyed it.'"

C. H. Spurgeon, Treasury of the New Testament, IV:131-132

So, the Biblical process here is to determine the seriousness of the disagreement; confront, only if necessary, in an appropriate and Christ-like manner; and be willing to completely forgive and forget. That's the process of the "ministry of reconciliation".

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