Sermon in a nutshell: “How to solve a sharp disagreement” (Acts 15:36-41)
We have seen in the book of Acts the wonderful disciples of Jesus. When Jesus was raised from the dead, they were there to witness to the power and love of God. When Jesus ascended to heaven, they gathered together to pray, waiting for the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came down upon them, they were all filled with Spirit and began preaching the Good News of Jesus all over the world.
The disciples were not afraid of persecution. They risked their lives to preach the Gospel. They went out to strange places to share God’s love with strange people. Because of their commitment and faithfulness the churches were born and grew everywhere in the Mediterranean world. They sacrificed their own pleasure and gave everything that they had for the Lord.
Can you imagine that these wonderful disciples had a sharp disagreement and had to depart from each other? Yes, Paul and Barnabas fought over one issue. They could not have one heart. They left each other and went in different directions. What can we learn from these great disciples?
First, conflicts are biblical and normal. God created the whole world with all kinds of creatures. Diversity is built in God’s creation. Actually, diversity is the source of beauty. We humans are all diverse and we have different ideas and aptitudes. Because we are different, we can experience conflicts. Our goal is not to avoid conflicts but to resolve them in biblical and constructive ways. If we have conflicts in our relationships with others, we are normal and fine.
Second, there are constructive ways and destructive ways to resolve the conflicts. When we resolve conflicts in constructive ways, we will find a new level of relationship with others. If we do not know how to resolve them constructively, we will end up destroying others and ourselves. So, this is an important issue. What are the constructive ways to resolve conflicts?
Basically, there are three ways to respond to conflicts according to Ken Sande (The Peace Maker, Grand Rapids, 2004): Peace Faking, Peace Making, and Peace Breaking. When we respond to conflicts in the peace faking way, we have three choices: Denial, Flight, or Suicide (an extreme form of Flight). People sometimes take the peace breaking ways: Litigation, Violence, and Murder (an extreme form of Violence). These two sets of ways are not biblical. The biblical alternative is peace making.
Instead of Denial, the Bible recommends Embracing. We do not deny the fact that there are conflicts. We simply embrace conflicts. We have decided to love others in spite of our differences. We do not run away from conflicts, either. We talk to each other about the issue. Direct Civil Talk is a biblical way of resolving conflicts. We do not talk behind others’ back. We do not use violence to make our voices be heard. When Direct Civil Talk is not possible, we use Mediation. Jesus is the great mediator between humans and God. If Mediation is not working, we can employ different ways without anger or fear. Emotional Separation is another biblical way to resolve the conflicts. Paul and Barnabas are showing us a model. It is different from Flight because they did not have anger or fear. They agreed to disagree. They honored each other’s way of doing ministry. They accepted the fact that God used them for different groups and in different ways. Finally, we can appeal to Discipline (church law) instead of using Litigation. The purpose of Discipline is not to make one party win but to restore God’s Holiness and Love. These five ways are the biblical ways of resolving conflicts (Embracing, Direct Civil Talk, Mediation, Emotional Separation, and Discipline). They are the middle grounds in the slippery slope.
Peace faking Peace making Peace Breaking
Embracing-Direct Civil Talk-Mediation-Emotional Separation-Discipline
May God bless us when we have conflicts in our lives! May God help us to resolve them in such a way that we can understand each other better and do ministry at a more mature level.
- What are the conflicts that you have now in your life?
- What do you think are the possible biblical options that you can use?