In some humorously demented ways we love our obstacles, we love the challenges of mazes, the puzzles. In our independent determinism, we will find our way; “one way or another, I will deal this situation, I will find the solution!” In the moral and spiritual realms, it is at times not so different; yet the question to be asked is, “What is the solution which God requires?”
Following are two passages of Scripture that are often viewed as advisory, or simply a challenge to be thwarted, or averted.
“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” (Matthew 5:23-24).
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother” (Matthew 18:15).
Many situations are identified in scripture, and many courses of action defined to help us move through very difficult times of life. We know difficulties arise due to the fact that the Church is made up of people. People have definite distinctives. People have opinions. People are broken, and at times obstinate. Yet, God’s word is a vehicle given by which we are able to pilot through some very difficult waters of relational life, yet, only if we heed those directives.
The tension which is defined between people is one such area. Yet, how often do I see people choose to navigate over, under, or around a situation rather than obediently through it as the Bible instructs. When God gives directives for the resolution of conflict, and we choose to exercise our will to perform another way, we are communicating that we have a better idea, a superior way of doing something. At that point, we have entered into a very, very dangerous area as we are promoting our viewpoint as that which is superior to the revealed mind of God.
How is it that we take an anything-else-but approach to God’s command?
How is it we look at these very clear divine directives as optional?
How is it that we look at them as challenges to be circumnavigated?
“No, I can’t.” “Maybe I’ll do it later.” “I am not ready.” “I will just leave.” “I will go to another church.” “I will ignore them.”
Interesting, and tempting options, but those deviations to God’s command are nowhere to be found in the possible list of God’s divinely sanctioned responses. The implicit desired response to God’s command is always, “Yes.”
The reaction to sin, or separation of a relationship is not over, under or around God’s instruction, but straight through; right through the heart of submission. Whether you are the offender, or your brother is, the God-breathed command of Scripture is the same – to go to that brother and promote reconciliation of the relationship, but more importantly that all of us would walk in right relational standing before God.
More than once I have heard an offended person say something like, “In order to keep the unity in the church I am just going to leave,” or, “I don’t want to make a scene.” Very noble in their own minds I am sure, but not only is it non-biblical and illogical, it is counter-Biblical, unbiblical! It is opposed to the direct expressed will of God. No nobility whatsoever!
No amount of pain. No amount of guilt. No amount of offense can exonerate a person from disobeying the word of God. If God gives the best way possible through a situation, then all other paths over, under and around are counter to the divine will. It seems a given which should be accepted. The results of disobeying these commands are not difficult to see across the landscape of the church – festering separation, and a detriment to the witness of Christ.
Now, I know that nobody looks forward to confrontation, yet as we know it is inevitable in the body of Christ. But if the world is to see our unity in Christ and be drawn to Him (John 17); if the world is to be able to identify us as His disciples because of our love (John 13:35)…Wow! We need to do better. My mentor wisely said, “Move toward conflict, not away from it.”
Yes, we have a free will in dealing with personal conflict. We can opt to go over, under, around, or through. But only one is pleasing to the Lord.
We do not love the church because she is lovable; we choose to love the church because Christ loves her.