Peacemakers

blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God

The older I get, the more I realize I’m an exact replica of my mom. We like the same movies, we think (and overthink) the same things, we’re both textbook ISFJ’s, and we both spend hours looking at houses for sale that we’ll never afford. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” If we’re children of God, we should strive to be like God, reflecting His character. When people see us, they should see the love of God in our lives.

In the face of conflict, it’s hard to be love. We often want to be right more than we want to be love. Jesus, however, is the perfect example of how to be love in the face of conflict. We often overlook that he was a human just like us; his challenges, even 2,000 years ago, are a lot like our challenges. This week, we’ve tried to answer how Jesus resolved conflict to give us insight into how to deal with our own conflicts.

Jesus resolved conflict with great urgency. Stop running away from conflict no matter how overwhelming or scary the problem may be. Don’t let unresolved conflict fester; instead, deal with it directly and quickly.

Jesus was a persistent diplomat. Jesus gave us a three-step plan to dealing with sin and conflict within the church. First, go to the culprit alone, then bring another trusted member or two of the church with you, and finally bring the conflict to the church as a whole. We don’t have the power to save people, but we can be patient, loving, persistent, and cover them with prayer.

Jesus saw each conflict as an opportunity for grace. Jesus preached that if someone hits you, don’t hit back; instead, turn your other cheek. We have the chance to be love to someone who may have never truly experienced how intense and whole God’s love is. Sure, they might not deserve grace, but neither did we.

Jesus disciplined out of love. Ah yes, Jesus flipped tables and even fashioned his own whip. Love isn’t always rainbows and butterflies; sometimes, it’s a harsh slap to the hand. As brothers and sisters, we’re supposed to refine each other so that we may all follow Jesus a little closer every day.

Jesus embodied forgiveness. Just as you have experienced the joy and freedom that forgiveness brings, give that same joy to someone else. Forgive as you have been forgiven.

Jesus submitted to God’s will even when it was hard. Jesus’ submission led him to the cross. God has prepared a cup for you, too, representing His will for your life. Will you be obedient to what God has filled your cup with?

My prayer is that you feel encouraged and equipped to tackle the conflicts in your life with love just as Jesus did.

 

-Mackenzie McClain

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Silence and Submission

but Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge

This week, we’ve seen Jesus be the peaceful yet persistent diplomat. He’s preached about turning the cheek and walking the extra mile. He’s told stories about forgiveness and even flipped over tables. Today, we see Jesus be silent. Matthew 27:11-14 tells of the exchange between Jesus and Pilate shortly after Jesus’ arrest:

Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

 

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

 

When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

On the surface, the story of Jesus before Pilate is about a conflict between, you guessed it, Jesus and Pilate. On a deeper level, it’s the resolution of a conflict between Jesus and God. The night before this encounter, Jesus was severely troubled by God’s will.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

 

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 27:36-39)

Jesus repeats this prayer two more times. He earnestly pleads to his Father to provide him a way out. Jesus is obviously conflicted because he wants to obey his Father, but he also doesn’t want to die. Jesus’ sentiments seem familiar. I often find myself wanting to obey God, but wishing God would call me to do something different. God has given each of us a cup, too. I find some of the things God has filled my cup with really fun and exciting, like getting to teach the middle schoolers at my church every week. Other things that God has filled my cup with are a lot harder to swallow. Loving my enemies? Forgiving those who have hurt me? Denying myself? Obedience and submission to God’s will is not a pick and choose; it’s an all or nothing.

Jesus refuses to defend himself before Pilate as an act of obedience toward God, it’s the resolution of last night’s conflict. It’s Jesus saying, “Okay, God, not my will, but Your will.” In his silence, there is submission. Jesus’ cup was beyond difficult to swallow, but he did it for God—he did it for you and me.

What’s in your cup? Will you be obedient to what God has filled your cup with?

 

-Mackenzie McClain

Indiana Jones Jesus

spur-2

“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:13-16)

For many years, this passage confused me. I thought Jesus preached peace, but here he is flipping tables and fashioning his own whip. He seems more like Indiana Jones than the Jesus I learned about in Sunday School. The image of Jesus throwing a tantrum in the temple is so jarring and powerful because it is an exception to his otherwise gentle and peaceful nature.

In this story, Jesus reminds me of the mother of a young toddler. Most of the time, the mother is sweet, gentle, and tender-hearted towards her child. One day, however, the child reaches to turn the knob of the stove, igniting the flame. The mother slaps the child’s hand away to teach him that he should never touch the stove, because it could seriously hurt him. The mother doesn’t usually go about slapping her child, but when the consequences of a situation are severe, serious actions must be taken. Even though the mother may have hurt or scared her young child, she did it in the child’s best interest. Sometimes a slap to the hand is much more loving than an “it’s okay, sweetheart.”

At first glance, Jesus’ wrath in the temple may seem out of character, but really, it’s just a different manifestation of his character than we are used to seeing. At the core of Jesus’ character is a passion for the Church, a cause he would eventually die for. When he sees people taking advantage of the Church, he is understandably angry and disturbed. He takes a slap to the hand approach here because of the severe consequences of the situation. Jesus is no less loving than before; his love is just shown in a different way.

Confrontation makes me uneasy, but sometimes it is necessary. I’m not saying you have to make your own whip like Jesus did, but be willing to engage in uncomfortable discussions to help discipline a brother or sister out of love. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may SPUR one another on toward love and good deeds.”  A spur is a small spike on the heel of a horse rider’s boot used to direct the horse. Like the slap on the hand, the spur may temporarily sting, but it serves a purpose. We have a responsibility to spur our brothers and sisters on toward following Jesus a little closer each and every day.

“We’re all rough drafts of the people we’re still becoming” –Bob Goff, Everybody Always

 

-Mackenzie McClain

Lose-Win

whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me

Yesterday, we talked about Jesus’ procedure of dealing with sin inside of the Church, but what are you supposed to do when someone who never claimed to be a Christian sins against you? Jesus’ answer to that question may surprise you. Have you ever heard of a win-win conflict resolution approach? Well, Jesus’ approach is more of a lose-win. As followers of Christ, we give up our right to hurt people who hurt us. Instead, Jesus calls us to treat each conflict as an opportunity for grace—an opportunity to show God’s love to someone who has maybe never experienced it.

In Matthew 5:38-42, Jesus describes his upside-down approach to dealing with conflict, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Jesus defies logic, saying that if someone mistreats you, give them grace, but Jesus doesn’t just talk about grace, he embodies it. The outcasts, the troublemakers, and the “rough around the edges” are the people we often ignore or set aside, but these were the kinds of people Jesus spent his time on earth interacting with. These were the kinds of people Jesus died for. These were the kinds of people we were before we were adopted into God’s love. Just as grace transformed you, grace can transform the people who hurt you.

If we want to be a reflection of God’s love in the midst of conflict, we must first trade in our pride, our need for justice, revenge, or being right, for humility. In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus says to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Today, be intentional about being love to someone who may have never truly experienced how intense and whole God’s love is. If someone hurts you, give them more grace than they know what to do with. They don’t deserve grace, but neither did we.

 

-Mackenzie McClain

Conflict Within the Church

speaking the truth I love-2

Jesus makes a distinction between conflict outside and within the Church. The bonds we have with people in the Church are different—we’re brothers and sisters. As brothers and sisters, we have an obligation to correct, discipline, and mentor each other. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Just like rubbing iron together creates friction, there is sometimes friction in our relationships, especially when sin tries to sneak its way between us. Sin and conflict, if not handled properly, can fracture the unity of the Church. Jesus’ passion was the Church, He went as far as dying on a cross for the sake of preserving the Church for all eternity. Sin is the enemy of Jesus’ preservation mission, so we must handle sin and conflict inside the Church carefully but also with great urgency. Fortunately for us, Jesus lays out a three-step plan to dealing with trouble in our churches.

In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

The first step when a problem arises in the Church is to go directly to the culprit in private—doing so with love, mercy, and understanding. Jesus says it’s our responsibility to resolve conflict whether we’re the ones causing it or not. As peacemakers, we get the privilege in joining Jesus in his mission of preserving the Church. If the culprit listens and repents, congrats, you’ve completed your mission in record timing. If your mission was unsuccessful, don’t give up just yet. The next step is to take along another trusted member or two of the Church to confront the culprit. There is power in numbers. If the culprit refuses to listen yet again, bring the issue to the Church itself. This is the Hail Mary attempt. Pull out every stop and go the extra 500 zillion miles, praying that God will multiply your efforts. Up until this point, Jesus’ objective has been mercy, but if this final step fails, justice takes over. This unrepentant culprit is now considered  a Gentile or tax collector, meaning he is no longer a part of the community of believers. Paul draws upon Jesus’ teaching in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, saying, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” If this is the fate of your mission, find peace in the fact that you are not responsible for changing hearts. You can love people, but you don’t have the authority and power to save them.

Today, pray for your church. This amazing connection we have to each other as believers of the one true God is frail and fragile in this broken world. Where there is a crack, more sin and troubles are sure to find their way in, so we must confront each crack diligently, following the procedure Jesus lays out for us in Matthew 18. Yes, confrontation is uncomfortable, but so was being nailed on a cross. Jesus never said it would be easy; he said it would be worth it.

 

-Mackenzie McClain

How Did Jesus Resolve Conflict

make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy

At the grocery store, if someone’s cart is blocking the Reese’s Puffs, I’ll pretend to be intensely interested in the Raisin Bran until my fellow shopper moves their cart. Even the tiniest of confrontations makes me uneasy. I hate conflict even more than I hate Raisin Bran. I don’t like to make waves, ruffle feathers, or stir the pot. Can anyone relate?

Conflict is simply the clash of wants. Conflict isn’t inherently bad. Sure, it’s unpleasant, but it’s natural. Since God created everyone with different and unique interests, passions, and ideas, our wants aren’t always going to align (in my experience they usually don’t). Because conflict is inescapable, we should learn how to resolve it in a way that is pleasing and honoring to God.

God calls us to be peacemakers. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy.” We’re supposed to make EVERY effort to be at peace with EVERYONE? That seems like a tall order, and it is. God never said it would be easy, but He said it would work.

Jesus is our perfect example of a peacemaker. Without sin, Jesus dealt with conflict head on. We place Jesus on a pedestal (as we should, I mean he literally saved the world), but we sometimes forget that he is a human, too. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Jesus understands how difficult dealing with conflict can be. The Teachers of the Law and Pharisees were constantly trying to trip him up, one of his best friends betrayed him for a few dozen pieces of silver, and he was arrested and crucified for a crime he didn’t commit. Jesus saw each conflict as an opportunity for grace. There’s a lot we can learn from our soft-spoken, table-flipping Savior.

One of Jesus’ first lessons about dealing with conflict comes from the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus highlights the urgency of resolving conflict, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” This week, as we explore how Jesus resolved conflict, remember that there is great urgency in settling the conflicts in our lives. Don’t let unresolved conflict fester; deal with it swiftly and directly.

Is there unspoken tension between you and a friend? Is there an action you need to seek forgiveness for? Do you need to forgive someone for a wound you haven’t dealt with yet? What can you do today to bring peace to a rocky area of your life?

 

-Mackenzie McClain

One Mind

acts 15 25

Acts 15  –  Conflict is Inevitable

Life would be SO much easier (for me) if everyone always agreed with me.

BUT – I am not always right.

AND – conflict is inevitable.

 

Acts 15 is about a whole lot of conflict.

First, the Jewish Christians thought the new Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians needed to follow the whole law of Moses – and prove it with circumcision. However, the Gentile Christians felt their faith in Christ – proven by baptism, not circumcision – provided salvation rather than the old law.  And, the church in Antioch where Paul and Barnabas were teaching and preaching was being torn apart by the division.  Sometimes conflict does that.

 

But, here we get to see some great steps for conflict resolution.

 

  • Go to find wise counsel. Look for spiritually mature and trustworthy individuals.  In this case Paul and Barnabas were sent with a delegation to the Jerusalem church elders 300 miles away (a trip that may have taken them approximately 15 days if they were able to cover 20 miles per day – sometimes conflict resolution takes some time – but it is worth it).
  • Everybody gets to share their side of the argument. And even through “much debate” (vs. 7), we see order and respect – standing to speak and not speaking out of turn.   And, during the debate – lots of listening (rather than merely preparing your rebuttal).
  • After everyone has had their say – listen to the leadership (in this case, James the brother of Jesus – vs 13) and be prepared to peacefully abide by their decisions.
  • And don’t forget to go to God’s Word! James shares words of the Prophet which clearly say that it is God’s desire that all mankind will seek Him and that there will be Gentiles called by His name.  Using this and the evidence that had been shared of how God had been working amongst the uncircumcised but believing Gentiles, James gives his judgment – no circumcision is needed, but Gentiles must follow some basic rules to be set apart to God and holy.
  • Share the findings with those impacted by the decision – aiming for peacefully being of one mind. A letter is written and members of the Jewish church are sent back with the Antioch delegation to share the letter with the body of believers caught in this conflict.

 

The Antioch church received the letter and delegation and “rejoiced” and were “strengthened” and were at peace.  Conflict resolution at its best!  Unfortunately, we know this issue will come up again throughout the New Testament as other churches grapple with the change.  Old traditions die hard for the Jewish believers.  So too, we must be careful to be tuned into God’s will rather than traditions or merely what “I want” or “I think” or has always been done this way.  Search out what God thinks on the subject.  Aim for becoming of one mind – centered on God’s mind – not yours.

 

Just as peace is reigning once again in Antioch, a new conflict transpires!  But, this time it’s a very personal one – and between our two heroes – Paul and Barnabas!  Even great heroes of the faith don’t always see eye to eye.  Barnabas – always the encourager – wants to take Mark on the next missionary journey.  Paul – perhaps more “task oriented” – remembers that Mark left them in the middle of the last journey and doesn’t want to give him a second chance.  “And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another” (Acts 15:39).  It could have easily become an opportunity to grow sour and bitter toward one another, or even God’s work – allowing bad feelings to fester.  However, sometimes a decision to peacefully disagree and get on with God’s work – even if it results in parting ways at least temporarily – can actually deepen relationships and be a useful thing.  In this case, the missionary efforts were doubled since Barnabas went in one direction with Mark to teach and preach and Paul chose Silas and went in another direction to preach and teach.  Differences remained – but both were still actively spreading God’s Word.  And, what fun to later read (Colossians 4:10) that Paul would find Mark to also be very useful in ministry.

 

Life would be so much easier (for me) if everyone always agreed with me.

BUT – I am not always right,

AND – easy isn’t always better.

When we use Biblical models and Godly wisdom to face the conflict, we can grow through the conflict and come out stronger, wiser, and more in line with what God has designed us to be – either as a church, a marriage, a friendship or an individual.  Face your conflict – with much prayer, Bible searching and wisdom and Godly counsel.

 

-Marcia Railton