The Pathway to Peace

2Tim. 2:8, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead…”
It’s funny how quickly we can forget who Christ is and what we are called to do. Funny as in strange. In the heat of the moment, we can abandon the example of Jesus and our purpose in life and responsibility to one another. The Gospel itself is about conflict resolution (well, for that matter, the entire Bible is as well). Not only is the Gospel about bridging the gap that our sin caused between us and God, but it also fleshes out in our relationships with one another.
Sometimes we might have expectations that conflict shouldn’t exist, but actually conflict is a normal part of life that we experience because of the brokenness of sin. We should expect conflict at times in life, whether it is with our spouse, children or coworkers. It should not catch us by surprise.
The example of Christ is one of pursuing the adversaries of God with grace and mercy. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Verse 10 goes on to says, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
In Acts 6, we see that the early church faced conflict between the Hebrews and Greeks. They did not resolve the conflict by driving one group away. They faced the issues head on. Conflict arose in the church again, and Paul’s response was to go to Jerusalem to address it in person (Acts 15:2).
The Apostle Peter was actually a cause of conflict when he feared the circumcision party and refused to eat with Gentile believers. In that circumstance, the Apostle Paul moved toward the conflict and not away. He went face to face with Peter to work through the problem, and not send him packing his bags (Gal. 2).
The Apostle Paul had an entire ministry of conflict. If we pay attention to any of the Pauline Epistles, we will see that he was constantly dealing with conflict in churches. In Philippians 1:30 he writes about, “the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” Paul recounted to the church in Thessalonica “Though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict” (1 Thess. 2:2).
The Pastoral Epistles also deal with conflict. One of the greatest skills of church leaders is conflict resolution. Leaders must possess a high level of understanding of the Scriptures because it is the guideline for how we are to relate to one another. Leaders must also be skillful in how they apply the Scriptures in difficult situations. Church leaders must take on the heart and posture of “the Lord’s servant” who “must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:24-25).
How conflicts get resolved is the critical factor in any relationship. All of us may have experienced times when we withdrew and isolated from another person in conflict. Or we may have experienced moments when we blatantly attacked another person who dishonored us. Neither of those model the example of Christ or the calling of the believer.
Conflict is where we have a tremendous opportunity to show love and grow. We can show love and grow by learning about our opponent. Through conflict resolution, we have the opportunity to take responsibility for our actions that might have contributed to the conflict and to both extend and receive grace and forgiveness.
When we face conflicts head on and attack the problem and not the person, it becomes one of the greatest ways to grow in our faith and deepen our relationships with each other. Jesus told his disciples to teach obedience to his commands (Mat. 28:20). When an issue is addressed appropriately, the opportunity for obedience is available and we can experience growth in relationship with Christ.
As we celebrate communion this month, we are celebrating the restoration of relationship— a relationship that came about because our Savior faced conflict with his adversaries and the conflict of the cross. The agony of the cross became the pathway to peace.
As we reflect on the example of Christ on the cross this month, let us also be encouraged that we are able to face our troubles head on. Your brother in Christ is not the enemy, but sin is the enemy. If we are devoted to Jesus and love our brother, there is no trouble that we cannot overcome. Let’s let the example of Christ be what directs our dealings with each other.
In Christ,
Pastor Jeremiah