Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Christian Conflict Resolution......An Unfortunate Contradiction In Terms

The following article was written on Facebook by my friend Darrell Ritchie and is reprinted here with his kind permission.  Darrell’s descriptions coincide very well with my own experience.  My only disagreement would be that I think there are four steps described in scripture with walking away actually being the fourth step.  This way we are reminded that we need to try three times in three different ways, before we give up on a relationship with another Christian brother or sister.  I have been guilty of this and have had others walk away from me but God’s not finished with me yet and I’m still trying to do better.
Christian Conflict Resolution......An Unfortunate Contradiction In Terms
By Darrell Ritchie (Lawrenceville, Georgia) on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 8:06am ·

    You know, I never cease to be amazed by the average Christian’s inability to resolve conflict. It is almost as though many of us check our courage at the door when we accept Christ and from that moment forward we opt to avoid anything resembling confrontation, instead choosing to run like a river when the snow melts whenever something happens between us and one of our fellow Christians that might actually require some work on our part.

     And yes, I think I am qualified to speak on this subject, having been raised in the church, having been a Christian most of my life, and having spent over twenty years in music ministry where I have often had the dubious privilege of seeing and hearing a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t as the result of being the guest artist in a given church.
     What is it that makes us so incapable of handling conflict? Disagreements? Issues? In the vast majority of cases I see where Christians have an issue with somebody, the single most common response is to simply cut ties with that person altogether and walk away. Of course I’m still waiting on somebody to demonstrate to me where that is Scripturally sound, but I digress.
     In my time on the road, I have seen people turned out by their Christian brothers over decisions they have made that crossed the line into sin. These people instantly became like lepers to their church, or depending on their level of visibility, to the Christian community as a whole. Now nobody is excusing or endorsing sin, but are these actions really in line with the Savior who sat down and had dinner with sinners (Matt 9: 10)? Or the one who told the woman caught in adultery “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more”? (John 8: 1-11).

     I have also seen minor issues destroy marriages, ministries, and relationships, simply because one party or both were too filled with pride to be able to say, “Hey, I was wrong. Can you forgive me?” Or the other party was unwilling to grant the forgiveness requested of them. Or both.

     So what is the Scriptural admonishment for handling conflicts? Matthew 18: 15-17 is very clear on the matter: “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.”

     Are you listening? Yes, there is a time when you cut your ties and walk away, but only after taking the two previous steps. Firstly, we have an issue with someone; we go to them and bring it to light. Hopefully they hear us, the issue is resolved, and the relationship is restored. If they do not listen, we aren’t off the hook just yet….we go back to them a second attempt, this time bringing witnesses. If that doesn’t fly, we bring the issue before the church, and if they still refuse to listen, at that point, and only that point, are we granted permission to walk away from them and don’t look back.
    Unfortunately, we are far too often guilty of skipping right over the first two verses and going right to the last part. For whatever reason we are either unable to take the necessary steps toward reconciliation (which is pretty bad), or we are unwilling (which is inexcusable).
     How we as Christians treat each other is a powerful testimony before the world. What does it say about us when, instead of seeking healing and restoration, that we choose to go our separate ways in bitterness and resentment? How does it make us look when minor disagreements or issues prove beyond our ability to overcome and heal? And what does it tell the rest of the world when the example set is that everything will be okay just as long as you say and do everything correctly? Who in their right mind would want to be a part of any body of believers that lived by that kind of deal?

     We need to be willing to confront, to hear, and to do the right thing. It may be hard to go to somebody and tell them you messed up, but do it anyway. It is the right thing to do. I firmly believe that in most cases, the other party will be all too willing to listen, and that is the point where restoration begins. Then again, they may not hear you, but you can walk away knowing you did the right thing, and you’ll be surprised at how much lighter the load is.

     What if you’re on the other side and somebody comes to you and says, hey, I screwed up, I apologize, and will you forgive me?  I don’t know about you, but that is one of the few situations in life that I don’t have to even pray about. We are commanded to forgive as Christ has forgiven us, and Christ doesn’t put conditions or trial periods or any other stipulations on forgiveness. When we repent and ask Him for forgiveness for our trespasses, He grants it freely, and tosses it as far as the east is from the west. Why then should we do any less when someone makes the same request of us?

     It isn’t often talked about, but I wholeheartedly believe that the lack of conflict resolution is one of the biggest problems facing the church today. It is my prayer that more of us will develop the courage, the fortitude, to face these problems head on, coupled with the desire to see healing and restoration among our churches, marriages, and relationships.

     I’ve said it before, and I close with it now….as Christians, we are all family, and at the end of the day we are going to be spending eternity together. With that little nugget in mind, how then do we defend the practice of holding grudges or ill will towards anybody else while we are here? What say you?

[Note: Darrell can be reached for musical engagements and other things at or on Facebook by clicking here: Darrell Ritchie]

Monday, April 23, 2012

What’s the Big Deal About Sex?

    Early this month a group of Secret Service Agents as well as military personnel (presumably male), were in Columbia as a part of President Barack Obama’s trip there for a multinational conference.  As most of us have seen in the news, these individuals had a grand time partying with prostitutes after hours prior to the President’s arrival.  Once they returned home, this exploded into a scandal of epic proportions.  But so what?  From the perspective of faith and the church, I could easily make a list of why this was not a good thing for these men to do, but I really wonder if Congress’ shock at the behavior of the Secret Service is only for show during an election year.  After all, what’s the big deal about sex?  Here are a few questions that are being raised:

    Whose money did they spend?  Congressman Peter King wants to know if the money these men spent was taxpayer per diem.  So what if it was?  Per Diem (literally, per day) is money paid to persons who are on special duty or special assignment.  It is, simply, a paycheck.  If these men were paid per diem, it is because they were working on a job where they earned it.  If Congressman King believes that we the people have a right to control how someone spends a government paycheck then he is going to have an awful lot his fellow representatives looking over their collective shoulders.

    They work for the government.  So what?  They were not ‘at work,’ it was after hours, they were on their own time.  How often have we heard that what we do on our personal time is nobody’s business?

    It’s illegal.  No it isn’t.  Prostitution might be illegal in most places here in the United States, but it isn’t in Columbia.  Besides the financial transaction, this was simply an arrangement between consenting adults.

    It’s immoral.  What?  We in the church have been told loudly and often that we shouldn’t force our moral values on others.  In our modern culture, we are told, it is perfectly acceptable and normal for adults to determine their own morality.  In that environment, who should judge whether the behavior of these men is immoral or not?  Besides, in recent decades Congress seems to have made a hobby of turning a blind eye to the moral and sexual indiscretions of their peers.  Judge not, lest ye be judged, right?

    What these men did certainly violates many of the teaching of Christianity but with increasing regularity we are reminded that the United States is increasingly multi-cultural, multi-religious and increasingly non-religious.  Even the President said “Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.” (Barack Obama, June 28, 2006)  And so again I ask, so what?

    Certainly I realize that there are national security concerns that come with allowing our Secret Service personnel to cavort with prostitutes but historically, one major concern was that such behavior would result in blackmail.  In this era of new morality, why is that a concern either?  If these men are free to dictate their own morality and what they were doing was perfectly legal, then what leverage remains for blackmail?

    I don’t doubt that there were rules in place both by the Secret Service and by the military and I don’t doubt that rules were broken.  But if we, as an enlightened and liberated society, have refused to legislate morality and if we have cast off the bonds of propriety, allowing morals to be defined by every individual, then all that we have left to guide us are rules, and frankly, rules aren’t much to count on as the underpinning of an entire society.

    I want to be clear, I don’t agree with what these men did.  What they did was both wrong and stupid, but I say these things to make a point.  It may indeed be true that we are no longer a Christian nation, but once we have cast off the lines that tie our culture to a fixed and immovable standard of decency and morality, the coastline can get pretty fuzzy.

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