A few nights ago, my wife went with some other women from the church to hear Lysa Terkeurst speak at a worship/teaching night. If you don't know who she is, just know she is a popular Christian speaker (especially in Women's ministry). She spoke on Forgiveness, and if you know anything about her story, you know that she had to practice that a lot lately before she could speak about it. When my wife returned home, she and I spoke about what she heard - we sat down and talked face-to-face as she recalled the lessons she learned. Isn't that the way conversations about forgiveness should happen?
In Galatians 2, Apostle Paul did that. He had an issue with Apostle Peter and we could learn a thing or two from him on he handled that. Let me start by sharing the Scripture with you so you can read it for yourself:
"When Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. ...When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, 'You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?'" (Galatians 2:11-13)
In this case, people had decided to follow Jesus and had started to experience the freedom that comes from such a decision. At some point, though, they started to shrink back to their old ways (Paul called them "customs"). Even Peter, the fearless leader of the early Church, was falling in line with this. So Paul did the only thing he should do: he opposed him...to his face. So many times, Christian people get mad at each other and decide to handle the situation by parting ways. We've even developed a new name for this: church splits. But shouldn't there be times where we just talk with each other and forgive each other and then restore/reconcile relationships with each other?
And if we would do that more often, wouldn't that strengthen the Church and our witness to the world?
I've been wondering about this recently, and I still think we could learn a few lessons from Paul about how to work it out with someone else. And if we would do that, if we would pray for what God wants, maybe we'd be able to work it out with people more instead of walking out on people. Take a look at what Paul laid out for us, and see if it matches the way you handle these crucial conversations.
1. Talk to God first about the people that you have differences with.
If you will spend time doing this first, He might just show you ways that you were wrong. He also might give you wisdom on how to approach someone else if they were wrong
2. Talk with people (instead of about people).
Do this face-to-face, not over the phone (or with your thumbs). Do this with the person you are at odds with, before you talk with someone else about that person. If you go to them with the intention of trying to reconcile with them, that shows that you care more about winning their friendship than you do about winning an argument. Even though you cannot control how they respond, taking these steps will help you respond in a Godly way.
As you and I seek to be ambassadors for Christ, we need to consider what kind of example we are setting. That means that there will be times where we have tough conversations with others, when they hurt us OR when we hurt them. But we show them that we care about them when we talk with them about these hurts. And then, we will have a great opportunity to show others how Jesus can heal those hurts as we walk forward together. Antioch was the first place that the disciples were called Christians (Acts 11:26), so this incident was a big deal. I think it still is. It's important for the world to see Christians living holy lives, and I think it's still important for them to see us working out our differences in holy ways!
So, as you pray this week, here are a few things to pray for: Ask God to show you how He wants to deal with you, and allow Him to point out areas where you still need to grow. Then, ask Him to show you how He wants you to deal with other people. Finally, ask Him how He wants you to show the world who Jesus is through the way you treat people who don't believe in Him. If we will pray about things before we say things, maybe some of those things will turn out differently.