Sunday, September 18, 2011

Time for eye surgery?

In his book “The Peacemaker”, Ken Sande identifies 4 principles for resolving conflict. This week we are looking at Principle 2 which is “Get the log out of your eye”. This greatly overlooked passage from Mathew 7:5 highlights the fact that to be a peacemaker, we need to deal honestly with our contribution to a conflict. How often we are keen to skip over this step in conflict resolution and move to helping others see their contribution to a conflicted situation, without reviewing our own.

Sande frames 4 easy questions to ask of yourself when considering your contribution to a conflict. Let’s look at them in turn:

1. Is this really worth fighting for? Trained as a lawyer, it is hard for me to imagine any situation that is not worth fighting for! But, in many places the bible recommends that the best way to resolve a conflict is simply to overlook the personal offenses of others. Paul says “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph 4:32) Give it a go-I’ve found it very liberating.

2. What is the real cost of this conflict? In Matthew 5:25 Jesus says to settle disputes as quickly as possible. The rest of the verse explains that a prolonged dispute can be more costly than we think and money is not the only expense. Counting the cost of time, energy, emotional and spiritual exhaustion as well as broken relationships can help us have a clearer perspective on whether a conflict is worth pursuing.

3. What about rights? The worldly insistence that all rights must be protected has complicated this issue. Unfortunately some people resist overlooking offenses and settling disputes because of their rights but not all rights are biblical and maybe God wants you in a particular situation to give up your right for the benefit of another. Certainly, God wants us to show mercy as we have been shown mercy by Him.

4. Have I allowed a desire to turn into a sinful demand? Much conflict stems from unmet desires in our hearts. Even good desires can control us and lead to ungodly behaviour if we insist on those desires being met. Tim Keller calls those desires, turned sinful demands, “idols” and left unchecked, can lead to bitterness, resentment and self pity that can destroy family, business and church. Getting the log out of our eye may involve recognizing desires that have turned into idols and repenting of sinful attitudes. As we replace idol worship with worship of the true God, we receive God’s forgiveness and the grace to face it’s power in our lives and the conflict it causes.

I think I found this principle of peacemaking the most personally challenging and firmly believe that many conflicts would be resolved if we took seriously this instruction to get the log out of our eye. We wouldn’t need Sande’s other two principles of peacemaking if we allowed the gospel of Jesus to strip away our pride and defensiveness and repented of our reckless tongue, our grumbling, our controlling, our gossiping, our sinful desires, our broken word and………you finish the list.

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