As Christians, we are called to show patience, mercy, compassion, and love towards our brothers and sisters. When it comes to conflict however, how often are we handling things from a Christian perspective verses one that is more concerned with our own feelings or sense of being wronged?
When someone treats us unfairly, it’s natural to get upset and feel like we should be treated better. It’s human nature, but within the kingdom of God, we are called above this nature and into a divine nature. The proper perspective is to understand that we are not due anything but death. To feel as if we are entitled to be treated “right” is not true for our own sake, but for the sake of our brother who is sinning against God first and foremost. If we are honest with ourselves, we will also see that we have not always treated people right, so when we get up in arms over someone doing us wrong, we become a hypocrite, and hypocrites will not inherit the kingdom of God.
So, what should we do? In who is doing wrong, we should look to ourselves first. In whom should be treated with love, we should worry more about showing our brother love than loving ourselves.
Consider this scenario, then ask yourself, “Who has the bigger fault?”
Brother One is usually a very honest person who tries to do his best to live uprightly. When he was younger however, he tended to lie a lot — not because he was malicious, but because he just did not want to deal with conflict or being chastised when he didn’t do something he should.
Brother Two is aware of the past of Brother One. Both are Christians, and Brother Two knows that Brother One is trying to follow Jesus Christ. However, Brother Two sees the worst in everything Brother One does because of his past lying tendencies. Because of the bitterness and unforgiveness of Brother Two, he regularly reads too much into the actions of Brother One and accuses him falsely of being deceitful when he is not.
Brother One becomes very uncomfortable around Brother Two because he feels he is always under scrutiny, his past will not be forgiven, and instead of getting support as a Christian, he is only seen through the lens of who he used to be. A situation arises between Brother One and Brother Two, and because of Brother One’s fear of being accused falsely or otherwise demeaned in this situation, Brother One lies for the first time in years.
Brother Two catches Brother One in the lie and berates him over it saying, “I know you’d always be a liar. See. This proves it!” Brother One sincerely apologizes, then tries to explain his perspective to Brother One as to why he lied. Brother Two will not hear it. He will not hear that he has some role to play in this matter. He thinks it’s just another one of his lies, so he continues to make Brother One feel inferior, untrustworthy, and basically requires Brother One grovel for as long as he deems necessary in order to “earn back his trust.”
Who is at greater fault? From the outside, it’s easy to see that Brother Two holds the greater sin. However, we need to remember that Brother Two is dealing with his own issues of insecurity and mistrust. So, let’s add another person. Brother Three.
Brother Three is outside of this situation, but sees the dynamic between the two. Both come to Brother Three with their side of the story. Now, If Brother Three is a righteous brother, he will rebuke them both for the part they played, but he will also encourage them to see the bigger picture. He will not judge either too harshly because he understands that all good things in him were given by God, and if he is honest with himself, he has been both Brother One and Brother Two at points in his own life.
What if someone fails to repent for their part? If Brother Two continues to justify his wrong-doing while blaming brother One, then both Brother One and Brother Three should place the matter before God, asking that He will convict his heart and turn him away from his bitterness, anger, and hypocrisy.
In this, Brother One and Brother Three are bringing forth fruit for the kingdom. They are at peace in themselves and they tried to make peace with their brethren. They are showing patience, mercy, and faith in God’s ability to handle the situation. If they rebuked gently as they should, then that fruit is being brought forth also.
Brother Two however, is bringing forth fruit of self-delusion and hypocrisy, unjust judgment, hatefulness, and bitterness. These are not fruits fit for the kingdom of God.
So, what is the lesson learned here? For one, if we are in a conflict with someone, we should look to ourselves first. If both Brother One and Brother Two were filled with the Holy Spirit, he would search their hearts. Brother Two would see that he was basically casting a stumbling block before his brother, and he would apologize.
This is how conflict resolution between people who are of the kingdom of God should go:
Instead of worrying about how we feel and how we are mistreated, in humility we will ask the Holy Spirit to search our own hearts and reveal what we might be doing wrong. The Holy Spirit will convict us, and we will repent and ask forgiveness. We will then have a heart that is more ready to forgive and show mercy towards our brother because we understand that we too hold fault. When both people do this, the problem is solved without a single hateful word uttered, false accusation, or general lack of love. The problem is solved in Spirit and Truth when each person looks to their own wrong doing over the wrong doing of their brother.
In the rare instance that one brother has no fault, he should bring the matter to his brother gently so that he can turn from his sin – not because the wronged brother is entitled to being treated right, or out of a sense of his own justice, but because he loves his brother and does not want him to continue down a path of self-destruction. His rebuke should be selfless and only for the good of the brother who committed the wrong.
How often do we handle conflict in this way? Most often all parties are like Brother Two, or one is like Brother Two and the other is Brother One or Brother Three.
When people come to me with a conflict, I try my best to look at things objectively and without regard to my own feelings. If we have this perspective then the greater burden of patience, mercy, and forgiveness is on us. I’m not perfected in this, but it is a goal I shoot for because if I, as someone who understands this, fails to show the proper gentleness, mercy, patience, and forgiveness, then I am at greatest fault of them all!
The more we come to understand the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the righteousness of the Kingdom, the more we are expected to lay aside ourselves for the good of our brothers and sisters. The more we see things from a righteous perspective, the more God expects us to walk therein. That means looking to our own wrong first and seeking Jesus to heal us. That means looking out for the good of our brother over our own. That means showing unlimited patience with our brethren, which is made possible with faith in the justice of God, and more importantly, the mercy and patience of God that is daily leading us to repentance.
If we pray for our brethren and do what is right while trusting in the Lord, He might turn their hearts to him. If we act unrighteously, we risk further hardening their hearts, then we become as Brother Two, or worse yet, one with the perspective and burden of Brother Three that forgets the patience of Christ.
These are things I need written in my heart more fully, and I think many of us could benefit from considering ourselves first when it comes to pointing out wrong. But, when it comes to who should be treated “right,” and who we should love, we need to consider first our brother, and in that, we are loving Jesus most of all!