Sunday, January 16, 2011

Resolving Conflict

Today's Reading: Acts 15:5-6 NIV
5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." 5 The apostles and elders met to consider the question.

Good morning!

When our children were younger, we used to struggle with differences of opinion and hot topic issues. Do you have a specific method for resolving conflict in your own home? We would often call family meetings at the kitchen table, especially when something of great importance had become a source of disagreement. We worked to create a safe space where everyone could express themselves on a particular question or situation, and then make a decision on how to move forward together. When emotions run high, it is often difficult to keep the safe space open to honest communication. I have often seen it crumble away more times than I can count. It is a hard thing to resolve conflicts within our own families, and quite often, someone walks away from the table frustrated with the group's ultimate decision. Even when we agree to disagree, it is critical for all to accept the overall decision of the group and abide in it. If we can somehow learn how to better deal with conflicts and differences of opinion in a healthy way within our own family units, we have a much better chance at learning how to do the same thing at work, in school, and even in church. Often, we see angry and disenchanted folks leave their places of employment or higher educational institutions because they can no longer support and abide by the decisions of the governing administration. The ironic thing about family units is that no matter what our differences are, we are yoked together in a strong cord of love. Every broken promise, any hurtful word can mend itself in love IF we are willing to let go of our hurts and let the Lord heal our families. God's plan for His children is as strong today as it was 2000 years ago. We are meant to be together forever, and no one should be left out of the circle. As a society, we can do a much better job learning how to respect and value each other, especially in times of disagreement.

The early church set a great example in resolving conflict. They didn't back away from the tough issues, ignore them, or refuse to speak to the pointed questions at hand. They allowed every voice to be heard, and prayerfully considered all opinions. Every four years in the United Methodist Church, a delegation is elected from each annual conference to attend a worldwide General Conference. One thousand delegates, half clergy and half laity meet to hear petitions and make recommendations to reject, adopt or amend, through humble acts of prayer, discernment and holy conferencing. The delegates strive to interpret and discern every issue raised at Conference. Having served on the 2008 delegation from Missouri, I can attest that not every delegate agreed on all the decisions made; yet, we find ourselves drawn together by Christ's precious blood. It is His love for all people that helps us better learn how to love each other unconditionally.

The early church model can teach us how to covenant together when addressing the deep seated issues we face today. Learning how to love each other the way Christ loves us is paramount in resolving conflicts. You and I are precious to the Lord. He loves us all so very much. Isn't it time we give unconditional love another try?

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding
Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

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