Over the past few weeks we at church have been looking at the whole area of relationships, conflict resolution, forgiveness etc in a series called Family Matters.
I have been reflecting on various aspects of this especially in the realm of conflict resolution and forgiveness.
What I have observed over time is that often conflicts that don’t get confronted stay unresolved and tend to harden into bitterness, resentment toward each other and cold wars. The irony is that neither party are clear on what went wrong not do they know what to do about it. Have you been there?
Conflicts stay unresolved when stuff gets swept under the carpet and over time everyone is scaling Mt Evert yet unwilling to face the mountain of unresolve looming large in the face! What is to be done?
There is also the view that one must not say anything in ones defense because God will vindicate you and Jesus’ silence before his accusers is the quoted example to follow.
I have thought about this and it raised a few questions in my mind. I believe a lot of conflict in relationships happen because of assumptions or misunderstandings and these can be sorted out if we do not take such a stand in any and every situation.
Jesus as I see Him in the Bible was outspoken when he needed to be, and explained himself to the disciples who were lacking in understanding at that time.
What does Jesus say about Conflict? We have two classic passages of scripture quoting our Lord himself.
Matt5: 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.
Matt 18:15 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Nowhere in these two passages do I see room for being silent as the answer to resolving conflict. In fact, I see the very opposite. Jesus encourages us to go and have a chat and sort it out whether you are the perpetrator or the victim. The rule of thumb seems to be that when in doubt, speak up and not shut up.
I think if we practice this, it will end so many misunderstandings and cold war between friends and families. I have seen this in my own life. A friend who heard only a part of a conversation I had had with a common friend drew certain conclusions that resulted in a standoff in our friendship and sadly for many years. This disturbed me greatly but I did not know what the matter was, till I applied Matt5. However, when I learned the reason for the standoff I choose not to say anything in my defense and applied the “silent as a lamb” principle here. The result was the situation never changed which only added to my sorrow. Finally I decided that I needed to speak up and bring clarity to the situation. We visited these friends of many years and spoke face to face, heart to heart. The light came on! The assumptions crumbled in the face of clarity and truth and there was reconciliation in the relationship. What would have happened if I had continued to stay silent?
When then do we stay silent as a lamb? Look at the context in which Jesus was silent. It was in the presence of his enemies that were falsely accusing him with malicious lies wanting to crucify him. It was not a case of misunderstanding between friends. This was an evil plot to kill the King of Kings. I believe that when we are falsely accused like this we need to commit ourselves to our Father in heaven who will vindicate us. We have experienced this time and time again. When vicious tongues wag and aim to slander us, our character and reputation with no intent of finding out the truth or seek clarification, we need to keep silent and let the Righteous Judge take over. And we have seen God come through for us. If opportunity presents itself to explain ones actions one must do so in all humility, grace and wisdom.
But in most cases I suspect it is a case of applying Matt 5 or Matt 18. So let’s go sort out those misunderstandings. Sometimes the other party does not have the moral courage or the fortitude to face the situation. In those cases we are called to forgive unilaterally and let by gone s be by gone s and continue to express love to that person as Jesus would have us do. We are to trust God to grant us grace for such a situation.
I have realized that life is not made up of nice neat boxes all well stacked and labeled. We cannot dot every “I” and cross every “t”. We have to move on throwing aside everything that hinders and run the beautiful race in life that Jesus has marked out for us.
I end my reflections and rest my case knowing I rest in the shadow of the Almighty, my ultimate defense and deliverer.
Navaz D Cruz