Being in relationship with people is hard because we’re all human. This isn’t a new phenomenon either. In Philippians 4, Paul addresses a girl fight happening in the church. Philippians 4:2-4, 7-8
“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also,true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” - Philippians 4:2-4, 7-8
Paul is addressing two different women that are leaders in the church that need to get along better. Conflict is a part of relationships. Paul isn’t mad at them for having conflict, but he is saying they need to work it out. Conflict isn’t bad, but it needs to be resolved.
THE TWO POSSIBLE RESOLUTIONS
There’s two resolutions you can come to.
You both decide that you need space and that this friendship is no longer healthy.
That is okay. Here’s how you know that’s the step you need to talk: you’ve tried to reconcile and come to understanding multiple times, but the friendship continues in disagreement and dissension. You’ve done a lot of work to resolve it, but it’s not happening.
Paul went through this with multiple relationships. Paul and Peter work things out, but they stay away from each other for the most part. Paul and Barnabas went different ways and it ended up serving the gospel.
We can’t pick up every friend and keep them forever. I think of the girl scout song I used to sing all the time: “make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” The problem is, that’s impossible. You can’t keep and maintain every friendship you will ever make. There are seasons for friendships. We can’t make someone our best best friend forever and ever. As you age you realize that different friendships will serve different purposes in different seasons of our life.
The other solution? You work through it.
There is a place for conflict, sticking it out with people, and working through hard things when God has given you that person to do life with. We can’t just run when it gets difficult. I think we’re tempted to run when we hit a minor road block in a relationship. That’s not Christian community at all. You will have fights and disagreements, and that should serve to bring you closer. Having great conflict is a part of great relationships. Paul knows reconciliation is important to display God to this world.
HOW DO WE DO THIS?
Conflict is a part of life and we are going to have to figure out how to deal with it. We can handle conflict in a way that honors and glorifies God to the rest of the world.
KEEPING SHORT ACCOUNTS
We keep short accounts. We can do this because our hope is Heaven and that’s where our citizenship is. We are satisfied in our relationship with God so we can be content with people being people. We can let them disappoint us and just let it go. We can let those things roll off our back. So many hurts are just misunderstandings. We can make up this whole narrative and story about what someone thinks from one thing they said or did. The other person doesn’t even know it, but you’re in all out war mode!
ASSUME THE BEST
If we’re going to deal with an offense, it needs to be a real offense. Paul says “be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” (Ephesians 4:26). This is my rule on when to address something: don’t be quick to run in and make things right. A lot of times that’s us wanting our conscience at peace or to not feel uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s the less selfish thing to give it time. Walk away from it and sleep on it and if you notice you can’t let that thing go, then go to that person. Ask them what they meant by that. You might’ve misunderstood them, so give them space to explain. Assume the best.
BE QUICK TO APOLOGIZE
When people come to us with conflict, be quick to apologize. I can’t tell you how many times people have brought me something that hurt them and I didn’t even mean to. There was no ill intention, no purposeful hurt, and I didn’t even realize I said it or did it. That doesn’t matter. They felt hurt and they felt hurt by me. I take responsibility for hurting them, even if I didn’t mean to. Apologize and ask what we can do. You don’t need to say a lot else. The more you say, the more it turns into defending yourself. I’ve learned that there is very little good done in defending myself, even if it was right. King David never defended his own name. He held people back from defending his name. He was comfortable with being misunderstood or people thinking ill of him. He knew God would defend what he needed to defend. God is the defender of our name, so we don’t have to go right every wrong. When that’s the case, you get to live unoffendable.
What I am calling you too, what Paul was calling us to, what God is calling us to, is a supernatural, completely wholly different mindset that is guarded, supplied, and filled with Christ Jesus. He is the way we think, relate, speak, reconcile, forgive, and love. Because we’ve been given such abundance, we give away our abundance. This is our story. This is how we live out the gospel.
WHEN I THINK SOMEONE IS UPSET WITH ME, WHAT DO I DO?
I’m a big believer on getting everything on the table. Don’t build a big narrative in your head that somebody’s upset with you. Rather than build a narrative, I quickly pick up the phone or send a text and make sure we’re okay. Sometimes that’s yielded fruit, sometimes everything’s great, OR they act like nothing is wrong but there’s something building inside. Here’s the verse I live by, “as much as it concerns me, live at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:18) I will do what I can, but I can’t control that other person or make them tell me if something is upsetting them. I can’t force it to be okay. I can rest in that and know I’ve done everything I can.
HOW DO WE DO CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH PEOPLE WHO DISAGREE WITH US ON POLITICS?
We are in a more seriously divided world than ever. It seems like everybody’s opinions are more and more sacred. It’s dividing families, friends, and churches. What I would say is: there is room in loving relationships to have different opinions on things. We’re talking about a human institution run by humans. Each side has wrongs. Most people are fighting for something they really believe in that’s a good thing. We’re all for people. We’re doing the best we can with what we know and what we care about. We care about different things because of who we’re around and our experiences, but largely we’re trying to care about people. The old saying is true, we’re going to agree to disagree. If you want to go into those conversations, good for you. If someone is very opinionated about something, you probably won’t change their mind with a conversation. You can expand their mind and explain where you're coming from, and then try to understand where they’re coming from. We assume things upon people that aren’t true. We have to try to understand. For most people, politics are very personal. They come from experience, someone they know that’s suffering in some way, and they’re fighting for something they care deeply about. When we get to the root of what they care about, we probably actually agree with them. We want people to be taken care of, we just don’t agree on how that should be done. Instead of trying to change their mind, try to understand each other better.