This week I’m at Camp and our theme is “Come and See.” Our, somewhat ambitious, goal is to experience the ENTIRE life of Jesus from beginning to end…in one week. Most of our main teaching times are skits that act out some moment in the life of Jesus. Yesterday, we did the calling of Matthew. I was Matthew and one of our other directors was a Pharisee. During the interaction the Pharisee would “boo” me and encourage others to do so. The Pharisee said the group shouldn’t allow me to follow Jesus. At one point, he threw a spoon at me.
Yes we’ve embraced the historically accurate practice of spooning at Camp this year.
It got me thinking about the conflict that must have been present between the disciples. Zealots and tax collectors weren’t on the most friendliest of terms, you might know/remember. For much of my life I’ve just assumed they all were well behaved and just ignored the tensions between themselves because of their curiosity about Jesus. But the more I think about Jesus, life and people, the more I realize this is a naïve imaginary tale I’ve woven for myself without thinking about.
No there was probably a lot of conflict, a lot of bad blood and no matter who the leader is, bad blood doesn’t dissolve over night.
And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing and maybe we have something to learn from this.
Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on conflict and the kingdom of God. Of particular interest I’ve been pondering how often people who are Christ followers engage conflict with themselves and those around them. I’ve often noticed that among members at a Church, people seem to be very passive aggressive. We often have problems with other members for various reasons but we don’t really deal with the reasons. We don’t address the issues. We’re so afraid of conflict exploding and hurting the church but instead we internalize our feelings, or we talk to the completely wrong people about what’s going on.
We tend to group into like minded groupings, this is natural and is not necessarily a bad thing. BUT when that grouping becomes insulated and a place where people outside of the group are negatively discussed we end up poisoning the whole group. This is especially true for the church. In, perhaps the tragic irony of the whole ordeal, by trying to avoid conflict and keep the peace, we actually are destroying the very bonds that hold us together.
In Matthew 5 and Matthew 18 (I’m not going to tell you where, go find yourself lazy bones) Jesus lays out a pretty good method of dealing with conflict. It’s actually brilliantly simple. It’s called…are you ready for this….talking.
Yes, talking, actually going to the person and engaging in conflict to find peace and resolutions. The truth of the matter is that peace and resolutions do not happen without conflict. True peace among friends is not a lack of conflict per se, but rather a healthy view of conflict and how it is to be handled. Also, conflict has a way of bringing people together. Anyone who has been married for a long time knows that healthy conflict resolution will actually grow a relationship. Engaging conflict says to the other person (or persons) that they matter to you. They are worth trusting and being honest with. They are worth fighting with them as you fight for them.
Don’t let feelings of hurt, betrayal or frustrations stay internal. Don’t push it down for the sake of being nice. Jesus doesn’t call us to be nice (kind yes but not nice…and there’s a big difference by the way). Jesus calls us into unity, into service, into love. And maybe in a perfect world there is no conflict, but this isn’t a perfect world and there is conflict and conflict, when handled properly, actually moves us towards a more perfect world. A world where it’s ok to be honest, a world where people actually communicate with each other.
So if you have a problem with someone….go work it out. Seek forgiveness, give forgiveness. Stop pretending like there is not problem between you and someone if there is. Handle your business my friends…and do it well.