The Right Way to Fight
Few people enjoy controversy or conflict; most go out of the way to avoid uncomfortable situations altogether.
Certainly, following Jesus does not mean seeking enjoyment from disagreement, yet taking the gospel seriously ensures confrontation arises. To understand how to handle these inevitable moments, look to Jesus.
In John’s gospel, Jesus reveals himself as the light of the world. In the incarnation, God takes on human flesh and exposes the sinfulness of humanity through Christ. This process was not enjoyable for most, and resulted in tension-filled confrontations.
Imagine waking up from a night’s sleep, exposed to bright lights immediately. It would be painful. In the same way, the Jewish leaders who continually engaged with Jesus did not appreciate his direct approach, his willingness to shine his light into the dark corners of their hearts, questioning their beliefs.
Despite what our culture thinks, the Jewish leaders would not have described Jesus as “meek and mild.” That said, his deliberate tactics and inclination to confront were out of love. Biblical confrontation should not be viewed as an obstacle to avoid, but an opportunity to love. This means that the emotive love depicted by Hollywood must be put to the side, and a selfless, sacrificial love embraced.
To sincerely confront both Christians and non-Christians from love, it’s imperative that Christ’s followers comprehend what it will require. These moments are opportunities to imitate Jesus, and must be enveloped in prayer. If loving confrontation cannot happen in the church, it won’t happen as Christians engage with the world.
Gospel-centered conflict provides us with the opportunity to grow in several ways.
We Learn to Deny Self.
Given the choice, most would rather experience comfort than deny self. Central to the gospel lies an understanding that those who profess Christ realize their sinfulness and need for a savior. To repent and believe is to fundamentally deny one’s self. The believer must reject the thought that he or she can fix what is broken. The gospel proclaims that despite our attempts at righteousness, no one can merit salvation. If this is clear, why is it that so many live in such a way that conflict is naturally avoided?
If loving confrontations cannot happen in the church, they won’t happen as Christians engage with the world.
Husbands and wives avoid necessary conversations for the sake of sidestepping discomfort. Patterns of sin are left unearthed because uprooting entrenched transgressions would bury a friendship in distress. How is this the case? If the primary basis of the Christian life is a freedom to admit that those following Jesus are sinners in need of a savior, why is it that many give into the temptation to live as if that didn’t apply? An unwillingness to challenge others or be challenged personally mutes the gospel and masks pride. Jesus calls us to a life of self-denial, not self-comfort.
We can illuminate the Gospel.
The gospel is illumined in relationships when men and women are keen to trust the transformational power of Jesus’ good news. In a way, an unwillingness to confront out of love, or address a hidden problem, reveals a lack of faith in just how big the gospel truly is. Whatever one might be facing, the gospel is big enough to handle anything thrown in its direction. Trusting the power of Christ while in the midst of conflict, testifies to the life-altering nature of his good news. May believers nurse a grudge or hide behind fear of rejection. Rather, may boldness in the gospel lovingly lead to confrontations that are for God’s glory.
We can pursue intimacy.
Healthy conflict within any relationship can cultivate an environment where intimacy blooms. By addressing disagreements and sin biblically, it actually forges a deeper intimacy than personal comfort could achieve. It is in the risk that one reaps the largest reward.
Husbands and wives can work through heart-wrenching moments in marriage with the potential to see greater intimacy achieved on the other side of struggle. Even in the face of hostility, a believer can improve his or her relationship with a non-believing friend through embracing gospel humility. No matter where conflict is found, handling it in love gives all involved an opportunity to take another step toward Christ.
We learn to embrace Providence.
Failing to address conflict calls into question a Christian’s view of providence. If God is truly upholding and governing all things, then what are we to say about conflict? Through his providence, God is permitting these opportunities for his glory and his children’s good.
Too often, the church utilizes the world’s methods and hope for heaven’s results. It simply won’t happen. Muting the gospel will never produce blessing. It is never wise to second-guess God’s providence and hope for the best. Avoiding any type of discomfort will never result in genuine community. After all, if the requirement for entry into the church is admitting brokenness, pretending like everything will work itself out stunts Christian growth and ruins relationships.
In love, Jesus was not afraid to take a stand when appropriate. He did not pursue comfort over an opportunity to help others face spiritual reality. Whether he was confronting a religious leader in a straight-forward manner, or gracefully dealing with the woman at the well, Jesus was always driven by love. Conflict can drive those involved apart or close together, depending on whether or not the good news of Christ is applied.
This story, written by Pastor Bobby Raulerson of Grace Oviedo, originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Grace Magazine. Download the issue here.