Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
September 17, 2000
Conflict takes a toll on everyone. No one is immune to the wear and tear of stress. It does
its damage, silently and insidiously, on the inside of the mind and the body. Outwardly we may
manage to smile but inwardly we are churning.
Sometimes we bring trouble on ourselves. At other times it just shows up, like a sudden thunderstorm, without warning. Friction or a dispute becomes a heated skirmish and people begin taking sides.
Church and community fights are like that. A dispute can mushroom quickly into a fierce struggle. People can make accusations, express harsh feelings, and an argument can have a life of its own. Antagonists bait friends and family members, urging them to take a stand. Some will even resort to intimidation to gain strength for their side.
Some people can get so embroiled in disagreements that they become irrational. When that happens these feuds feed on emotion and calm thinking is nowhere to be found. Overnight friends become enemies over issues that do not merit the loss of friendship.
When we find ourselves in the middle of such hostility, it will help us, no matter what side we are on, to step back and take a few minutes to remind ourselves what truly matters. Stunned by the ugly confrontation of late in my own church, I have paused to reflect on what is really important to me.
First, things are not as important as people. People matter. Things are here today and gone tomorrow. We can do without things; we can get some more stuff. But losing a friend is a devastating experience. So friends are important. They are so important that we ought not to give up on them because of a difference of opinion.
Second, truth is important. Lies lose. Rumors rot. Deceit fails. Truth on the other hand will never let us down. It is like solid rock while deception is like shifting sand. So truth matters and it pays to stand by the truth at all costs.
Third, respect is important. One of the great treasures of my life is the respect of my wife, my family, and my friends. Because respect means so much to me, I must refrain from conduct that might rob me of the respect of those who have faith in me. So even when my adversaries stoop to lying and slander, I must take the high ground rather than retaliate. Respect is so important, then, that I must resist the surge of anger and resentment that slip so easily into my mind.
Fourth, obeying God is important. Many good causes beg for our devotion. Many people are eager to tell us what we ought to do. But we can get so caught up in trying to please people that we overlook what God wants done. Ultimately the only approval that really matters is the approval of God. We are all accountable to God. He has a plan for living and he expects us to follow it. When we fail or refuse to obey God, we lose the only thing worth saving - the chance to hear him say one day, "Well done." So obeying God is so important that often we must refuse to do what other well-meaning people want us to do in order to please God.
Finally, love is important. Love wins. Hate loses. Stir up hate and dissension and you will live to regret it. Breeding strife is like spitting into the wind. Sooner or later you will pay for it because you will lose respect for yourself as well as the respect of others. Those who love win in the long run. Those who ignore love and insist on having their own way may win a skirmish but eventually they will lose the war.
Life is truly difficult. There are issues and conflicts that sometimes bring us to our knees. But one thing is sure: it always helps to step back and take a few minutes to remember what really matters.