Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 27, 2011
Overcome conflict by remembering what really matters
Conflict is always with us. There is no way to avoid it. No one is immune to the debilitating effect of conflict. Discord 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 create conflict and 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 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 remember what truly matters. Stunned by an ugly disagreement in which I was involved, I paused to reflect on what is really important, what really matters to me and to most people.
First, people are more important than things. 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 them up because of a difference of opinion.
Second, truth is important. Lies lose. Rumors rot. Deceit fails. Truth 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. Truth is always our ally.
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. If my adversaries stoop to lying and slander, I must take the high ground rather than retaliate. Respect is so important that I must resist the surge of anger and resentment that can slip so easily into my mind. I can choose not to be angry. I can refuse to resent the behavior of others. Though these are not easy choices, they are possible.
Fourth, faithfulness to God is important. Many good causes beg for our devotion. Many people tell us what we ought to do. But we can get so caught up in trying to please people that we can overlook what God expects. Ultimately the only approval that really matters is the approval of God. I am accountable to God; we all are. He has a plan for living and he expects us to follow it. When we 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 so that we may please God. Peace with others usually results from doing the right thing in the eyes of 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. It is like sliding down the banisters of life with all the splinters pointed at you. Sooner or later you will pay for it because you will lose respect for yourself and 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. Disagreements, issues and conflicts often bring us to our knees. But one thing is sure: it helps to calm down, step back and take a few minutes to remember what really matters. Having done that, we can with a clearer mind work to resolve conflict rather than allow it to destroy us. + + +