Building Relationships Through Conflict

Today, for the Christian that undergoes conflict, it does not mean that he is out of God’s Will. It is true that the Bible does call us to live peaceably among those in the world and in the Church. “If possible, so far to as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans  12:18) We should do our uppermost to be at peace with others. Yet, it may not always be possible all the time, especially in view of the fact that negative and harsh attitudes toward Christianity have been developing for some time now. When we find ourselves in troubled situations, we must recognize this as part of God’s Will so not to become embittered, but instead learn to demonstrate a Christ-like attitude by not exchanging evil for evil (vv. 19 & 20). Believers should never anticipate a trouble-free existence since Jesus Himself taught His disciples that they will suffer tribulation while in the world. Not to despair though, since the Scriptures give hope to the Christian that he may experience a joy filled life even while under the strain of difficulties and conflicts. To capture some of this, let’s return to the 1st century and visit one of the worst cities of any age to live in.

Ephesus could be described as a second Sodom. The seaport city of Ephesus was a center of paganism. It was corrupt from top to bottom. For those who might think that they cannot live decent lives and reach the lost due to the amoral conditions in our society should think about the conditions in which Paul operated under during the first century. Many Ephesians had been subject to widespread immorality and caught up with superstition and magical practices better known today as black magic. The goddess Artemis was a “mother earth” deity emphasizing fertility and reproduction. The many priests employed in the temple performed animal sacrifices, and the many priestesses, in keeping with the fertility theme engaged in ritual prostitution. Paul encountered great opposition from the business sector because many former adherents who previously had bought miniature statues of their gods now had renounced their sinful practises and had chosen the gospel and joined Christ’ followers instead. They no longer participated in demonic worship and destroyed their books of magic. All this was not good for business since Ephesus was a popular commercial centre and tourist attraction in Rome. In the face of growing opposition to his missionary enterprise, Paul recognized that man was not really the root cause of his problems “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies …. but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians  6:12) Paul identified the real nemesis as Satan. The gospel of John warns that Satan seeks to “steal and kill and destroy” (10:10). Christians therefore must be vigilant for there are Satanic forces at work whose purpose is to prevent the gospel from being propagated. In closing, several things bear repeating:

  • A trouble-free life is not in God’s plan for His followers. While Christians are called to live peaceably still you can expect troubles and adversities since Satan is at work in the world and the Church. To counteract Satan’s strategy, Paul stresses strong bonds on several fronts: in marriages, among Believers in the Church, and in families where children are to obey parents. (Ephesians  4:3, 22-33)
  • Christians have a duty to avoid schisms in the Church. We are told to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians  4:3). We are to make every effort to strengthen our ties with each other in the body of Christ.
  • We face a formidable foe in Satan. He wishes to prevent Christians from evangelizing by creating an environment of hostility that may intimidate Believer’s into silence. Putting on the armour of God as commanded in the final chapter of Ephesians is very wise. Spiritual readiness helps to maintain our day-to-day relationships and defend against Satan’s tactics to cause dissent in the Church and lessen gospel effectiveness in the world.

Relationship building is of great concern to God. He has enabled us to experience relationships that bring honour to Himself because of our union in Christ. Where once man’s relationship to God was severed due to sin, now through faith in Christ, who having paid the price for our sins on Calvary, has brought us into a living relationship with each other and given us a ministry of reconciliation to the world. All things considered, it is motivating to know that in each Christian’s ministry, its effects on others may last into eternity.

Political Correctness

While drinking coffee in a restaurant, my attention was drawn to a conversation involving several gentlemen, discussing the current state of political correctness. Later that day I gave more thought to the nature of this growing trend where society seeks to avoid expressions or actions at most any cost to keep from offending others. Failure to follow suit, and you may be pinned with being prejudice or discriminatory without real cause. It seems that way these days. Any who wish to be truthful and honour Biblical precepts are being polarized since Christians do hold differing viewpoints about homosexuality, transgender rights, capital punishment, profiling, and cultural sensitivity —- the list keeps growing and growing. It used to be that people were united in principle to the Christian-Judeo based laws and ethics in our country. But that was back then. To speak openly now about sin issues and live out our convictions are being threatened by those who mistakenly think that by silencing dissenting opinions that they will limit racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, ableism and other so-called forms of discrimination.

I cannot help but think of the backward retreat into chaos that is now taking place. A police officer speaks openly about the plight of alcoholism in the native culture and he faces charges from his employer, a judge reprimands a Eastern Indian cab driver for sexual assault, that his degrading behavior toward women could affect how his culture is viewed by others finds himself also under fire. It seems people in professions are not to express realities in certain cultures. Nowadays, telling the truth carries repercussions. It now appears we are expected to say things in ways that often skirts the real issues, so not to offend anyone or put particular cultures in a bad light. The problem with not being honest is that you will never come to terms with the many difficulties that all of us must face about ourselves and our distinct societies.

We need to understand that God knows nothing about avoidance and tells all of us that we are sinners and that our sins are many and diversified. In the Old Testament, an account is given of a man named Achan who had stolen some articles and hid them. He was discovered and was punished and so was his family. It is thought that his family members knew about the theft and remained silent. God held everyone who was involved guilty and each paid a price for their sin (Joshua 7:10-26). What surrounded this issue were two obvious facts: first, the nation of Israel was not to tolerate Achan’s sin, and second, none can hide their sins from God. God holds those who are guilty accountable. In this exercise of justice, God brought before Joshua and the nation of Israel all the tribes, then the clans, until only Achan remained. This was done in front of the whole community so they could see for themselves the culpability of Achan, and by extension his family members. The end result is that any who may have had some leanings to do as Achan did would think twice about it afterwards. The community had learned a vital lesson that day about the God of Truth who hates deceitfulness and covetousness.

Each one of us is potential liars. Accepting this about ourselves is not always easy. Finding fault in someone else is much simpler and less shameful. It is never right to engage in falsehoods for the sake of preserving sensitivities or use it as a fictitious covering of individual(s) or culture. This is becoming far too frequent in the many rewrites of history that we term historical revisionism, a kind of re-interpretation of the historical record to suit one’s own choosing.

Often when facts are no longer important to us, we are victims of our own doing inasmuch as we fail to accept that life in a fallen world encompasses all types of sin issues in all kinds of people of different races, backgrounds, and cultures. Therefore, what ails us most cannot be fixed with misconceptions and made-up lies about ourselves; it only makes matters worse! Proponents who stand behind political correctness view gospel truth as a phantom enemy, since in their eyes it seemingly only ever excludes, marginalizes, or insults groups of people who refuse to accept it as the only way to God and see life from a proper perspective. The world needs the gospel message yet across our nation efforts are underway to reduce the Christian influence. Christmas is a prime example of this where the traditional manger scene normally seen in many of our public institutions has been removed. It seems we are not sensitive enough to other belief systems! Typically, our Christian heritage is put aside to accommodate other faiths. Apparently, it seems good for people to insist on their so-called rights, but soon forget their duty to honour God and His Christ that decades ago prevailed in many of our institutions and homes. In the wake of all these changes is a chilling reminder that truth no longer seems to matter that much anymore, as seen by the excessive attention placed on accommodation and acceptance of beliefs, practices and failings no matter how sinful and degrading these may be. Any resistance by pointing to the real reason(s) behind the failures of individuals or cultures and you may be categorized a bigot or racist and in need of some type of cultural sensitivity training. It appears that reality is fast becoming unreal.

The message of the gospel is a reality check on all of our lives. You either accept it or reject it. God means it to be that way. God demonstrated his intolerance to sin, especially among His chosen people when he dealt with Achan and his family. God acted in the only way He can and even gave Achan ample time to repent, which he failed to do. God does not support lying or the practise of it, and the current edition of “political correctness” is quite often a subtle form of misdirection and deceitfulness. Christians must be courageous and tell the truth always in love and to let the gospel ring true in their lives and speech. The Christian should never engage in falsehoods nor be dissuaded from honest communication because of fear, reprisals or intimidation – since we love God and because our world needs to hear the truth.