We were sitting at the table discussing how to lead people through difficult decisions. I said, “You have to love them through it.”
“What does loving someone through a difficult decision even look like?” he asked.
So, I told him a story about Tim, a church member, who had applied for a position on staff. Even though he had a very compelling story of how God had led him to apply, we came to the conclusion it wasn’t the right time for him to be in this role.
We met with Tim several times listening to his story and his calling. We affirmed his calling and explored the responsibilities of the specific role and what it would take to fulfill them. My wife and I met with him and his wife and talked about vocational ministry. Finally, after telling him no at least at this time, I invited him into a discipling relationship. The relationship lasted for about a year.
Tim was very disappointed. But as a couple they knew they were loved and accepted the decision and continued to seek to understand God’s calling on their lives. Today, Tim and his family are part of Discover Point and are serving in ministry leadership roles.
Love is our primary responsibility!
Jesus said we could sum up the entire Bible in two commands: Love God and Love Others. When we do not know what to do or where to start, begin by loving others.
When someone is going through a tough time whether it was their choice or a tough decision we had to make that got them there, our responsibility is to love them.
In a larger context, we need to love people through all kinds of conflict. Honestly, most conflict exists because we don’t choose to love first. God created each of us as an unique individual. All the diversity adds flavor to our lives, but with diversity comes conflict.
Several years ago I had the privilege of joining several Western Wayne High School students in mediation training. It was a great experience learning about conflict resolution among these young men and women. We learned a three principles critical to reconciliation:
- Communicate simply and clearly. Each person needs to communicate clearly and distinctly what they believe are the most important aspects of the conflict. It is important to use “I” statements not “you” statements to de-esculate the situation.
- Listen for understanding. Each party needs to be able to repeat back the other side’s position of the situation.
- Commit to resolution. Every one has to be committed to finding a solution. A positive solution must take priority over winning the argument.
Conflict can do severe damage to a relationship. One of the most vulnerable aspects of a relationship is trust. In conflict, hateful words, lies, and self-centered attitudes erode trust. When trust is gone, the relationship is on life support.
Here is the good news:
Love is the stable path.
In 1 John 2:3-11, we learn from the Apostle John how to handle conflict.
John was the youngest of Jesus’ disciples. He and his brother James were given the nickname “Sons of Thunder.” They were rough country boys. Grew up with lewd fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Today, they would have been all tatted up. They probably would have ridden Harley’s to and from the docks.
By the time John was writing this letter, he had become known as the Apostle of Love. What a transformation! He had gone from wanting to call down fire from heaven on those who opposed Jesus to calling everyone to a radical love for their brothers and sisters.
Let’s pick up in verse 3. And I want to walk through this passage a few verses at a time and give commentary.
3We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.
We recognize John, one of the Sons of Thunder in these verses. Shooting straight. Not holding any punches! But wait
5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is wise…Whoever hears them and does not put them into practice is foolish.”
You should highlight verse 6. Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. We need to learn how to live from Jesus. We need to learn how to love from Jesus.
7Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
Let me paraphrase this for you: This is not new; it was the heart of the scriptures from the beginning. But it is an expanded version. We see it clearly in Christ. Jesus has brought it into the light, a very bright light.
9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.
If hate is ruling in your heart towards a brother or sister, you are stumbling along in the dark. Usually, it is obvious to everyone but you. You can’t follow Jesus because you can’t see Him.
10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.
This is the good news. Loving others is the stable path. When love has the helm, trouble isn’t coming from within. There is still plenty out there, but your walking in the light with eyes to see.
11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
Here is a question, “What does love look like in the midst of conflict?” Let me give three ideas for you and the Holy Spirit to wrestle through…
- Love is putting others needs above our own (see Philippians 2:3)
- Love is listening for understanding (see James 1:19)
- Love is valuing the relationship over the win (see Philippians 2:4)
So whether you are in conflict with someone now or find yourself there in the future, how will you love them?