Editor’s Note: The AMI QT devotionals from April 4-10 are provided by Cami King. Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, is about to complete her M.Div. at Gordon Conwell Seminary. She is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
I don’t know many people who like conflict. It’s uncomfortable, messy, and can escalate to become down right hurtful. No one likes to be wrong. And in the Christian community, we often don’t feel comfortable telling others when we think they are wrong – it just doesn’t feel like the good Christian thing to do. While it may feel much better to be in agreement with others, conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Paul and Barnabas found themselves in disagreement with a group of Jewish believers on the matter of Gentile inclusion into the family of God. How were these Gentiles to conduct themselves as believers? What would it look like for God to incorporate those outside of the Jewish ethnic identity – two things that had always been so closely linked? These were actually really important questions and the dispute that arose over this matter was indeed a healthy dispute – it pushed the church to seek God’s will in this area, to grow in their understanding of what His kingdom looks like, and it gave opportunity for Paul and Barnabas to share of God’s work in the Gentile community and encourage believers through their testimony.
In their book, Thriving Through Ministry Conflict, James Osterhaus, Joseph Jurkowski, and Todd Hahn explain that, contrary to popular belief, “’Resistance is your ally.’ It’s your ally, not your enemy, because it shows you that what you are doing is not working.” In other words, we stand to learn a lot from conflict. When we encounter resistance in the family of God, we tend to fight it or ignore it. But with humble and open hearts we can also choose to embrace it and find out what God is teaching us through the conflict and how God is moving us together as a people in that particular area.
If you find yourself in situations of disagreement and dispute (especially within the community of faith), embrace it as an opportunity to learn from God. As the Holy Spirit works within you and within your brothers and sisters around you, the body of Christ can get closer to the heart of God, even as we disagree.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me an open heart to the views of others and humility as I hold my own. In situations of disagreement and conflict, may I learn from those around me through the power of Your Holy Spirit and draw closer to them and to You even in the tension. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Proverbs 23
Lunch Break Study
Read James 4:1-10: What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Questions to Consider:
- What does James say is the source of our fights and quarrels? Remembering past or present situations, how do you find James’ words to be true in your lived experience?
- What does James tell us to do in response to our self-centeredness, greed, and pride in the midst of arguments?
- What is the promise that James gives to those who will put his words into practice? How does that encourage you as you face situations of conflict?
- James locates the source of disputes in one simple word – pride. Many have said that what we argue about and the things that make us angry tell us more about what’s going on inside us than what’s going on around us. Self-centeredness often leads to arguing when we face situations of conflict.
- James calls us to turn our attention away from ourselves and toward our God. Instead of fighting for the things we need, we can trust in the provision of our heavenly Father in any given situation. When we take our eyes off ourselves and place God at the center, we often gain new perspective that defuses the emotional charge in situation of disagreement that can lead to fights and arguments. We make this turn through repentance.
- James promises that God will take care of us. As we turn to Him and draw near to Him, He will meet us there and not only provide for our needs, but will give us grace (or favor). We can take comfort in knowing that as we humble ourselves (declare our need before God), the Lord doesn’t leave us low, but instead He exalts us.
In Thriving Through Ministry Conflict, the authors explain that, “…technical change—change on the surface—is not lasting change. Real, lasting change is called adaptive change, change that alters the very structure of the relationship or environment and touches on the deepest of issues such as values.” Situations of conflict provide opportunities for us to change and grow to be more like Jesus. What kind of change is God calling you to today in light of situations of conflict you’re facing? More than just behavior adjustments, is God challenging the nature of a relationship, value system, etc. in your life? Spend sometime reflecting on these things with the Lord.