For over twenty years, I have gone out and worked with churches embroiled in conflict. The issues folks have had with one another have varied with each church. Some people have been upset over changes the leadership of their church decided to enact. Some conflicts have been personality-driven. The reasons for the disputes have been many.
In my years of working with these churches, I have seen some recurrent behaviors. When some are involved in a conflict, they become like a bulldog. They grab ahold of their position, as though it were a bone. Others resign themselves to avoiding all issues since they are averse to conflict in every form. And thankfully, some choose to engage in working things through and finding a solution.
In these times of helping folks through conflicts, I teach them how Jesus laid out the path to working through disputes in Matthew 18. I am frequently amused to encounter those who are genuinely surprised that Jesus even addressed how we are intended to deal with such issues.
My mentor in this work (the late Rev. Terry Gladstone) frequently challenged folks with this phrase: “Don’t get mad, don’t get even, get what you want.” To get what you want in times of trouble requires you to stay connected with the ones with which you are at odds. To get what you want requires you to be willing to speak your desires, and to be prepared to hear from others of how they understand the situation.
Today, I knew I had to engage in a conversation with a service provider who didn’t come close to offering service worthy of their company. I waited a few days before making my call, as I knew I might say a few things I might regret, or words not becoming of a follower of Jesus. By the time the call was over, I felt I’d been heard, and the provider made a better effort to compensate me for my troubles.
Take a look at Matthew 18 the next time you are at odds with another. “Don’t get mad, don’t get even, get what you want!”
Grace and Peace,