Thursday, October 22, 2015

Agree to Disagree

                I do not like conflict. I never have. I avoid it at all costs. I am the first one to back down as soon as someone raises their voice at me. I would rather take the beating then give the beating. This unfortunately has made me the door mat to many people in my life. They know that I will back down as soon as conflict arises, so they raise their voice to prove their right and I am wrong, and I do exactly what they hoped I would do- I back down. Not only do I not like conflict, but I try to avoid opposition as well. I always believed that opposition and conflict was the same thing, but the Lord showed me today they are not. Opposition is the beginning of conflict. It is the door that leads to conflict. Once it is opened, if it is not shut properly, the likely hood of war looms overhead.
            Opposition is that point where you realize that you and another person stand on opposite sides of the door. They are going in and you are going out. You run into each other. It is the
beginning of the storm when the winds start to pick up and it makes it hard to walk. Conflict arises when the two parties refuse to give up their opinions and instead of seeking peace, they seek to be right. It’s that moment when they refuse to agree to disagree. We all face opposition. We all have had those moments where someone disagrees with us, or comes against us. As Christians we face opposition everyday living from the world. But what do we do when we face opposition in the midst of our relationships with other believers? What do we do when opposition has the potential to become conflict?
                That is where I am at today. I am faced with an opposition, the wind is just beginning to pick up, and I know there is a storm brewing. I am about to make a decision that will cause a friend of mine, a fellow believer, to disagree with my decision. I have prayed about this decision, I have sought the will of God in the midst of it, I have struggled over His answer and I have come to the conclusion that I must obey God, even if they disagree. I have talked about this decision with this friend of mine and they have given me their opinion. They have stated their thoughts, their ideas and what they think I should do. But, their advice goes against what God is showing me. Once they hear my decision we are going to be like two mountain rams butting heads and locking horns. I want to avoid this if I can, because, like I mentioned earlier, I don’t like conflict. It is easier just to make up an excuse or just listen to their onslaught of opinions, but by doing that I would be going against what God has shown me. God is telling me to stand, but my legs are telling me to run! So, what do I do?
                Paul could probably understand what I am facing better than anyone. He faced opposition from the moment he gave his life to Jesus on the Damascus road throughout his entire life from his fellow Jews. Even the Apostles showed opposition to him when they first heard that he had become a Christian! One instance in particular came to my mind this morning as I was praying about this storm that is brewing on the horizon.
                “But when Cephas {Peter} came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned….But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel…” Galatians 2:11-14
                For the sake of time I am not going to give you the whole scripture, but will hope that you will go and read through it for yourself. Paul sees Peter is not right in his behaviors. He goes to Peter and tells him that what he is doing is wrong. His behavior is wishy- washy and can cause many of the Gentiles to stumble in their faith if he doesn’t stop. Basically, Peter was eating bacon for breakfast with the Gentiles, but when the Jews would come he would tell them he couldn’t have any because he was Jewish. It was confusing and causing some of the Gentiles to question their beliefs. Paul withstands Peter but notice that no conflict arose. Why? Because Paul was right? That is part of the reason, but the other reason I believe the Lord is showing us today is because Paul knew the importance of living in peace with his fellow brother.
                Paul did not desire conflict, he just pointed out to Peter that there was a problem. Paul shows Peter how his behavior is affecting others, and leaves it at that. He speaks the truth that God has shown him and he walks away. As I read through this account I thought about the words of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 5:23-24 and Matthew 18:15. In both of these scriptures Jesus tells us that if we have anything against our brother we need to go to him and tell him. In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus tells us that before we come to God to be forgiven, we need to go to our fellow brother and forgive them, and be forgiven by them first. In Matthew 18:15 Jesus tells us that if we have anything against our brother then we need to go and work it out if we can. We must make peace with our brother on earth is we desire peace with our Father in heaven.
                If we cannot live in peace with our brothers on earth, how are we going to live in peace with God who made our brothers? Paul disagreed with Peter and Paul stood upon what he believed was truth and was right. He did not fight with Peter; he did not seek to make his opinion the only opinion that mattered. He just plainly stated to Peter what God has shown him and he left it at that. Paul knew that God was the only one who could and would change the heart of Peter. Paul could speak the truth, but God was the only one who would make right- right.
                We are not going to agree on everything all the time. We are going to disagree. You may make a decision in your life that someone else disagrees with. I do want to say that I am not talking about sin. If you are choosing to live in a life of sinful behavior and your brother or sister opposes that sin, then I pray that God will use that to lead you to repentance. If you have a brother or sister that is in sin, I pray that you would speak up and show them the truth. The decision that I have had to make is not sin, nor am I making a choice to sin. This decision is about a direction I need to take. Those decisions that we may see one way and our fellow brothers and sisters may see another way. Those decisions to stay at a church when perhaps your brother or sister thinks the church is not a good one, or they don’t think that you should go there because they don’t. These are the decisions that may bring opposition, and we must be prepared to face this opposition, as God would have us face it.  
                Like me, maybe you are faced with this sort of opposition right now. Let me encourage you today with these words. You follow God. You walk the way that He is showing you to walk according to His word in you and let them take their opinions to His throne on their own. You are not on this earth to please or to seek to please other people’s opinions about how you walk before the Lord your God. You are here on this earth to fulfill the plans and purposes that He has created for you to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). At the end, when you stand before God you will answer for you; for your opinions, your decisions, your thoughts, and your life. The only one God is concerned about right now is you. Y.O.U. Their thoughts, their opinions, their decisions, they will answer for them before God. You will answer for you. Stand upon what God has spoken to you, what God has shown you through His word. He will give you what you need to stand against the opposition. You can take their opinions under advisement, hold them up against the word of God, but in the end, you have to do what you believe God is telling you to do. You do not live for man, you live for God.
                If God is sovereign, then He must be sovereign over our decisions, whether right or wrong and our mistakes, whether good or bad. You will answer for you, not them. We are going to face opposition my friend. People are going to disagree with the way we do things, the decisions we make, the way we walk and run because we are all different. God does not lead me the way that He leads you. We were created with differences according to His will and His design. What path I must take is not the path that you must take. God did not create every single tree to be the same. Each one is unique and perfect in its own way. Each one goes through different droughts and different seasons at different times. Your opinions are your opinions, my decisions are my decisions, and I will answer for every single one of them. I don’t have to answer for yours.
                When that opposition arises, and it will arise, I want you to remember this one truth. How you respond and react to that opposition is what God is focused on. He is looking at your heart, not theirs. He is looking at your choices, not theirs. He is looking at whether or not you stand on His word and obey Him, or cave under their opinions and do what they think you should do. He is not asking us to take that opposition and turn it into a conflict of who is right and who is wrong. We gave up the right to be right when we gave our lives to Jesus Christ. If we cannot live in peace with our brothers, how are we ever going to live in peace with God who made our brothers?
                “Finally brethren, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11

                We must strive always to live in peace. Sometimes, even as Christians we must agree to disagree. If we seek our opinions and our right to be right then we do not understand the heart of our God. His heart is for peace, and He alone is the only one who has any right to be right. If we can’t live in peace with one another, how will we ever be able to live in peace with the God who created us and called us all to peace? Amen.