15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (NIV)
The natural response to conflict is self-protection. However, believers are not called to be self-protective but self-sacrificing. When we approach conflict in the posture of Christ, there is great power in conflict for God to do great things.
Our passage today reminds us that all conflict should have as its goal to win the other over. This is only possible by assuming a cross-centered ethos. Jesus said He did not come to judge the world but to save it. When we enter into conflict with justice as our goal, we risk losing the relationship in a spirit of condemnation. Instead, our priority is not to judge or condemn their behavior, hurtful as it may have been. On the contrary, we seek to be used by God to deliver them from hurtful, self-destructive behavior. Their behavior may have hurt us, but it is working to hurt them also.
Hurtful behavior occurs when a person does not feel safe. Their insecurity creates a sense in them that they must protect themselves. The resulting behavior can be an arrogant façade, a harsh temperament, and the pursuit of selfish gain. This behavior reflects a lack of trust in the Lord. People do not trust the Lord when they doubt His power, love, or both. Conflict is a moment of great potential to alter their perception of Christ.
When we, as Christians, respond to hurtful behavior in love, we reveal God’s love. It is not a love that must be or can be earned. It is a love that endures even when we engage in the most wicked behavior. When we love people in their wickedness, we can be used by God to open their eyes to a love never before experienced, the love of Christ.
When we continue in love through conflict, we also reveal great restraint, a peace that surpasses understanding. People will marvel at the grace in our response. They may recognize the power of God in our display of self-control, peace, love, and forgiveness.
The question we must answer is if we value being correct and proving them wrong more than we value them as a child of God. How can we love God when we do not put forth the effort to rescue His children?
Prayer: Lord, circumcise away my heart’s desire for justice when I have been hurt. Help me love through conflict to reveal Your power and love. Amen.