Monday, November 16, 2009

2009 – Day 319.Nov 16 – Positive Separation

Passage for Study: Acts 15: 30 - 41 … Acts 15 linked for your study …

My Journal for Today: Today, with the help of a famous Christian story of disagreement in Acts 15, Chuck Swindoll teaches about how to deal with disagreement, which will inevitably arise when Christians, even men or women of good character are working together. Being an Elder in my church I can give a witness of agreement to this. When strong minded people, even those with the degree of maturity experienced by a Paul and Barnabas, come together about important issues, there will, at times, be disagreements; and how we handle those moments can be important to God’s plan moving forward – or not.

Swindoll provides several suggestions which are worthy of consideration. The first of these is quite logical and apparent; and that is to ”... work to see the other point of view.” In any conflict three qualities, according to Swindoll, must be drawn upon … honesty, objectivity, and humility. Remember, we must acknowledge that we humans have a deceitful heart (see Jer. 17: 9); and we have to recognize that our flesh often works against us to build walls of separation between even the most mature of Christians. Without vulnerability and humility and caring for the interests of others (see Phil. 2: 3-4), tempered by really listening to the positions of those with whom we disagree, disagreements can become flesh-driven schisms which damage the kingdom of God. So, every attempt should be made to seek objectivity and clarity, even by bringing in Godly counsel (see Prov. 15: 22) to help in the deliberations when needed.

Swindoll’s second point is that ”when both sides have validity, seek compromise.” When arguments are compounded by strong personalities, who have strong positions, it may be difficult to find one, clear position to which both parties can agree and take. Therefore, some compromise should be sought. And here again an agreed upon third party, a mediator or counselor, may be indicated. Of course all should agree in the end that the solution decided upon is biblical and should be taken to follow God’s leading.

Thirdly, Pastor Chuck counsels strong-minded Christians in the midst of disagreement to ”… care enough to work it through rather than walk out.” God’s Spirit must grieve to see Christians – and even Christian churches or marriages – where disagreements lead to one or both parties in the disagreement splitting and letting pride dictate the split rather than relying on the humility and meekness our Lord would rather see moving both parties or sides to find an acceptable option for God’s glory. I’ve seen churches split relatively recently where sinful bitterness prevailed because Christians “cut and ran” rather than staying to find God’s solution. When pride prevails, rather than Christlike humility, Satan will pour his gas on those flames which can produce heat which can have lasting and damaging effect on Christians who buy into the lies of the enemy.

And finally, Swindoll advises Christians who disagree, when the issue cannot be resolved, ”… to graciously agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable.” There’s no evidence in the disagreement over John Mark in Acts 15, which caused Paul and Barnabas to split company, that either became angry or let roots of bitterness to prevail against these two stalwart Christians warriors. They simply decided to take new companions and head out on the missionary trails in different directions, seeking to do their best to spread the Gospel; and there is evidence that God worked mightily through both parties. And we know later that the feelings which led John Mark to be chosen by Barnabas were resolved when Paul credited Mark for his duty to the Lord [see Col. 4: 10-11 and 2nd Tim. 4: 11].

We are human, my dear ones. And we are going to have disagreements – even among solid, mature Christians who love the Lord and desire to serve Him for His glory. So, we need to do all we can to avoid anger or withdrawal, which will only serve to separate and divide the Saints, giving over power to the enemy in spiritual warfare. We must do all we can to remain unified and to seek every avenue which we can to follow Christ. And as I do so often in my devotionals, I recall the words of Christ Himself, who said (in Luke 9: 23), “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” And with that in mind, I close with the same quote Swindoll used to close in his devotional for today, which came from Phillip Melanchthon, an advisor to Martin Luther, who wrote, ”In essentials unity. In non-essentials liberty. In all things charity.” I could teach on those principles for days; but we’ll just leave that to your consideration in dealing with any matters of disunity or disagreement in your Christian life.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help us find Your direction, Your unity, and Your power to overcome our own weaknesses and disagreements. We want to follow YOU. Amen

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