Thursday, June 14, 2007

When to delay the immediate

Do your best to maintain the unity of the Spirit by means of the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit. In the same way, you were called to the one hope of your calling. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, through all, and in all.” (Ephesians 4:3-6)

All you need to be convinced that maintaining unity is difficult is a re- read of the first three words in this text. I did a pretty extensive search and didn’t find a single verse that said that this unity happens easily.

We had some lively discussion last week because the command to deal with brewing conflict immediately seems completely unworkable and has been disastrous in some particular examples. Before discussing these situations I think it is imperative to emphasize two reasons addressing brewing conflict without delay is important.

Jesus commands it (Matthew 5:23-26). That should be all the reason we need. But it’s also true that when we are in conflict we generate victim-villain-rescuer versions of the situation. Delay gives time for this version of the facts to become entrenched. Delay makes it more difficult to discern our contribution to the conflict. Delay makes it more difficult to discern any explanation for the position of the other person that does not include the words “stupid, or mean.” Paul wrote (Galatians 6:1 & 2 Timothy 2:25 & Romans 12:18-20) that we must approach the other person in gentleness and kindness.

A key idea is that Matthew 7 says there are times when we need to do something else before we talk with the other person. Specifically, we need to take the log out of our own eye BEFORE we go talk to them.

“Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when the beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:4, 5)

I think the main “log” being mentioned here is probably the inability to talk with them in gentleness and kindness.

There may be 3 or 4 times when a delay might be appropriate. But I can’t wait to hear what y’all think about it.

To get you thinking, I remind you of a Sunday conversation we had way back in August or September. We were talking about this same pattern we all have or interpreting conflicts in light of the victim, villain, and rescuer scenario. I mentioned that God reveals a different scenario in the Trinity. The three persons do not function as victim, villain, and rescuer. They function as giver, recipient, and the agent through whom the gift is given. I think that might give us some insight as to how we can break out of the version of reality we trap ourselves in and some good ideas about when delay may be appropriate.

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