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Monday, May 26, 2014

Christian Conflicts: Truth and Anger

In Ephesians, Paul gives us some guidelines about dealing with conflict in a God honoring way. We've already talked a bit about conflicts and that conflicts so often reveal our own hearts.

Our faith changes us- not because we're trying to earn salvation, but because we're grateful for salvation, putting on a new self. We're now to live a distinctly different lifestyle than we see in the culture around us- but how difficult that is!

If we're to live differently, that means that we're to deal with issues differently.

"Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." -Ephesians 4:25-30
Whew! That's a lot of practical advice from Paul. Let's talk about it.

First, we're told to speak the truth.

I'll be honest (ha! This is the right section for it, right?)- this is a problem in the Midwest. We're nice. Very nice. Because we don't tell the truth. If there's an issue, a conflict that comes up between people, we tend to ignore it rather than being authentic with one another. Avoidance is a form of lying! Avoiding an issue means that the same trouble will keep coming up, and will cause bitterness in the relationship.

After all, as Paul says, we're all members of one body. We're all "in it together"- working towards becoming like Christ and sharing his good news with everyone. Lying doesn't help anything. So when we have a conflict with someone, we need to be honest and actually tell them. Working through things may seem like quite a lot of effort, but it's worth it to not carry bitterness towards a brother or sister in Christ.

Now, it's also worth noting that telling the truth doesn't mean telling everything. We need to use our discernment. Not everyone needs to know everything. I may tell my husband the details of a conflict with a co-worker, but bringing up all the details during a staff meeting? Not necessary. There's a difference between being honest and dragging someone (or even yourself) through the dirt.

Paul also says that when we're angry, we're to stay away from sin. It isn't a sin to be angry. Anger is an emotion, often times very justified, especially if someone has harmed us. Jesus himself got angry several times in the Gospels. Anger, used correctly, can be productive.

That being said, a sin against me does not (does not!) justify a sin done by me. It's important not to let our anger get the best of us. There's a tricky balance that takes place here- between letting anger out and holding in our anger. Think about it. Pray. What's the best decision at this particular moment? I don't want to hold on to anger and cultivate bitterness in my heart, but I also don't want to say things I don't mean or explode.

My family is very different than Zeke's family. Zeke's family is reserved, quiet, generally calm and collected. They're not dramatic people. My family? Well... it's amazing we haven't been kicked out of more restaurants. We're a bit... fiery. Speaking our minds is something we do well, and (unfortunately), so is letting our tempers get the best of us.

But no matter your family history or quick tempered-nature, its been important for me to remember that when I was saved by Christ, I've been grafted onto the vine of Christ. I no longer have to grow with my family's histories or particular sins- I'm now a part of the family of Christ, first and foremost. 

This passage has so, so many implications for our lives. Let's just chew on this part for a while, and come back to it later, all right?

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