I’ve never been a big fan of conflict. When I was younger, my dad used to get a kick of how I would try to smooth things over and be the peacemaker. As an adult, he cautioned me not to take it too much to heart. It’s not that I can’t hold my own when conflict erupts; it’s just that it takes me a while to recover once it happens.
Maybe that’s why I was so disappointed when I witnessed what I thought was going to be a battle of words between two Christian authors. It started when one of the individuals publicly criticized the other. Immediately people began to jumped to the defense. As I awaited the response of the one who was criticized*, I couldn’t help but thinking how antithetical this was to the Matthew 18:15 command. Instead of one individual privately talking to the other about their concerns, people from both sides started having a public exchange of opinions. Others were brought in to the fray with their views on what happened. What could have possibly been handled as an instructive and growing time for both individuals, became a public spectacle that was a poor representation of Christ.
What happened on this large scale, happens all the time in smaller arenas.
Someone offends us.
We get angry.
Then instead of going to that individual, we have our justifications and our excuses for why we think it’s o.k. to talk to someone else. We deliberately ignore what God says and in so doing forget that our love for each other is a reflection of our love for Him (See John 13:35). We tell people that we want to invite them into the family of God, but if this is how we treat one another, is it really a family they’d want to join?
Being set apart for Christ should mean that we act differently from those who are not. May our relationships with one another be one place where we demonstrate this.
*(I’m thrilled to say that in this case, the one who was criticized responded with grace. Hopefully if we’re on the wrong end of public criticism, we’ll do the same.)