Growing pains is another word for conflict resolution. Conflict is a strong word but there are degrees of conflict. The reality is we live in an environment that cultivates conflict. When we have two people with differing opinions, we have conflict. Not all conflict should be avoided. How do we manage our lives in the midst of conflict? Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We all need to make decisions each day to live. Some decisions are critical, life and death. Some decisions are less critical. Decisions need to be made, life needs to be lived and conflict is an ever-present condition we have to deal with.
Let’s unpack that a little, have you ever heard two, or more, people decide where to go for dinner? Conflict. The first way to overcome this and end the discussion is to agree to pay. Most of us are willing to go along if someone else is paying, no matter how much we like the place chosen. The next best way is to allow the pickiest person to choose, the more flexible folks will go along. Then there is the granddaddy of all that trumps everyone, let mom choose. If momma is happy, everyone is happy.
To live we must decide, to decide we must determine the right direction, to determine the right direction we must listen to opposing viewpoints, to listen we must possess a spirit that is not quick to anger. Having the Holy Spirit alongside helps us achieve this.
James 1:19-20; NLT; Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.
Human anger does not reflect the character of God or produce what is right in God’s eyes.
That there is the first step in Biblical conflict resolution. Not an easy accomplishment, but a necessary lesson to be learned and practiced. We all want our opinion heard and acknowledged, we find value in that. But that is not where our value should come from. Our value will increase in the eyes of others when we follow this guidance from Scripture.
As we move along take a look at this passage from Acts, the church was growing and we all know that causes growing pains. Everyone has an opinion of what is important, we all have things that are important to us. So how do we move forward?
Acts 6:1; NLT; But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.
“Rumblings of discontent”; why can’t we all just get along? That takes work, practice and patience. Let’s take a look at how the Apostles handled this. First, they determined their priorities. As leaders they were responsible for leading everyone and allowing their focus to be shifted from that would be irresponsible. They also knew it was important that everyone received food.
Acts 6:2-3; NLT; So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. 3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility.
They gave the responsibility to the people to select men to oversee the distribution of food with three criteria; Well-respected, Full of the Spirit, and Wise. The key to the process is that in order to identify these men they needed to ask God. God would reveal who He called for the task. We know this because when the names were selected everyone was in agreement and received the solution. That only happens when we follow the direction of God through the Holy Spirit. Notice the criteria of those making the selection; “All Believers”. That means those who have received the Holy Spirit.
This isn’t to say they made unanimous choices, that limits the input from God. If everyone has an equal say then the least spiritually mature person guides the discussion and decision. The correct way is to let those, like the apostles, who have been set apart to lead, guide the decision. Here they outlined the criteria to use, knowing the believers would have to go to God for guidance.
There are differences of opinions. We see things differently. We disagree. Good people can disagree without dividing. The apostles’ response in this matter was to call the Christians together and suggest a solution.
It is significant that the apostles were not prepared simply to ignore the problem; they understood that spiritual and material concerns are so intimately related in Christian experience, one always affects the other for better or worse.
They didn’t ignore the problem, they also didn’t try to assign blame or act in any paternalistic fashion, a parent telling children what to do. Rather, their suggestion was that seven men “full of the Spirit and wisdom” be chosen from among the congregation who could take responsibility in the affair. When we come together in the Spirit of God to resolve something God moves through His people and provides a resolution.
Acts 6:7a: NLT; So God’s message continued to spread.