I hate conflict and I have no problem admitting it. (Although I do enjoy watching it unfold in the lives of other people. I know, I’m sick.) Why is it that we can watch talk shows, reality shows, and any other type of media piece and get excited because something conflicting happens? Another confession: I think reality shows are boring unless there happens to be a fight (conflict) of some sorts taking place. There’s irony in all this (and maybe a seed of selfishness) because when conflict enters my own personal space I become livid and wish it were never there.
Acts 15 (Click to read) is one of those passages in our Bible that makes you scratch your head and speculate. “What was Luke thinking putting this here?” or “Why did God allow this to be placed in His Word?” Like the whole David and Bathsheeba story, truth is on display. If this portion of scripture never appeared, we might not have known how a Christian is to work things out when he is in disagreement with another Christian. Or how to handle conflict within our churches. We also see in this chapter of Acts that Christians can disagree with one another and work the conflict out. This passage also shows God at work in the hearts and minds of those who love Him (See Acts 15:28).
Here’s what I observed from this passage on dealing with conflict:
1. The issue was addressed and dealt with. (v. 2) Paul and Barnabas never denied the severity of the problem. But, more importantly, they never denied dealing with it. A lesson to be learned by all of us. When conflict arises deal with it! Especially conflict within the your church. Don’t shrug it off and hope for it to disappear, because it could cause rotting. For Paul and Barnabas, this meant going straight to the source (Jerusalem) of where the issue arose. They didn’t hesitate or wait around for it to just go away, they acted as if it were their main concern for the moment.
2. A solution was offered. (v. 19-21) Trouble was brewing for the Gentile Christians. Imagine hearing from your pastor that in order for you to continue being a Christian, you have to slice off a chunk of flesh from your body? And if you don’t, you’re going to be cast out of the church. If there were no solution to this and Sunday after Sunday you heard it, what would you think? You were just told by someone else that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved (Romans 10:13). Now, something else has been added to that! You’ve been duped! Thank God the elders and apostles came up with a solution to the problem together. (See Acts 15:24-29)
Questions to consider:
- What are some ways you deal with conflict?
- How does that measure up with Acts 15?