How to Face Conflict-Part 1 of 4

by Wayne Barber

Jesus be Jesus in me. No longer me but Thee. Resurrection power fill me this hour; Jesus be Jesus in me!" This song has been such a wonderful reminder to me of what the Christian life really is! It is a relationship with the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. As you and I learn to yield to Him fully in every area of our lives, He lives His life through us. His Grace enables us as believers to be what otherwise we could never be. That truth covers every area of our Christian existence on earth. It particularly is true when we face conflict. Christ is to be our character in the face of conflict!  He, living in us, will enable us to respond properly to any conflict if we submit our lives to Him.

Conflict comes in all shapes and sizes but it is especially difficult when it involves one of our friends being mistreated. In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul deals with this type of situation. It gets even more interesting when we realize that Paul himself is the one being mistreated by the false teachers of Corinth, and the Corinthian believers are the ones wanting to do something about it. In verses 1-3, Paul wants to prevent them from making a big mistake, which would be to take up an offense for Paul. This is the thought in the beginning verses of chapter 10.

In our text Paul will show us what we must understand before we ever deal with any conflict! We are to let Jesus be Jesus in us! First of all, before we do anything, we must understand the character that is required: "Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ" (v. 1). The word "urge" in the Greek is parakeléo\, which is in the present indicative active: I am begging you in the meekness and in the gentleness of Christ! We all need to understand that only Christ can produce this character in us! This character can be misunderstood in us, just as it was in the Apostle Paul. 

You see, many of his critics accused Paul of being timid and afraid of confronting the Corinthians face to face. The very fact that he had sent a very "bold" letter to them, instead of going to them as he had promised, fell right into their hands. Paul alludes to this in the last of the verse as he says, almost tongue in cheek, "I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent." That is evidently what they were using against him. "Oh," they would say, "he is tough when he writes a letter but he is afraid to come and confront us." But Paul is pointing us all to the character of Christ who lives in him. 

Christ is certainly not weak! These words "meekness and gentleness" are never to be misunderstood as representing weakness. "Meekness" in the Greek is prate\s.  Though meekness may sound like weakness, it is actually the strength of one's character who loves others more than he loves himself. Meekness is a disposition that so trusts God that it actually gives one the ability to stand calm and quiet in the face of being wrongly accused and mistreated. It is the character of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives in us (see Matt. 27:12-14). Meekness, when we are being treated badly, causes us to remain quiet, knowing that God will defend us! But when it's for the sake of others, meekness will cause one to confront evil with a vengeance.  We see this demonstrated by Jesus when He took a whip and drove out the money changers from the Temple (John 2:15-16).

Aristotle said that meekness is a virtue that stands between two extremes: A meek person is not too quick to be angry but neither is he passive. He knows when and when not to exercise his anger.  To this Paul adds "gentleness"—epiekeia—which describes the humble and gracious way a person conducts himself. It is seen by the world as weakness and timidity because it does not draw attention to itself. When the world sees this mild, gentle way of life it says in ignorance: "He has no bite."

But gentleness is patient restraint. This marvelous characteristic of Christ living in us causes us to patiently restrain our boldness to confront. And when we have to confront, it causes us to never go further than necessary. Paul, by putting these two words together, is saying to the Corinthians: don't mistake the humble, gentle way I am when I'm among you to be weakness or passivity. He is saying, I know "when" and I know "how much" to be bold towards those who sin and deceive others.

We must find our adequacy in Christ before we ever deal with those who falsely accuse us or others. It is an absolute requirement!

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