Matthew 5:34-37 (The Message)
33-37 “And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.
Mark 8: 31-33 (New international Version)
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
I had ‘one of those’ encounters this week. You know the ones – those that leave you scratching your head and wondering what happened to conflict-resolution 101. To make it even worse, it was by text so I actually have a record of the whole encounter and can analyze it and reanalyse it to death. I did navigate the waters of conflict resolution as well as I think I could but it left me with a decidedly bad taste in my mouth and the issue wasn’t even about me! But it did leave me thinking about what it means to be in conflict with each other and also be in community with each other.
Churches are rife with conflict. Much to my chagrin. In my experience, the reason for conflict often boils down to two things; integrity and power. Or maybe the lack of integrity and the quest for power.
Integrity is something that’s hard to define, and so I have relied on what Stephen Covey says in his book ‘7 Habits of Highly Successful people’. He says simply that integrity is doing what you say you’re going to do. I love that our own faith stories say exactly the same thing! (see verse 33 of Matthew 5 above). (Tell me again why people say that Christianity isn’t relevant! Lol).
So why do we have trouble with integrity? Why do we feel the need to ‘lay down a smokescreen of pious talk’ (Matthew 5:34)? My own experience is that I say things and promise things that I can’t deliver on when I’m feeling insecure about myself and I think that I can’t meet the expectations of the people around me. I get caught thinking that who I am and what I am gifted with isn’t good enough.
And when I think about this, I realize that I’m not trusting that God has created, gifted and Called me to be exactly who I am.
Which brings me to my second point and that’s about power. Or our quest for personal power rather than allowing God to be in control. I love the except from the book of Mark that I put above because it has Peter kind of audaciously ‘rebuking’ (or scolding) Jesus. Can you imagine? Scolding the person you have just identified as your Messiah? In Peter’s case, the reason for the scolding here was because he didn’t like what Jesus was saying; that he was going to face persecution, rejection and death. Jesus, when he hears what Peter says to him, names that what Peter is saying is wrong, is evil and that Peter is looking for ‘human’ concerns; a Messiah that will bring power and prominence to them, rather than God’s concerns.
So, now a lack of trust in God’s power and purpose and a grabbing at their own power and purpose.
So what can I say to all of you today, my dear Bethel Friends? Well, its that if you come into conflict with someone; or maybe I should say WHEN you come into conflict with someone, then work it through as best as you can and then do a little ‘Jesus-check’: Are you operating with integrity here? And are you allowing God to be the One who has power here or are you grabbing at it yourself?
It all kind of boils down to trust, eh. Trust that you have been gifted, called, and chosen exactly as you are and you don’t need a ‘smoke screen of pious talk’ (I love that phrase), and trust that God has power and control and that you don’t need to grab it for yourself. I certainly experience that I need to work on this constantly and daily. I’m serious about doing the ‘Jesus-check’!
And maybe, if we all work on this together, we will , well – live into our call to show that we are Christians by our love.
Blessings today, and of course, remember you are Loved.
(Pictures today are of the dogs. I couldn’t figure out how to take a picture of ‘integrity’ and ‘power’! But you know, the dogs always have integrity! )