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Conflict, Consequences, & Responsibility

Our scriptures provide practical life advice and a Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) for confronting conflict, accepting consequences, and embracing our responsibility in relationship. Conflict, consequences, and responsibility are neutral terms despite often painted in an unfavorable light.

The entire creation, including human creatures, are inter-weaved in an inter-dependent relationship; and thus, per family systems theory, what impacts one will impact all in a ripple effect of sorts.

Unfortunately, it is not breaking news that our world, nation, communities, and ourselves are troubled. The church universal, as expressed in denominations and their congregations, are not immune.

Jesus was not naïve about our humanness rooted in sin, or self-centeredness, and its resulting trouble. Jesus provided the Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) for conflict resolution and repentance as consequence for the disciples, the early church, and our modern church, while Paul expanded upon our responsibility to love our siblings (neighbors) as the fulfillment of the Torah, the teaching or law

So, shall we confront conflict?

Conflict is unpreventable within our shared, communal lives and relationships. However, said conflict does not necessarily result in either harm to or broken relationships among persons and/or institutions whether only once removed or a million times removed in our ever-connected, inter-dependent world. 

Conflict, if addressed well, can promote healthier relationships rooted in trust, informed through proper boundaries, and improved communication between the partners.

Conflict management styles are traditionally either Passive, Passive-Aggressive, or Aggressive. The culture of the Midwest, and further within congregations, is most often passive-aggressive. In comparison, the culture of the Southwest is most often aggressive.

Yet, it was recently suggested that I describe my conflict management as ‘direct’ because I do not actively seek conflict but I do not actively avoid it.  I would rather lay all the cards on the table, process the situation together, and then move forward together.

I envision that Jesus’ Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) is similar to the ‘direct’ approach.

Step one is to engage in direct communication with the individual rooted in love and seeking resolution, reconciliation, and restoration of the relationship. The desired response of the approached individual is discernment and repentance as necessary.

Step two, if step one did not result in the desired change, is to be in direct communication with the individual again but with the accompaniment of one or two mutual persons. The intention is to limit unnecessary drama but include objective observers who can keep the conflicting parties honest. Again, it should be rooted in love and seek resolution, reconciliation, and restoration of the relationship. Again, the desired result is further discernment and repentance as necessary.

Step three, if steps one and two did not result in the desired change, is to bring the concern before the community. The intention is to allow the community to hold the conflicting parties honest while rooted in love and seeking resolution, reconciliation, and restoration of the relationship. Again, the desired result is further discernment and repentance as necessary.

Despite this process, the desired resolution, reconciliation, and restoration may not be possible for it depends upon discernment and repentance, that is a change in conduct. An apology without said repentance is simply manipulation, which neither promotes well-being nor a healthy relationship.

If the conflict is not addressed, it will fester into an infected wound.

If the repentance from inappropriate conduct is not lived, reconciliation and restoration is impossible.

If the relationship is toxic due to conflict or otherwise, it may need to end with persons parting ways.

Hopefully, you noted that the emphasis of the process is resolution, reconciliation, and restoration.

Hopefully, you also noted that the driving force of the process is love.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, expanded upon this love and its significance.

The Roman culture existed within an obligation economy; and thus, persons were indebted to one another such as honor and allegiance to the emperor and the empire, or honor and resources to your benefactor, or service and your life to your master, or submission to your husband, and so on.

Paul, however, writes that we are not obligated or indebted to another except to love ALL persons. This is an indebtedness of all humans to the Triune God, specifically through the life, passion, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. This indebtedness is to be paid forward to our neighbors, or human siblings, in words and deeds of love. This indebtedness and the resistance to pay it forward is often rooted in our sin (self-centeredness) and results in conflicts, unstable or unhealthy relationships, and our far too often troubled existence.

Paul further encourages the Romans (and us) that said love is the fulfillment of the Torah, or law, for it does no wrong, does no harm to our neighbor and human sibling.

While serving the youth at The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd on internship, these teenagers almost literally jumped for joy at the announcement that there was only one rule: ‘Be Respectful’. Quickly, almost in the blink of an eye, these teenagers became disenchanted with the only one rule for it was far more encompassing than imagined. I would question their word choice or actions with the simple question ‘was that respectful’ and they were convicted in the moment.  

Similarly, we may rejoice that our only obligation is to love one another but become quickly disenchanted with its all-encompassing nature. Perhaps, we should continually question our thoughts, words, and actions with ‘is this loving’. We should allow for ourselves to be convicted in the moment.

It seems so simple, and yet it is not.

Love can be manifested in the most simplistic thoughts, words, and deeds of mercy and compassion.

Love can be manifested in honor and respect. 

Love can be manifested in practices, customs, and traditions that are seemingly ‘not of this world’.

The philosopher, lay theologian, and more named Gilbert Keith Chesterton wrote: It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.

Brad Paisley, the country artist, is a Christian who is able to tease about the practices, customs, and traditions of Christian love in his song ‘Those Crazy Christians’. It is our offering video in a moment.

May we confront conflict directly.

May we accept repentance as a consequence.

May we embrace our responsibility in relationships, which is to love one another.

May we be able to reflect honestly and tease ourselves as need.  Amen.

Scriptures were Romans 13:8-14 and Matthew 18:15-20.

Originally preached 6 Sept. 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).   

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Rippling Welcome

Our Gospel this morning, concludes a trilogy:

Installment one was Jesus commissioning the disciples into his ministry and mission, because Christ was compelled by compassion and overwhelmed with the abundance of human need. This initial commissioning, however, was limited to the lost sheep of Israel but would later be extended in the Great Commissioning in ever-expanding ripples of God’s inclusion, grace, and love of all people, all creatures, the entire earth, and the whole universe. Thanks be to God!

Installment two was Jesus informing the disciples of the high cost of discipleship, because discipleship is to follow in the footsteps of your teacher mimicking (or proclaiming) them in word and deed. As disciples of Christ, we are sent forth to seek justice, to act with compassion and mercy, and to love and serve all people but especially our most vulnerable siblings. This ministry challenges the status quo, especially those who benefit from injustice, and can lead to sharp divisions and conflicts among our most valued relationships. This ministry can also lead to rejection, scorn, and for some persons physical death.

Installment three is about hospitality and welcome. As you might recall, Jesus sent the disciples forth without extra clothing, food, or money in order that they would be vulnerable and completely dependent upon the hospitality and welcome of strangers. Additionally, the act of hospitality was of the upmost importance in the Ancient Near East, including Jewish culture.

Our countdown video begun with a profound observation about our scriptural commandment to ‘welcome the stranger’ and our human nature, stating:

Sometimes our worse nature gets activated by people from other lands, from other cultures, by people we don’t immediately understand when they are in the neighborhood with us and that we maybe don’t get the chances to know well. And it can activate something about our human response to difference that isn’t a very attract quality. So you go back to scripture and you say, ‘oh, that is why this is a commandment that repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats because it is hard to do’.

This commandment, as in our countdown video, is often associated with immigrates and immigration policies, but it is not intended to be so narrowly applied.

The unfortunate truth is that we, as sinful critters, have an unflattering response to difference. Thus, we are most comfortable in social circles and situations that mirror ourselves.

Additionally, it is this unflattering response to difference that manifests as bias and prejudice in word and deed that divides and conquers us as a human family.

The apostle Paul, by the grace of God, reached out to the “strangers” across those divides and embraced the ever-expanding ripples of God’s inclusion, grace, and love. He understood and taught that we have been freed from the “law”.

  • This freedom, however, does not encourage an increase in our sinful, self-centered conduct.
  • This freedom, however, does not incite unlawfulness or moral anarchy.

Instead, it liberates us from justifying and rooting our bias and prejudice in and through the “law”.

But, even within a nation that highly values freedom, the freedom from the law is intimidating. The law offers order, meaning, and identity, but Christ calls and will continue to call us into divine order, deeper meaning, and a truer identity as beloved children of God.

Similar to Paul, we were, are, and will continue to be called into freedom from the law in order to embrace the “stranger”, for he wrote later in Romans, “love is the fulfillment of the law” (13:10). This ‘love’, however, does not only fulfill the letter of the law but the intensified spirit of the law.

Yet, we continue to permit our bias and prejudice to distract our hospitality, welcome, and love, whether based upon:

race, ethnicity, or nationality;

gender identity or sexuality;

socio-economics;

social circles;

political affiliations;

religious adherence or lack thereof; and

numerous other invalid reasons,
for difference does not necessarily equal division.

I read a sign that read:
“Hospitality is when someone feels at home in your presence”.

I also read one that read:
“Hospitality is simply an opportunity to show love and care”

These are beautifully stated truths.

We are called to be a safe, comforting home for all persons.

We are called to care for, love, and serve all people.

May we reach across those bias and prejudices to extend a hand to the stranger.

May we be an embodiment of God’s ever-expanding ripples of inclusion, grace, and love.

May we be examples of hospitality that welcomes the “least of these” or “little ones” as Christ himself.

May we use our freedom from the law to fulfill the more challenging spirit of it…
for LOVE is its fulfillment.

The ministry and mission that Jesus commissioned the disciples and us into is not easy, it is costly, but it is worth it. Amen.

 

Scriptures were Romans 6: 23-23; Romans 13:10; and Matthew 10: 40-42.
Originally preached on 28 June 2020 at Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, Indiana)
 
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Posted by on June 29, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Conflict Grounded in Love

YouTube

This week we have a common text for our gospel. It is one we all have heard and know. It gives a practical way for dealing with disagreement, conflict, or tension not simply within our church community but also within our own personal lives. Jesus is teaching his disciples this method.

First, the translation “member of the church” does not give the full understanding of it. It is adepheos, or “brother”, such as Philadelphia is the “City of Brotherly Love”.

This text is about what to do when tension, conflict, or wrong-doing has happened between you and a brother or sister. We have all experienced the tension of conflict. It is not warm, fuzzy, or comforting to experience, and yet it is a part of our everyday, normal, ordinary life. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2017 in Sermons

 

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Be Prepared

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Transcript:
Sunday was the First Sunday in Advent and I took a moment to talk about the Advent wreath. The Advent wreath is one white candle in the middle surrounded by three blue or purple candles and a pink candle. Now the blue (or purple) candles represent Hope, Peace, and Love while the pink candle represents Joy. The white candle represents Christ. Each Sunday in Advent we light an additional candle around the wreath and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we light the center candle as a symbol that the Light of the World, Christ, has come.

Advent is a mystical time where we await the fulfillment of the promises of God as the First Advent (the Christ-child in the manager) as well as the Second Advent (the return of Christ) and really every day in-between. It is a time when the past, the present, and the future all co-exist together.

In our texts this week, we hear about urgency and the need to be prepared. I use to work in a very high-end grocery store in the meat department. It goes without saying that the day before Thanksgiving, we would receive phone calls from people: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Sermon Summaries

 

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