This past Sunday, we were blessed with the presence of the Reverend Sandra Douglas, a very passionate, in-your-face, wonderful deacon from our West Michigan Conference. Sandra brought to us a message that began our latest three-week mini-series on Conflict Resolution.
Sandra reminded us that we’re all created in the image of God; we all have that spark of the divine; we all have that remnant of God’s likeness. Now, as she also so bluntly stated, some of us are just hard to love! That is so true. And I will be the first to say that there are many times I am just downright unlovable. We all get that way- cranky, irritable, annoying, mean, and just plain nasty.
So how do we reconcile these two things: we are all created in God’s image, and many of us are hard to love? As Mark 12:28-34 commands, we are to love God and love our neighbor. We are to love God, and those who are His image bearers…even the hard to love ones.
“Love means going up to that person that is so hard to love, and you keep going up to them until you see God in them.” That was Sandra’s solution to this conundrum. The command to love everyone is more than just saying nice words, its acting upon them, it’s doing the hard work necessary to love them like God commands. When we are seeking to love people, it means we have to get past all our feeling, opinions, memories, and frustrations. We are to just simply love them. And keep loving them until we see that image of God in them.
Now I understand, some people are just so mean and spiteful and annoying that you just can’t imagine there being anything good in them, let alone any image of God in them. But the fact is it’s there. Just as much as the likeness of God is in you, it is in them as well.
This is the root of resolution to conflict. When there is a problem or difficulty between people, the world prescribes bitterness, gossip, anger, and avoidance. But God prescribes love- He compels us to pray for our enemies (those we’re in conflict with); He commands us to love them, with our words, through our prayers, and with our actions.
I know that there are many conflicts brewing right now among members of our church. It’s inevitable. What’s also inevitable, though, is that if those conflicts aren’t dealt with, it will tear us apart! It’s already starting to do that in our denomination. We have experienced it in this very church as well. People have left our congregation because they haven’t wanted to deal with the conflicts. It’s easier to ignore them and run from them than to do the work of dealing with them and finding a resolution to the conflict.
Silence is the worst thing you can do for a conflict, because all it will do is fester and boil without any resolution. You are responsible for confronting conflicts and seeking God’s will in the midst of it. God calls us to love each other, even and especially through our conflicts with one another. Do you have a problem with someone in this church? Is there that person that just drives you nuts and you wish you didn’t have to see? Is there someone that is just making it unbearable for you to be here?
If the answer is yes (and I know it is for many of us!), then instead of ignoring it or running from them, pray about it. Ask God to help you see the issue clearly, and to love the person despite your issues. Then talk to them. Do the hard work of seeking to resolve your conflict. Next week, we’ll start laying out the biblical steps for doing this in such a way that God is honored and you’re able to love your neighbor the way God intends you to.
Sermon Notes for “LWOA: Conflict Resolution” from May 25, 2014
Conflict Resolution: Mark 12:28-34
This passage depicts a sort of “balance bar”: You can’t love neighbor so much you forget to love God, and you can’t love God without loving neighbor
Once you get the hang of it, loving God is easy
It’s those people that God created that takes some work!
Outside of the Church, people have a very different view of love
We as disciples are supposed to be better at this love thing
But too often, what we say and what we do don’t line up with that love thing
Love is more than a four letter word
We have to understand that we were created in the image of God
We have some likeness of God in us
Everyone, no matter how much they drive us nuts, is made in the image of God just like we are!
Some of you are hard to love!
Sometimes the reason is because you come in with your invisible bad of stuff that you drag around
You start spewing stuff out of your invisible bag that you don’t even know you’re dragging around
Love becomes more than a four letter word when we can start seeing God in the other person!
When you agree to discipleship-when you enter into a relationship with God-it doesn’t mean you get to do it alone
No solo Christians!
You only grow when you’re rubbing against others of God’s people
We are bound together in sacred covenant
I agree to stay with you and you with me
4 parts of going through life together:
We agree to share the burdens of others
We agree to share the risks, to be willing to take risks
We agree to celebrate the joys of life
And as disciples we agree to deal with conflict!
Dealing with conflict
Jesus was into conflict every day in His ministry
As His disciples, we don’t have to be afraid of conflict
The first step in resolving conflict is to agree that there is a problem
If we are going to be in community we must learn to deal with the conflicts that will inevitably pop up
When we fail as disciples to deal with our own problems and disagreements, the world sees us and will just write us off- they will unfriend us!
God said that we are to love God and love neighbor
That includes every living, breathing person
When we dare to be the church and deal with the stuff, even when it gets messy, we become more authentic
People are hurting, and we have more power than we realize
Power to model for the world a better way!
Love means going up to that person that is so hard to love, and you keep going up to them until you see God in them
Pray for God to help you love them
Ask God to teach you how to love them, little by little
Do you want more of what God has for you?
If so, then that means having to deal with the difficult things and people just as much as the good
It means you’re going to go through some pretty hot waters, but it will be worth it!
Cori Cypret is the pastor of The United Methodist Church of Coopersville.