The Premise: To Love and Be Loved
It is definitely humbling to admit my own failures. It is difficult enough to confess them to those I have offended, let alone to discuss them openly here. However, I have learned that some of my own areas of growth are often the same areas that others struggle with. Some of my most intense confrontations have come not in conflict over theology, but conflict in regards to mannerisms, methodology, and motives. These differences are often rooted in personal preferences that were embedded into myself and others years ago. The preferences have often become so imbued into each of us that we no longer see them as something flexible that may need refining over time, but instead as absolutes embedded into stone that cannot be changed. Combine this with our modern culture of independence, conflict often emerges when someone tells us we are wrong.
Because our own beliefs and ideologies have become a representation of who we are as a person, our tendency is often to react in anger and opposition when another suggests our principle or premise is misguided. Before listening to completeness the words of another, we immediately begin to formulate a defense to what they have to say, often causing the issue to never be resolved at all because we never address the actual assertion being made, but only its peripherals. We become more concerned about being right than doing right.
Well-known to many, Proverbs 27:17 reads, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” In these opportune moments there is an opportunity in which believers can sharpen one another through the expression of God’s love. The differences create for us an opportunity to express the fullness of God’s love to others in a unique way in which only believers can do.
The first is through loving the other person. I feel no need to expand on this concept here. It is quite clear that our call is to love others (Matthew 22:34-40) and there is a litany of sermons, articles, and resources about the practicality of loving others. It is a great topic to explore, however, I want us to think about something different here.
Not only should we love others through differences, but we should allow others to love us. Allow me a moment to explain what I mean by that. This concept is not created upon a foundation of self-worth and self-exaltation in which we expect others to love us because of who we are. Instead it is built upon the notion of self-denial in which we hope that others love us in spite of who we are. Here lies an opportunity for us to allow others to love us through training, teaching, and correction in righteousness. Just as we would hope that others would listen to our thoughts when someone may be wrong, we too should listen to others who may think our own methods and motives are either wrong or sometimes offensive. Rather then defend, listen. It could be there was a misunderstanding that simply needs corrected. It could be that the other person’s premise is incorrectly founded and may need an alternate viewpoint. It could also be that you are in need of a transformation in mindset.
The Permutation: From Pride to Humility
For love to fully function, humility must also function. When pride is in operation, the conflict will only persist and create division. However, when humility exists, it creates an opportunity to express and receive God’s love. It is humility that recognizes who we are as sinful beings and who God is as one not only without sin, but in whose presence sin cannot even exist.
Humility is not a false decor of character, but a genuine appraisal of one’s character. We don’t use humility in a false manner to criticize every aspect of who we are. Humility is a legitimate means by which we acknowledge our faults in addition to our strengths for the sake of transforming into the image of Jesus Christ.
Humility then, is a necessary piece to resolving differences with others. Humility acknowledges one’s own wrongs in order to move forward in change At the same time humility promotes a soft tone of voice that does not escalate a confrontation but diffuses it. Finally, humility provides an opportunity to also discuss the other person’s contribution to conflict in a peaceable manner. Humility then, must be the disposition of our dialogue with others.
The Purpose: From Being Like Man to Being Like Christ
To allow others to teach and correct us moves us towards Christlikeness, a primary objective of the Christian life. With the prevalence of pride in the historical development of our character comes the difficult of both admittance to our failures and a willingness to change from them. But in this unique expression of God’s love comes the opportunity for iron to sharpen iron and man to sharpen man. Through it, God uses our fellow believers to teach us His ways and guide us in those areas of character that need to be brought into alignment with Christ.
We then should not look as this as confrontation, but as opportunity. It is not a time to tear down, but a time to build up. As we hope others would allow us to love them through correction, we too should allow others to love us through correction.