How do you handle disagreements with other people? How do you react to conflict with others? When quarrels, disputes and contentions develop with other people, how are you likely to respond?
You see, we are always faced with a choice when differences between people occur. We can choose to handle those differences in a healthy, God-honoring way or we can handle disagreements in a manner that doesn’t reflect well on our relationship with Jesus. Let’s look at a situation in the Bible where a disagreement had gotten out of hand and see what we can learn and apply from it in our lives today…
“And now I want to plead with those two dear women, Euodias and Syntyche. Please, please, with the Lord’s help, quarrel no more– be friends again.” (Philippians 4:2)
We really don’t know what the issue between Euodias (pronounced “yoo-oh-de-us”) and Syntyche (pronounced “sinn-tic-ee”) was all about. Apparently they had some sort of disagreement and may not have been speaking to each other because of it. Of course, this kind of thing happens between people all the time, even among Christians.
When disagreements become so severe that people stop speaking to each other, the effects can spread far beyond the people who are having the disagreement. Entire families and even churches can split up simply because a few members are having an argument.
In fact, The Doctor has known of situations where one or more family members would not attend an event simply because another family member with whom they were fighting was also planning to attend. Perhaps you’ve even experienced some of these things yourself. If so, then you know that these kinds of situations can often cause great pain to others who aren’t even involved.
When people are involved in a serious personal disagreement like the one that seen between Euodias and Syntyche, they sometimes must be willing to do something that can be difficult in order to make things right- they have to be willing to forgive. Forgiveness is “the act of excusing or pardoning someone else in spite of their slights, shortcomings and errors”. (1) Why is forgiveness important for us as Christians? Well, since God has forgiven us, we must follow His good example and forgive those who have mistreated us.
You see, many people wrongly see God as a kind of cosmic tyrant who is unmerciful and unforgiving. But if we show the same kind of forgiveness towards others that God has shown towards us through Jesus, then people may begin to get a better understanding of God and who He really is.
In Romans 12:18 we read, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”This can be very difficult because living at peace with everyone may sometimes mean taking a personal loss, even if you are in the right. It sometimes means that you have to seek reconciliation and forgiveness even if you don’t feel like you were totally wrong. It means sometimes having to take a loss to help keep the peace.
To illustrate this, take a look at the Apostle Paul’s sharp words towards those in the Corinthian church who did not grasp this idea…
“How is it that when you have something against another Christian, you ‘go to law’ and ask a heathen court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other Christians to decide which of you is right? …I am trying to make you ashamed.
Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these arguments? But, instead, one Christian sues another and accuses his Christian brother in front of unbelievers. To have such lawsuits at all is a real defeat for you as Christians.
Why not just accept mistreatment and leave it at that? It would be far more honoring to the Lord to let yourselves be cheated. But, instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong, cheating others, even your own brothers” (1 Corinthians 6:1, 5-8).
Paul’s point is that it can sometimes be more honoring to God if we simply accept a loss instead of automatically demanding “our rights.” Living in peace with everyone sometimes means that you have to overlook faults, ignore slights (whether they are intentional or unintentional) and forgive others even when you are convinced that they were the ones who were actually wrong.
Now you may say, “That person did something wrong to me and I’m not supposed to do anything about it?” Well sure, you can do something about it- Romans 12:19-21 tells you exactly what you can do…
“Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. [Don’t take the law into your own hands.]
Instead, feed your enemy if he is hungry. If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be ‘heaping coals of fire on his head.’ In other words, he will feel ashamed of himself for what he has done to you. Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good.”
Well, what about those people who don’t forgive, hold grudges and stay angry at others? Well, Jesus once told a parable on that subject that should really make us stop and think…
“The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him $10 million! He couldn’t pay, so the king ordered him sold for the debt, also his wife and children and everything he had. But the man fell down before the king, his face in the dust, and said, ‘Oh, sir, be patient with me and I will pay it all.’ Then the king was filled with pity for him and released him and forgave his debt.
But when the man left the king, he went to a man who owed him $2,000 and grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. The man fell down before him and begged him to give him a little time. ‘Be patient and I will pay it,’ he pled. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and jailed until the debt would be paid in full.
Then the man’s friends went to the king and told him what had happened. And the king called before him the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil-hearted wretch! Here I forgave you all that tremendous debt, just because you asked me to– shouldn’t you have mercy on others, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to the torture chamber until he had paid every last penny due. So shall my heavenly Father do to you if you refuse to truly forgive your brothers” (Matthew 18:23-35).
So if you’re in a situation where you’re having a problem with someone, be honest with yourself and with God and ask Him to help you work things out. Ask Him to help you to be forgiving. Ask Him to help you deal with the situation in a way that is honoring to Him. If you get into a situation like Euodias and Syntyche and let a disagreement drag on, it just gets harder and harder to undo it later. And never forget what the Scripture says…
“If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry- get over it quickly; for when you are angry, you give a mighty foothold to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27).
(1) Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary © 1986 Thomas Nelson Publishers