Quarter’s Theme: CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN THE CHURCH
UNIT 3 – Steps To Resolving Conflict In The Church (Lessons 8-12)
LOYALTY CAMPAIGN MONTHS
Suggested Hymns: G.H.B. 6, 9
Devotional Reading: MATT. 18:15-17
Topic For Adults
DON’T BOTTLE-UP RESENTMENT, SPEAK OUT
Topic For Youths
DON’T FAKE IT, BE REAL
Topic For Intermediates
SAY YOUR MIND
GEN. 33:1-10; ACTS 15:1-2, 6-7; GAL. 2:11-14; EPH. 4:15,25,29
5/11/2017 LESSON 10
AVOID PRETENCE, BE REAL
Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbour, for we are members of one another (Eph. 4:25) NKJV
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READING
Don’t Be Diplomatic With The Truth
Col. 1:19- 22
God’s reconciliation through Christ is all inclusive. It is vertical reconciliation between men and God. It’s horizontal reconciliation between persons and persons and between nature and God. The relationship with God, which had been marred by human rebellion and sinfulness, has now been restored by God through the death of Christ. He did this for us so as to present us daily before God without accusation and that we may be able to approach the throne of grace and have sweet fellowship with our heavenly father. Apostle Paul did not hesitate to remind the Colossian brethren that they were formerly alienated from God. Of course, just like any person who is yet to accept Jesus Christ; he was not diplomatic with the truth. Paul had a lot of instructions to pass across to the church, including the fortification against false teachers, but he had to first re-emphasise the enormity of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice that brought salvation to mankind. The implication of this is that if Christ has done so much to reconcile humanity back to God, no conflict should be too severe for believers to reconcile – maybe when you give up your pride, for instance, the conflict between you and your spouse or friends or colleagues at work might just be over.
Point of Emphasis: Live daily in the consciousness of what Christ has done for you and you will discover that you will be ready to let go of any offence.
Prayer Point: Oh God, help me to declare Your total counsel without trying to please man.
Conflicts often fester and thrive where there is pretence. One of the essential requirements for conflict reconciliation is knowing the true cause of the conflict. Sometimes when there is a conflict in relationship, especially between couples, the cause may be considered too dirty or confidential to bring to the knowledge of any third party. In today’s lesson, we shall see how speaking the truth in love and being truthful to oneself by acknowledging the presence of conflicts in our relationships, rather than pretending they never existed, can help in conflict resolution.
NOTES ON THE TEXT
PART 1: A CIRCLE OF PRETENCE AND DISGUISE (GEN. 33:1-10)
The experience of Jacob and Esau provides an illustration of bitter conflict between brothers which was resolved in the later years by the desire of both brothers to overcome the hostility. The life of Jacob was a circle of pretence and disguise, especially in his relationship with his twin brother – Esau, until he met with God (Gen. 32:26-28). Twice, Jacob supplanted Esau – in the case of birthright (Gen. 25:31-33) and that of their father’s blessing (Gen. 27:22-27, 32-36). Isaac said to Esau, “Your brother Jacob came deceitfully and he has taken away your blessing”. This was the beginning of a conflict that almost took Isaac to his grave in sorrow. From that time on, Esau sought for ways to kill Jacob. Esau said, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob (Gen. 27:41).” And every passing day, Esau’s anger and resentment towards Jacob increased. Isaac and his wife, Rebekah, appeared to be helpless or indifferent in settling this conflict and all they could think of was to send Jacob to a faraway Haran; they probably would have concluded that distance and time will heal the wound in the heart of Esau. Now after a long time, God, having blessed Jacob exceedingly, instructed him to return to his land of nativity (Gen. 31:13). To this, Jacob was confused, afraid and filled with guilt. He feared the retributive hand of Esau as he prepared to meet him. Hence he prayed to God for protection.
The way Jacob arranged his wives and children as he looked forward to meeting Esau, showed again his pretentious and dubious tendency – he set Leah and her maid with their children first, followed by Racheal’s maid, then Racheal his heart throb and her son, Joseph, and lastly himself. He did this thinking peradventure Esau is still bent on revenge, he might escape with Racheal and Joseph. For a conflict to be resolved, it’s necessary that the parties involved be ready to come out with the truth. As long as there is still pretence, it shows unwillingness to end the conflict. Most often, until the root cause of a conflict is known, the mediator may just be working in vain. Family treachery can be overcome when the victim takes the initiative in offering forgiveness.
Eventually, Jacob met with God (Gen. 32:24-28) and the order was reversed; he came from behind to lead his retinue of wives and children to meet Esau. A relevant question is, “What impact has meeting with God had on Jacob – his orientation, disposition, nature etc.?’’ God made the whole difference! Not only was Jacob’s name changed to Israel, he became a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). He left home as an arrogant, insensitive young man, but returned to Israel as a leader and a man of purpose who had seen his maker – no more pretence, cheating, and dubiousness; in fact, Jacob became ‘real’. Many couples have allowed the devil to take advantage of their pretence to ruin their marriages: they pretend to be unhurt, when they actually are; they pretend that all is well, when in fact they are in rage.
PART 2: STOP PRETENCE, SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE (ACTS 15:1-2, 6-7; GAL. 2:11-14; EPH. 4:15, 25,29)
The legalistic Jews often hold circumcision and strict observance of Mosaic laws as conditions for acceptance unto God. Some brethren had taught and insisted that the gentile believers at Antioch church be circumcised, in addition to their faith in Christ, before their salvation is complete! This doctrinal teaching generated a conflict in the church at Antioch. However, the church did not allow the conflict to tear them apart, but rather they sent some leaders, including Paul and Barnabas, to the elders of the church at Jerusalem for their intervention. Shortly after the conflict had been resolved, Peter came on a ministerial visit from Jerusalem to the Antioch church in order to encourage them to be more steadfast and united in Christ. The event recorded in this passage – Gal. 2: 11-14 – occurred during that visit.
The Bible records that before certain men came from Jerusalem to the Antioch church, Peter was eating with the gentile brethren; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party (Gal. 2:12). This disposition of Peter towards the gentile brethren was described as hypocritical and pretentious because that did not represent his opinion on the issue of ‘forcing the gentile believers to become legalistic’. It may be recalled that God had initially extended His grace of salvation to the gentiles through Peter (Acts 10:20, 28)! Sometimes, people give in to pretence when there is conflict, either in a family relationship or in the church, for fear of being described as immature unbelievers, not strong enough etc. It’s not a sign of weakness to admit the conflicts in our relationships and be ready to give and receive the forgiveness of each other. As a matter of fact, it’s a sign of maturity and heaven-mindedness. As far as human relationship is concerned, conflicts are unavoidable. Conflicts exist among family members, church members/leaders, co-workers, ethnic groups, and nations. While it may not be wrong to have conflicts, it is wrong to ignore them. Conflicts will continue to fester and spread and, at times go out of hands when they are ignored or when the parties involved are pretentious.
In 1 Cor. 1:10-14, Apostle Paul became apprehensive of some challenges in the church at Corinth, for which sectionalism was the first he addressed in this epistle. This was a potential conflict in the church which was attributed to immaturity among the Corinthian brethren (1 Cor. 3:1-4). More importantly here for emphasis was how swiftly Paul waded in to ensure that peace was restored. Usually, a minor conflict will metamorphose into a bigger one if not nipped in the bud. In every human relationship and institution, conflicts should be settled as soon as they erupt. Christians need to avoid hiding behind a finger. When there is a conflict to be resolved, each party is expected to come out real. We are admonished to speak the truth in love with a view to resolving the conflict amicably. Believers should ensure that no unwholesome word proceeds from their mouths. Moreover, dealing with each other in truth is important for harmonious coexistence and maintai-ning stronger relationships.
The Bible exhorts us as believers to always speak the truth in love such that our words could bring healing, restoration, and edification to one another and to the body of Christ. In human relationship, conflicts are unavoidable, and just because there is conflict doesn’t mean relationships have to end. However, these conflicts are not be ignored but to be resolved as soon as they evolve. It’s not immaturity to acknowledge a conflict in a relationship, neither is it a sign of weakness to initiate a process of peaceful reconciliation. Do not allow arrogance and pride to deprive you of a harmonious relationship in your family, church, and community, or at work. When your relationship is threatened by conflict, don’t pretend it never exist. You’ve got to nip it in the bud.
- How can you describe Jacob after having an encounter with God, particularly relating to his pretentious and dubious way of life?
- Discuss briefly why pretence needs to be avoided in conflict resolution.
- Mention the reasons why people often pretend not to be having conflicts in their relationships.
- Other than the story of Jacob and Esau, can you mention any family conflict in the Bible where pretence is involved?