Sunday, October 26, 2008

He was a Christian, so he only shot him in the leg

This posting is merely an introduction to the subject. In future postings I would like to share some principles that help us to understand the spiritual weapons available to us in relational conflict. Send me a short email if you are interested in this subject and in my continuing with this topic.

"You got some fine children, but they will kill you!"
I met an elderly lady named Rosalie on the street in Loris, SC. When I asked her about her husband, she replied, "I ain't married, but I do have me a boyfriend". She then laughed while telling me of a warning her children gave regarding the boyfriend. "If you get married and he don't do right, we'll kill him," they had said. This obviously made the boyfriend a little nervous, but he wanted to stay in good-standing with his sweetheart, so he told her, "You got some fine children, but they will kill you."
Her boyfriend's statement would fit appropriately in many church situations. Watching how Christians often hurt other Christians, I have said, "Lord, You got some fine children, but they will kill you."

"Shoot up here among us! One of us got to have some relief!"
Jerry Clower has a great story about some men who went 'coon hunting, and one ending up in a tree-top brawl with a lynx. The man in the tree cried out desperately for the men on the ground to shoot the lynx. The fellows on the ground, unable to see through the limbs and leaves, yelled back, "We can't! We might hit you!" The man in the brawl then yelled down, "Shoot up here amongst us! One of us got to have some relief!" I once heard an elder groan this same “prayer” as he was leaving a church business meeting.

"He was a Christian, so he only shot him in the leg."

A few years ago a certain church was having some problems. The situation became so bad that the pastor and one of the deacons got into a fist fight in a church business meeting. Then, about six months later, I heard on the local radio station that the pastor had shot the deacon. He did not kill him, he was a Christian, so he only shot him in the leg.

"The Church Parking Lot?"

The photo at the top of the page was in the December 1991 issue of National Geographic. In the picture is an old car riddled with holes. There are two men slumped over dead in the front seat and one in the back seat. The photograph looks like a scene from a gangster movie or from the life of Bonnie and Clyde. Based on this description, what would be your answer to the following questions: What kind of people are in the car? What kind of people fired on the car? How would you describe the relationship between the people in the car and the people who fired on the car? What was the objective of those who fired the shots? People are very surprised to learn the true answers to these questions. The picture is from an article about the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The actual caption reads as follows: "Slain by friendly fire, shipyard workers John Adams, his father, and a friend were five miles from Pearl Harbor when their Packard was hit by shrapnel from errant five-inch Navy shells. American anti-aircraft guns rained damage on Honolulu, untouched by Japanese bombardment." The men in this car were Americans accidentally killed by Americans. They were killed by men from their own team. Now, with these facts in mind go back and answer the questions again.
How often has this same thing happened in the church and in our relationships! Tragically, this photo could figuratively have been taken in some church parking lot. Church members have often done more damage to one another than to the enemy's work.

It is no surprise that conflict issues have been the cause of many Christians and non-Christians staying away from church. Conflict has been used as an excuse to reject God. It has left many Christians spiritually disabled and derailed because it hardens the heart and causes love to grow cold. The search for relief often tempts us to compromise. Anger and the desire for revenge prevent Biblical resolution. Confusion and disillusionment cause us to quit. God's plan, however, is to give us spiritual weapons that will bring us through every distress in good spiritual health and make available His power, wisdom, and grace to help during our times of need.

It indicates a real love for Jesus when a person is able to emerge from the fires of conflict in spiritual health and continue on in his walk with God and with the church. Resolving conflict redemptively involves repentance, forgiving, sometimes restitution, and even forgetting. It means being faithful to do the right thing in as much as depends on you. Sometimes it means leaving implacable, intractable, and unrepentant people to the judgment of God. It also means to trust the mysterious and unexplainable into the hands of the Sovereign God. This requires faith, humility, a heart of obedience, and a true relationship with Jesus Christ. Otherwise, a person will find it impossible to do these things. An unbroken person can not wield the spiritual weapons necessary to succeed in this arena.

Spiritual weapons give us the ability to do what God requires of us and, just as importantly, to entrust to God those things which are outside of our own power to change. We should not have a heart of unbelief in these matters. We must believe in God's Sovereign ability to redeem the past and to direct the future. Read again Romans 8: 28. If you stand with a heart after God and walk in a Christ-like spirit, God will be with you and bring you through and onward. The key is to walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord. In future posts I would like to discuss some very practical principles that help us to understand the spiritual weapons that God has given us.


steve H said...

Good topic, brother. Looking forward to more of you hard won wisdom.

Chris Stanley said...

Thanks for sharing your gift with us. I've experienced what church can do to you and how God can work out all things to our good. Thank God for His mercy and grace in my life. You and Laurel are a wonderful blessing to the kingdom of God!

david c said...

Thanks, you do the heavy lifting (and thinking) for me too often. As usual.

Billy Long said...

Steve, Chris, and David,
I appreciate the above comments. You men are good brothers and friends in the Lord, humble brothers who have walked the walk and have been faithful through it all.

smokin joe said...

great illustrations Billy ... I have recently been pondering on this same issue. Jesus said "they will know that you are my disciples by your love for one another" ... it is no wonder that the world is not too impressed.

by the way, happy birthday!