As I look at the scriptures and then I look at how we do things today in our churches, I think we’ve got a few things backwards. Specifically when it comes to defining “love”. Love looks different in each of our relationships. The relationship dictates how we display love. I show my wife I love her sometimes in very similar ways I show both my kids and at times it looks drastically different… because she’s my wife and they are my kids. We should express love to those inside our church differently then we express it to those outside. Somehow we got it all backwards. Today we think that “love” is speaking out “truth” on Facebook in a comment thread that same sex marriage is wrong. Or throwing in our 2 cents on a Twitter post or Instagram caption about how we are right and everyone else is wrong. We show up for our local “Chick-fil-a day” and we think we are actively participating in our world as believers, but yet we haven’t shared the Gospel with anyone at work… like ever.
The point is, most of us have responded to something that someone is doing or has done that clearly paints outside the lines of the scriptures. We call this, “taking a stand”. Hear this — you will NEVER win someone to Jesus because you out argued them on a Facebook comment thread. Never. It’s not your job to convince them that their sexual preference isn’t God’s design. (hang with me here. I know half of you are really upset with me at the moment). What I’m getting at is – we shouldn’t be trying to modify an unbelievers behavior. We should expect non-believers to act like non-believers. Look around today, they are doing it and doing it really well. However; when we look at believers and how we are to be acting, we aren’t doing it well. Other believers are the ones we are supposed to lean into. We are to call the body to deal with their sin. To change the way they are living. (I’m not saying we aren’t supposed to tell people they need to confess, repent, and trust Jesus. That’s the Gospel.) I’m saying, we don’t share with them Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9 & 13 — we instead point to Lev. 18:22 (We don’t win when we begin with behavioral modification. That’s when we lose.)
Jesus’ call for us to love one another is 2 fold. For unbelievers it means we point them to The Gospel and only there until they buy it. Believers – we lean in to their behavior. Changing an unbelievers behavior doesn’t get them heaven. It doesn’t change their heart. It doesn’t do anything but make things a little more comfortable for us here. But Jesus, if they trust Jesus, he changes everything.
Inside the body: Jesus told his disciples that the world would know them by the way they loved each other.
John 13:15 “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Proverbs 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”
Loving each other well (meaning those who say they are believers) sometimes looks like leaning into the things that don’t feel good. Sometimes it means you have to tell your buddies that they aren’t right. We have to actually practice Matt. 5:23 /Matt. 7:5 /& Matt. 18:15–17 (these are 3 clear passages of Conflict Resolution that we have to follow when we do this) — the process is basic but not easy:
1. What’s wrong with me?
Anytime we are leaning into a situation we must first ask, “What’s wrong with me?” If you are not willing to first ask this question, and then actually deal with it, then everything you see wrong in others isn’t about them. It’s about you. If during that process I realize that I’ve offended someone, I have to go to them and say, “Please forgive me for ____________.” That blank space is where you fill in anything that you’ve done against them or offensive to them.
Matt. 5:23–24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
If you don’t do this you are getting in the way of what God has for you to do.
2. Deal with your sin first:
If you see someone doing something offense/sinning — you first have to deal with your junk. You have to sit down and say, “Jesus, draw a circle around me and change everything in that circle that’s not of you. And then, help me to know how to invite others into this circle.” You have to deal with your sins before you can deal with someone else’s. Again, if you don’t you are in the way. It doesn’t mean you don’t go tell your friend they are wrong, but you only do it after you’ve allowed Jesus to deal with you. You’ve confessed to Him and then to those in your community that you practice that with. If you don’t practice confessionon a regular basis then you have absolutely no business telling anyone they are out of line.
3. Part of the problem or part of the solution:
Many times our first act is to go get “advice” from someone else before we speak to the person directly. This has to stop! We have go to the one who is sinning one on one. You don’t go talk to literally anyone else first. You don’t need support or wisdom or help processing… that’s called gossip. A great question to ask yourself is: “Who is part of the problem or the solution?” If they are neither — then it’s gossip, period. If you don’t know, Jesus hates gossip.
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” Proverbs 6:16–19
If the one on one does not work, then you bring in someone else WHO IS A PART OF THE SOLUTION! Again, anyone else and it’s stirring up conflict. If that does not work, then go get the elders and go again. If that does not work, then and only then do you treat them as an unbeliever — which means you are kind, loving, caring, compassionate, sacrificial, and you share the gospel with them. Treating a person as an unbeliever should look really similar to how we treat each other — except 1. They are no longer in your inner circle. You aren’t confessing sin and asking for prayer and wisdom. 2. You are not calling them to deal with their sin — you instead are inviting them to allow Jesus to forgive them and praying for them like crazy.
Our ability to resolve conflict is crucial to the vitality of the church. One of the most influential pastors in my life says that 80% of what they do as a staff is resolve conflict. 80%. That’s a lot. Now it’s a large staff and I had the opportunity for a short time to see it from the inside. I’ve seen conflict handled well and I’ve seen it handled very poorly or not handled at all… When we handle conflict appropriately — we model the gospel, we are able to show others how we love, forgive and truly live with integrity.
If you have a thought, a question, an argument, a whatever — I’m more than happy to engage in a conversation with you. You can reach me at [email protected] (Use subject line “Casey I’d like to talk to you about ____________.”)
My name is Casey Hubbart – (“Case”). I am a former pastor living in Texas. I own a business with my wife, coach high school football & pole vault, and I write about: Faith, Family, Fashion and Fitness. I believe those of us who say we know Jesus are in desperate need of a change in the way we do things. I’ve spent my entire life as part of the church in some capacity. I met Jesus when I was 18 and have spent the last 20 years serving in the church in some capacity. 13+ years of that was as a paid staff member or “professional Christian” — The last 4 years of my life I’ve been trying to process what it means to not be on a church staff and still hold that as such a vital part of mine and my family’s life. It’s been educational to say the least having lived on this side of the table now for a few years, giving me a better understanding of what I was truly asking the people who sat in the churches I served in. Trying to find a way to appropriately handle all that I’ve experienced in the church I decided to begin to write.
More articles and podcasts at: www.stellofello.com