Several days ago I was on break at work, sitting in the break room and reading a book of some sort when a woman who works there walked in and hurriedly closed the door, looking around and saying to no one in particular, “Whew. There’s a woman in the hallway that I’ve been avoiding for the last month and I almost ran into her.” I had headphones in so even though I heard what she was saying I didn’t think much about it. She sat down at one of the computers in the room and began to browse the web. A minute or two later the door opened and another of the staff poked her head in and said to someone outside, “Here she is!” before stepping back and admitting a tall, gray haired woman who walked over to the first woman, smiling with what seemed to be genuine friendliness said, “Hey! I’ve been trying to catch you for the past few weeks. How are classes going?”
By now I’d been drawn out of the book I was reading somewhat and saw the first woman at the computer visibly tense and, refusing to look the other woman in the face, replied with a sullen, monosyllabic, “Good.” The newcomer proceeded to ask the normal questions that are asked of someone who you haven’t seen for awhile and the woman at the computer continued her sullen refusal to properly address her questioner. It was like watching a parent attempt to make conversation with an angry teenager, despite the fact that both of these women were in their late thirties. To be honest, I was in awe of the rudeness of the first woman. She was clearly refusing to deal with whatever conflict had come between the two of them. Instead of taking the time to repair what was broken she had decided it was easier to dispose of the relationship altogether, even if that meant running and hiding in a side room in hopes of avoiding conversation.
Trash the relationship
Ever buy something from those vending machines in the entryways to the grocery stores? 25 cents gets you a plastic ring that lights up when you shake it. The problem, is when it drops or gets stepped on it breaks with almost no encouragement. You don’t spend an hour carefully taping the broken pieces back together or attempting to weld it back into place. It was only 25 cents. You can get another one with less effort.
If my experience and the story above is any evidence, that’s our default way for dealing with relational conflict. Just throw the thing away. Avoid the person. Find a different group of friends, a different place to hang out. Rather than doing the hard work of restoring what has been broken just replace it with something new.
As Jesus followers this kind of cheap, quick escape from conflict isn’t an option. Jesus tells his disciples to forgive seventy times seven. When Peter denies Jesus Jesus doesn’t just act like Peter doesn’t exist any more. Instead he directly addresses the issue and does the humbling work of offering forgiveness. Jesus even addresses his betrayer Judas directly, telling him to do what he needed to do. And when he’s on the cross being mocked Jesus doesn’t simply ignore the people around him and enter into his own world. No, he cries out to the father for their forgiveness.
If we’re Jesus’ disciples we don’t get to treat people like vending machine toys that can be replaced whenever they break on us. Trashing a relationship just to avoid conflict isn’t an option. Instead we follow our leader’s example and do the hard and often painful work of attempting to fix the broken pieces and restore the relationship.
Fix the broken pieces
For my friends and family in Threshingfloor, this is a word directly for you. If we are going to reach the 70,000 young adults in the Fargo-Moorhead area, we need to be a people who don’t trash friendships when things get tough.
In our communities there will be conflict. When that moment comes you will have the choice to either trash things by leaving the community to go elsewhere, avoiding conversation with that person or those people, or by entertaining bitter thoughts about how they were the one who wronged you and they need to initiate the restoration. Those options will all seem infinitely easier than doing as Jesus has called us to. Don’t let Satan and your flesh have the victory! Instead, in all things, look to Jesus. See how he gave his very life in order to fixwhat was broken between us, and follow his Spirit as he leads you to do the same. It won’t be easy, but there will be a much greater joy.
Let’s be a people who break down the dividing walls of hostility and as we join together as the family of Christ, grow into a dwelling place for God. Then and there I believe we will see God’s power work in miraculous ways to bring salvation and healing to our generation and beyond.