I don’t like being corrected while I’m driving. I know that I drive a little fast, don’t always use my blinker, tend to play the radio loud, and I’m not considerate of other drivers. What’s wrong with that?
When I was 17 years old I took my best friend to school and back. The problem was he appointed himself the official Chad Spriggs driving critic. There was not a day that passed that I did not get corrected. After countless times of fighting off the criticism, I had finally reached my limit. 5 miles from home I stopped the car, escorted him to the curb, and drove away.
Each of us has had some experiences with conflict. The divisions that are caused by personality differences, opinions, personal convictions, and differing perspectives have undoubtedly reared their ugly head.
To an extent we understand that these types of things happen. None of us are perfect. But what about the countless conflicts that were created that could have been avoided?
As we look at 1 Corinthians it’s safe to say that much of the division could have been avoided if the people would have kept 1st things first. That’s what Paul did.
Paul is famous for giving you the answer and then logically unpacking that answer. Paul’s fist three thoughts were to remind them of their source of grace, peace, and fellowship. Let’s take a closer look at what keeping 1st things first (grace, peace, and fellowship) can do in the fight against divisions.
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul begins his letter to the Church in Corinth strategically. He is fully aware of their divisions. His greeting can serve as a great reminder to each of us as we encounter divisions. Here are three observations that we can make when looking at his greeting.
- Identify Who You Are
Paul took time to remind the Church of his authority and source of all his wisdom. When we are divided its important to identify our role in the situation. It didn’t matter that he was educated or biblically literate, his authority was given by God. When you are faced with divisions or conflict it’s important to ask yourself if your representing a God given authority or a self appointed authority. God’s authority will always point toward peace. Self appointed authority will always point to self-righteousness.
When you are faced with conflict do you seek peace or do you seek to be right?
- Identify Who They Are
One of the most effective ways to be a bearer of peace is to remind others of who they are. Paul had every right to lay into the Church. He could have immediately pointed out the error of their ways, but he took the time to remind them of whom they are. He reminded them that they are sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints, and that they are not alone. Grace and peace are the best way to begin a conversation that is inevitably going to be divisive. This is best demonstrated by focusing on who God says they are not what their actions say about who they are.
When we attempt to look at others through the eyes of Jesus we begin to see the potential good in them. There is not better time to see the good in people than when we are at odds with them.
When you are in conflict with someone can you see people the way Jesus does?
- Be Encouraging
Paul then extends the deepest expressions of love. He imparts God’s grace and peace. He wanted them to understand that their relationship was centered on God’s grace and Christ’s peace. When faced with a divisive situation the only lasting resolution must be a supernatural resolution. This is why God sent Jesus to supernaturally resolve the problem of division. (The division between God and Man) Jesus took the consequence of our sin and replaced it with his peace. We now have the opportunity to breath in God’s grace and breath out Christ’s peace.
Knowing that you’ve been given grace can you convey that grace to those you are in conflict with?
Can you walk into a divisive situation and exude his peace?