How to Avoid Conflicts!September 2, 2015
As I write to you this month, Denise and I are hitting the ground running after a very fruitful time of ministry in the United States. Back home in Moscow, we are busier than ever with the ongoing work of the ministry to the Russian-speaking world. It thrills us to be allowed by God to teach and encourage such a great multitude of His people so they can run their spiritual races and finish their God-assigned courses with joy and without distraction.
That’s what I want to share with you today — how to avoid the conflicts of life that can deter and distract you, and even detour you, from running and finishing your spiritual race. This includes conflicts with other people that can leave you frustrated and upset to the point you lose sight of what God has assigned you to do for Him.
Are you in conflict with anyone today? Do you know anyone who rubs you the wrong way so badly that when you walk away from that person, you feel agitated — or, worse, like you’re about to explode? Does that person always seem to say things that are so impolite, inappropriate, out of place, or even derogatory that it nearly makes your blood boil when you’re around him or her?
I want you to ponder this: Have you ever considered that you may be rubbing that person the wrong way as well?
As I relate the following story to you, I am obligated by God to begin by telling you that over the course of many years, this “enemy” I’m about to describe has become a great friend. In fact, this person is so dear to me today that I cherish every time I get to see and spend time with him. So I testify to you personally, from the outset of this teaching, that the majority of horrible relational situations can be turned around if you will obey what Romans 12:18 tells you to do: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
Many years ago, I had to regularly deal with a pastor who was one of the rudest and most belittling people I had ever met in my life. But the man lived in the same city I lived in, so I simply couldn’t avoid seeing him from time to time. However, whenever I found myself in the same place with him, I was almost always shocked by what came out of his mouth. He freely gossiped and spoke maliciously about other pastors and churches. Everyone was his target including me.
Because he was a pastor in our same city, I tried very hard to get along with this man. But he was one of those people who just rubbed me the wrong way — and I didn’t like him. I repeatedly asked the Lord to help me forgive him for the callous words he had spoken about me to other pastors and leaders. Because he and I were pastors of the two largest churches in that particular nation, I knew I had to get along with this man. Nevertheless, trying to draw near to him was like trying to hug a cactus — I got “jabbed” every time I came close!
I tried to convince myself that my inner conflict with this pastor was the result of a wrong mix of personalities. But if that really had been the case, this man had a wrong personality mix with just about every pastor in our city! The way he affected me was exactly the way he affected every other pastor I knew in the area. The truth was that he was simply an offensive person. He knew he was offensive. In fact, I think he enjoyed his reputation for being difficult, and by all appearances, he had no intention of changing.
After many years of struggling in my relationship with this man, I finally came to realize that although this man was mightily gifted as a public communicator, he had no people skills on a personal level. He really was ill-mannered. The problem truly was with him. Because this pastor seemed to respect no one but himself and was not submitted to any spiritual authority, no one could find a way to speak into his life and try to help him.
So what was I to do in this situation? Like it or not, I was going to have to regularly be in this man’s company. He and I were continually attending meetings in the community in which we both were expected to participate. It was impossible for me to avoid this man, so I began to ask the Lord to help me know how to get along with him so that I didn’t leave upset every time the two of us had to be at the same place at the same time.
The Holy Spirit led me to Romans 12:18, which says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” This verse gave me direction. It provided helpful answers that enabled me to deal successfully with this difficult situation. And I believe the answers I received and the insight I gained will help you understand how to deal with that person who constantly rubs you the wrong way.
Notice the apostle Paul begins this verse by saying, “If it be possible.…” The word “if” in Romans 12:18 is the Greek word ei, which is like an open question with no definitive answer. That means there may be times when we run into a case in which it is not possible to have peace. As you and I are well aware, it can be very difficult to be at peace with some people — not necessarily because we are so difficult, but rather because they are hard to get along with. (But remember, they may think the same of us!) Regardless of the difficulty of the task, or the ugly behavior of those we encounter along the way in life, the command of God remains: To the best of our ability, we must give our best effort to be at peace with all men.
The word “possible” in Romans 12:18 comes from the Greek word dunaton. In this verse, it expresses the idea of something that is potentially difficult, but nonetheless doable. However, because this phrase begins with the word “if,” it casts a shadow on whether or not it is truly doable every single time. In other words, maybe peace is attainable; maybe it isn’t — but you are to give peace your best shot. For this reason, this phrase could be translated: “If it is doable — if it is feasible — if it is possible, do your utmost to be at peace with everyone.”
Paul continued to say, “…As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” The words “as much as lieth in you” comes from a mixture of Greek words that means “as far as it depends on you.” This phrase points toward you and me, placing the responsibility of maintaining peace and a good attitude on us, not on the person we find to be so offensive. This clearly means God is expecting us to do everything we can to give our best to “living peaceably with all men.”
Notice Paul says we are to make this kind of wholehearted effort with “all men.” In my situation, these words “all men” meant I had to seriously attempt to live peaceably even with the ill-mannered pastor who continually upset me with his offensive behavior. The words the Holy Spirit used in this verse are unquestionable. The words “all men” is a translation of the words panton anthropon. The word panton is an all-encompassing word that means everyone. The word anthropon comes from anthropos, the Greek word that describes all of mankind, including male and female of every race, nationality, language, religion, and skin color — no one excluded. There is no phrase in Greek that could be more all encompassing than panton anthropon. It literally embraces the entire human race.
It’s important for me to point out that these words “all men” do not mean we have to agree with all people everywhere or condone their behavior. It means that if at all possible, as much as depends on us, we are to be at peace with them.
At the very moment Paul was writing this verse, he and other Christians were facing horrible pagan and religious opposition from those who had no tolerance for “narrow-minded” believers in Jesus Christ. Yet it was at this same time that the Holy Spirit through this verse commanded them to do everything they could to live peaceably with everyone. This same divine command is directed toward us today. It doesn’t say we’re just to live peaceably with friends, family, peers, or those who agree with us and our opinions. It says that if it’s possible, we’re to live at peace with “all men.” An interpretive version of Romans 12:18 could be rendered: “If it’s doable at all, then as much as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone, no one excluded.”
This verse was so helpful to me when I was trying to learn how to get along with that ill-mannered pastor. I understood that Jesus did not expect me to be his best friend — but Jesus did expect me to give my best efforts to living peacefully in that situation. If being at peace with that other pastor meant perhaps not engaging in a lengthy conversation with him, then whatever I had to do, I was determined not to live upset with this man who had been such a source of pain and irritation to me. I had to let my grievances go, let God deal with him, and walk away from my hankering to argue with or fix or correct him. As much as it depended on me, from my side, I was going to do whatever was necessary to be at peace with him.
What about you? I know you have relationships that trouble you, as this is true of everyone. If you’re tired of getting upset or being irritated — or of unsuccessfully trying to correct those people — perhaps you should choose the route of simply seeking to be at peace. Negotiating with a difficult person is not always possible, so sometimes the best option is simply doing whatever is reasonably necessary to be at peace. This was the message the Holy Spirit spoke to me, and I believe it’s the message the Holy Spirit may be speaking to you as well.
How may Denise and I and our team be praying for you this month? It blesses us to hear from you about the things that matter to you the most. And it thrills our hearts to stand with you and to see victory come to your life and to the situations and challenges you face. We want to be your prayer partners, so please contact us by phone, email, or regular mail and let us hear from you.
We love you and thank God for you!
We are your friends, your brother and sister, and your partners in Jesus Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families