Monday, October 29, 2012

Anatomy of a Revival 5: Handling Conflict

(Nehemiah 5:1-19) God’s people had been busy rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem but work on had ground to a halt. The people were exhausted and on the brink of ruin. They were no longer concerned about the vision. What good was a wall if you had nothing to eat?

Nehemiah listened to the people’s complaints. There was a famine, and the people were hungry. Landowners had to mortgaged their property to buy food and lenders were squeezing profits out of their brother’s misery. Many had their homes foreclosed and family members were used as collateral. If a man could not repay a loan, his wife and children could be sold as slaves.

Nehemiah was angry over the injustice, oppression, and disunity in the body. While it was not against God’s law to loan money to one another, they were not to act like predatory lenders and take advantage of a tough situation (Deuteronomy 23:19-20.) However, Nehemiah’s anger was controlled and constructive. He paused, took a deep breath and thought about it for a while before confronting the issue.

Then, Nehemiah publicly confronted the people whose greed had created the strife. Correcting any problem begins by facing it head-on. As Barney Fife would say, “Nip it in the bud.”

Nehemiah put the vision on hold in order to address an issue of right and wrong. He kept the stakes high by reminding the people that their abuse of the people had the same negative impact on their witness as the broken-down walls. He called them to obedience and required all property returned, debts forgiven, and slaves freed.

Nehemiah teaches us that conflict can come even during revival but we must be the church before we can build the church. There is a connection between the effectiveness of our mission and how we treat each other. We must learn to care for one another before we can hope to reach our community for Christ.

Relational problems are inevitable and can’t be ignored. Even though it’s painful and it may seem easier to avoid or deny relational problems, we must face conflict head-on. Otherwise, it will grow deep roots and bear bitter fruit.

Rather than trying to be right, our goal must restoring the relationship. We’re not to defeat our brothers and sisters but to build them up, resolve the issue and get back to kingdom work.

God’s work is at risk when we have conflict. Some among God's people who are out for themselves. They want their needs met even if it is at the cost of someone else. Some want power, some want recognition, some want money. 

Like Nehemiah, the wise leader will think before speaking. Sometimes disunity comes from things that are said in the heat of the moment. Nehemiah considered his situation carefully and regained unity among the people. The result was that God's work resumed. 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1  


Recommended reading:
Hand Me Another Brick by Chuck Swindoll

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