Believe it or not, Jesus has a lot of things to say to those who claim to follow Him about how to get along. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), considered by many to be the most profound spiritual teaching ever written, contains multiple references to how we are to handle conflict, whether we are to seek revenge, how we make promises to one another, and more.
This past spring, I took the opportunity to audit a class offered by Fuller Seminary. It was entitled, “One Body, Many Frustrations: A Systems Approach to Conflict in Congregations.” It was taught by Cameron Lee, a long time member of the faculty at Fuller, a licensed marriage and family therapist. A “systems approach” is nothing more than a recognition that every group can begin to behave as a “system,” like a system in the body—the circulatory system, the respiratory system, etc. In fact, when the apostle Paul refers to the church as the “body of Christ,” we can see that within the body are multiple systems. Each of those systems behave in a certain way because of how they were created and designed, and they depend on one another (as Paul points out in I Corinthians 12).
In a community of people like the church, those systems, Professor Lee taught us, were created by shared stories, feelings and memories that go with those stories, and the rules, structures, and policies that came out of those stories and feelings, and so on. Conflict naturally comes when new decisions, or people unfamiliar with the history and rules, come into relationship with the existing systems. Because we are always changing, reforming as a church, conflict is inevitable. So, how do we get along with one another when conflict comes?
Over the next six weeks, we’re going to look at just a few of Jesus’ sayings in the gospel of Matthew, and Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus. In the guide below, I hope to ask each week some questions for reflection for us as individuals. And, that families with kids could ask these in their homes, perhaps around the dinner table. Finally, those at work could imagine how these teachings might play out in the workplace. Feel free to adapt any of these as you wish. My hope is that we might be changed by the word of God in these passages, through the conviction and comfort of the Holy Spirit. And we might learn how to get along in the way of Jesus.