Interpersonal conflict happens all the time.  Many times people are afraid of conflict because of their desire to make everyone happy.  As I continue to work in ministry I have become a student of conflict.  How are people approached?  What is said?  What are the motives behind the dispute and what are the resolutions if any?

There are essentially two kinds of religious authority in the Gospels who are polarized in the way that they handle conflict.  The first kind of religious authority we will simply call, “the establishment.” These would be the established religious elite including Pharisees, Sadducees, teachers of the law and possibly other rabbis.  The other side of the coin is Jesus, who preached with such authority that the people were captivated.  Both the established religious elite and Jesus had critiques of each other but both had very different methods of voicing their critique.

Through the gospels we see the religious elite trying to, “trap. plot to kill, or accuse Jesus.”   They demanded signs from Jesus and they consistently asked loaded questions and tried to set Jesus up for failure.  The main theme for the religious elite is one of making accusations.  There is a certain attitude behind accusing someone.  There is a hope that lives in the accuser that they will be lifted up while the person they are accusing is de-legitimized. The attitude that lives in the accuser is one of desiring failure for the one whom they are accusing.  I wonder if there is any correlation to Satan being called the accuser?

By a stark contrast Jesus doesn’t accuse, he rebukes.  The word rebuke in the New Testament means a lot of things.  First it means to correct.  Jesus wanted to correct bad theology.  Why would he want to do that?  I think Jesus understood that the religious elite had an audience and influence in the region.  Maybe Jesus knew he couldn’t get hundreds of thousands to stop listening, but He could get a few to tell a better story.  To rebuke someone is also to honor them.  One of the translations of the Greek word is literally, “to honor.”  So maybe Jesus spoke out against the religious elite because he cared for them.  He wanted to honor them in his correction.  If you saw someone driving toward a cliff, wouldn’t you do whatever you could to get their attention and advert the impending disaster?  Isn’t it loving to help someone take a new path that is life giving rather than life taking?

Think about your approach the next time you need to confront someone.  What do you want the end result to be?  The heart of the accuser is to tear down, while the heart of the one rebuking is to build up.   The path of the accuser is destructive and life taking while the path of the one rebuking is life giving.  I feel compelled to point out that there is a third path and that is doing nothing and allowing frustration to build to the point of self-destruction.  So in your next run-in with conflict, how will you do it?


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