(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Days 20 and 21 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)
Days 20 (Restoring Broken Fellowship) and 21 (Protecting your Church) deal with avoiding Satan's traps and promoting unity in Christ's body on earth, or his church. This begins in the smallness of our individual interactions with other believers and expands to reflect how our actions can work towards unifying or dividing a church and even the larger Christian community as a whole.
Day 20 begins with this verse from Corinthians:
[God] has restored our relationship with him through Christ, and has given us this ministry of restoring relationships. (2 Corinthians 5:18, GWT, p.152)
God values every relationship and gives us the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as the most perfect example of being in relationship. This is part of loving others as Jesus has loved us. I am learning about RDI, and one of the principles that I recently learned about is relationship repair. This is helping to remediate the areas where our children have difficulty patching miscommunications and working cooperatively in areas where two people see things differently. The truth is we all need training in relationship repair, whether we have autism or not. Many times important relationships are severed because we are unable to solve a conflict peacefully. On page 153, Rick Warren states, "If you want God's blessing on your life and you want to be known as a child of God, you must learn to be a peacemaker."
I am going to be honest. I truly and deeply dislike conflict, it makes me very uncomfortable. I will often avoid it if at all possible. I realize through reading this chapter that this does not make me a peacemaker. In Day 20, Rick Warren clearly identifies what peacemaking is not, and that is not avoiding conflict or appeasement (p.154). Jesus often refused to back down, especially when faced with evil opposition. He was also known to have created conflict on more than one occasion. I want to never be afraid of conflict like Jesus. Our author elaborates more, saying, "Sometimes we need to avoid conflict, sometimes we need to create it, and sometimes we need to resolve it. That's why we must pray for the Holy Spirit's continual guidance" (p.153)
This leads me to the seven ways to restore a relationship:
Talk to God before talking to the person. It is so tempting to pick up the phone and just vent to a good friend or close family member or to just act on impulse and tell people how we are feeling in the heat of the moment. On page 154, Rick Warren states, "If you will pray about the conflict instead of gossiping to a friend, you will often discover that either God changes your heart or he changes the other person without your help."
Always take the initiative. The quicker we act to heal and restore a broken relationship, the less time bitterness and anger will have to take root in our own hearts. This is so important to Jesus that he actually commands us to make amends with anyone we harbor a grudge against before we come to worship.
Sympathize with their feelings. Feelings and emotions rise and fall and can cause us to act in ways we regret. Allowing the other person to express their side shows that we care about and respect them.
Confess your part of the conflict. This is where pride gets in the way. Admitting your mistakes can help defuse the other person's anger and can begin the process of forgiveness. Honesty is a necessary step to restoring trust.
Attack the problem, not the person. We must choose our words wisely and take great care not to add more hurt to the situation by focusing on who to blame.
Cooperate as much as possible. The emphasis of cooperation as opposed to competition was helpful to me. It's more about working together, looking out for other people's best interests and not our own.
Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution. Our relationships give meaning to our lives. You can agree to disagree often in the short term while you repair the relationship. After fellowship is restored, you will both be better able to solve the problem.
We have all been hurt deeply by other people. Since we are more inclined to expect loving and Christ-like behavior in our church, it cuts deeper when hurtful behavior comes from another Christian. On an individual level, strongholds and conflict within ourselves can keep God from being able to work in our lives. On a bigger level, it can divide a church community and limit the good that God can do within the community and also for the world at large. I also feel deeply that God wants us to further extend our peacemaking from the confines of our churches to the entire Christian community. We all have our differences and I like the way Rick Warren puts this in perspective on page 161, "As believers we share one Lord, one body, one purpose, one Father, one Spirit, one hope, one faith, one baptism, and one love. We share the same salvation, the same life, and the same future-factors far more important than any differences we could enumerate." God created each of us uniquely and to reflect His glory in different ways, I like the way Rick Warren emphasizes "unity" and not "uniformity" in Christ.
Just as our unrealistic expectations of people can lead us to disappointment, we can be disillusioned by unrealistic expectations of what a church should be. I definitely believe that you should make every effort to seek out the church where you feel God wants you to be. It's just important to realize that since churches are comprised of people, imperfections are bound to come up. The important thing is that we are in a place where we can seek grace, grow in God, love one another and belong to a community. Just as we respect God, we are also to respect our church leaders and take great care not to criticize or put them down, in addition to other church members. We must always make every effort to work out differences and resolve our conflicts before deciding to leave a church also.
I would like to close with God's method for conflict resolution, as identified on page 165:
If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him-work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. If he won't listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church. (taken from Matthew 18: 15-17)
Bible Verses from Day 20 and 21:
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. -1 Corinthians 1:10
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. -Matthew 5:9
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. -Matthew 5: 23-24
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. -Ephesians 4:3
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.