GodReflection: Conflict Zone
Therefore, I urge you to imitate me – The Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 4:16).
The New Testament introduces me to people who are God-doers. Quickly, The Gospels of Matthew and Luke introduce Mary and Joseph. In rich narratives each time they encounter the Holy their response is complete obedience. What remarkable people. Every time they enter the conflict zone of a yes-no decision the answer yes comes from their hearts. I’m afraid that’s not my record in decision making.
Next, the writers present twelve apostles. The apostles prior to Jesus’ crucifixion are easier to imitate as their clay feet appear rather frequently while they follow Jesus on the dusty roads toward his cross. After they witnessed Jesus’ resurrection and ascension each entry into the conflict zone seems to inspire affirmation to Jesus. Their success rate increases.
The one notable exception was Peter who Paul calls out in Galatians chapter 2 for his wrong decision to withhold table fellowship from believers of another race because Christians from his nationality were present. The mistakes of this apostle should make it easy for each one of us to identify with him. From his call until Paul’s rebuke, is the story of one in the conflict zone who sometimes gets it wrong and other times makes courageous choices.
Fortunately, The New Testament contains two letters of the Apostle Peter written in old age. As a mature and trusted advocate of his savior Jesus he is a changed man. His example and writings now stand as a high-water mark of trust. They sound the call to live in total commitment to Jesus.
I read about another apostle. John, could make a list his own bad decisions prior to the resurrection of Jesus. He too failed from time to time in the yes/no department. He—like Peter—also wrote in old age. He painted the heart of love at a scale—more often than not—that seems to be beyond my performance level.
The New Testament church shows me Barnabas, Silas, Luke, Dorcus, Aquila and Priscilla. All shout their affirmative yes to the risen Jesus and a loud no when Satan blocks their way.
This post is not complete without consideration of the life of the Apostle Paul. Called by Jesus to share God’s gift of grace with the Roman world, his life and inspired pen compose one half of the New Testament. Consequently, we know more about him than we do of any other follower of Jesus. He holds before his readers the perfect Jesus.
I assume it was a valley moment when he wrote: To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment (1 Corinthians 4:11-13).
Confession. I read how Paul lived and see what he does and feel conflicted. Paul like the others gives his all to Jesus in actions that I don’t (can’t) imitate. I’ve not been shipped wrecked nor beaten, suffered hunger or thirst, because I believe Jesus. Once again, I find myself in the middle of the conflict zone.
Thankfully, the men and women I’ve mentioned are neither my savior nor my judge. Only Jesus has a heart and shoulders large enough to stand in that role. His trip to the cross carried my imperfections and paid for all my sin.
He now walks beside me through every conflict zone. Sure, it hurts him when I make wrong decisions. However, his spirit is always present to grow and to guide my walk. I must learn to pay closer attention.
While on this earth-walk his hand will hold secure to mine even when I aspire to do good and fail. He knowns I walk with a limp from my Adamic inherited gene of imperfection. Jesus grace covers my limp.
On the new earth under the new heaven all will be made right. I plan to limp forward awaiting that day free of conflict zones.
Hope you will grab your cane and limp with me guided by the light of Jesus until we arrive.
Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection on Others Do but I Don’t (Can’t)