Today’s scripture reading:
But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions? “You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”d
The Scriptures record many instances of conflict between nations, among friends, and in families. Today we see the same types of problems. While fighting, people can say harsh and even unfair words. Their accusations create turmoil and emotional pain. What we believe will determine the way we respond to such difficulties.
God’s Word proclaims His sovereignty over nature (“The LORD does whatever pleases him throughout all heaven and earth, and on the seas and in their depths.” Ps. 135:6), government (“He builds up nations, and he destroys them. He expands nations, and he abandons them.” Job 12:23), and mankind (“Human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.” Acts 17:25). Nothing in heaven or on earth is hidden from Him or outside of His control. So, how does this help us in a conflict? First, our Father knows when people verbally attack us, and He has promised to protect us. Nothing can touch His children apart from His permissive will. Second, He has the power to work the painful times we endure into something beneficial (“We know that God causes everything to work togetherm for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Rom. 8:28). We can have hope because His will cannot be thwarted, even in bad circumstances. Finally, we are His beloved children. He is a loving Father who understands what we are going through and always remains by our side. As His sons and daughters, we are not on our own.
When we believe in the Lord’s sovereign rule, our perspective on hard times changes. Instead of responding with fear, anger, or resentment, we will turn to Him in prayer and ask for guidance.
Conflict is inevitable. When we, or something we have done, is the source of the turmoil, we are to apologize. If others are at fault, we may have to confront them the way Paul did with Peter. But we are also called to forgive without exception. As Christ’s ambassadors, the way we respond really matters.