Simple Ways To Deal With Controversies

Acts 15 is the story of the Jerusalem Council, the attempt by the early church to determine how to deal with Gentiles who were ooming to faith in Christ.

The question arose over the large number of Gentiles who followed Christ. For example, the Book of Acts shows Samaritans and proselyte Jews from Ethiopia (Acts 8) and Rome (Acts 10) trusting Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit. The last straw seemed to have been when Gentiles without any prior association or understanding of Judaism started being saved when the church at Antioch, Syria, sent Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey (Acts 13-14).

Jews from Jerusalem traveled to Antioch to tell Gentiles in the church they must submit to circumcision and the law of Moses. Paul and Barnabas disputed this assessment and journeyed to Jerusalem to discuss these issues with the elders and apostles.

This meeting resulted in a wholly satisfactory conclusion which propelled the church to all the world.

How can we satisfactorily deal with our controversies?

First, communicate. Communication means talking, listening, and understanding. This takes time and effort. The church appeared to have met four times over this controversy. Most likely the meetings occurred over a period of days.

In our controversies, we usually make our points known (sometimes forcefully, angrily, and with a desire to prove the other person wrong), but without a desire to truly communicate. Real communication means listening with a desire to understand.

Second, accept the other person’s feelings. Feelings are real. Whether or not they seem justified, they are reality. We all want to be understood. Good leaders and communicators accept people’s feelings and fears and attempts to allay those worries.

Third, meet the other person half-way. After communicating we often learn that our disagreements are not far apart. A little movement by both parties can solve the dispute. The early church accepted the Gentiles and encouraged them to take Jewish concerns to account.

We are all going to experience disagreements. Those who experience a successful and satisfying life have learned to overcome the dividing issues of life.

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One Comment

  1. Ed Matthew
    Sep 24, 2012

    Very good comments for those who are not fighting over turf. When two people have concerns with differing support groups, it is common for each support group to only understand that their member is at risk. Such situations are when good people do wrong things for understandable reasons. They do not have the time to know the truth, but do have the inclination to be a friend or loyal tribal member which may mean: time they sought to save themselves is lost anyway, only to find they were wrong; or worse, to find they were part of an injustice at the Judgement.

    For these situations the communication model does not work and will never work, as it takes a sincere effort to by both sides to be at peace to resolve of an issue. Seek first to understand and then speak is always a good “general rule” to follow. However, the communication model involves “feedback” confirming the message sent is indeed understood. When feed back confirms the message sent is understood and rejected (replaced by another message), the job of the support group is even more important. I have written on this subject earlier in your blog. Perhaps you can point out where your points have been successfully applied in our midst.


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About Waylon

I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. — 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NIV)