The challenge of walking with the God who knows me  

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If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17

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Acts 15:39a

“They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company...”

One of the most difficult times in the mission was when there was an open leadership conflict.  This conflict dragged on for a very long time in various different forms.  That is it started with conflict between one group of people, but as time went on the scope of the battle changed.  When addressing the issues of the conflict, it always appeared to be a conflict over the direction that the mission was going.  With time, it became clearer that the real battle was a power struggle between leaders.  The issues of direction were secondary to the level of distrust of personalities.

As I observed our behaviour in the context of this conflict, it struck me that it was the very opposite of what the Lord calls for.  In this sense we showed a distinct lack of wisdom – “Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13 NIV) It would seem that humility was one of the key ingredients that was missing.  When either side felt pushed up against the wall, there was a tendency to try to resolve things in arrogant force.  We felt a need to justify ourselves.  Justifications, it would seem inevitably makes the story a bit better than it really is.  In justifying ourselves, what we did not immediately see, was that we were putting the other side into a position where they needed to justify themselves.  We responded from fear, and induced fear in our opponents.  Instead of spreading the life and love of Jesus, we were spreading fear and its natural consequence - death.  “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 Jn 4:18 NIV)  The punishment that we feared was the loss of our aspirations and visions for this ministry.  We might have called these the gospel, but our response of fear showed that they were really ours.

James continues on wisdom: “But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:14-16 NIV)  I found that I was seeing disorder and evil practice at every turn, and so concluded that there must be bitter envy and selfish ambition lurking in the background.  It was quite a long time before it became clear but it was surely there in the aspirations and visions that we held for the ministry.  In a sense we had taken over the ministry from Jesus.  We were running it.  It reflected on us.  It was us.  Since the ministry had become ours, we could not let go of it – even to the when this white knuckled grasp was taking us towards serious self-destruction.

It was many years before I began to understand that the issue is not nearly so much one of who is right and who is wrong, but rather, it is one of the submission of our hearts to one another and above all to Jesus in love.  The reality of this must involve facing the prospect of losing all of our cherished dreams of what Jesus would do through us.  In a sense I have to submit to the prospect of losing all, yet trusting Jesus that somehow he can bring what is precious to him out of the ashes like a Pheonix.