In this timely article, Simone Griffin shares 4 practical ways we can be led by the Spirit to help us manage our emotions and maintain unity in the Church in divisive times.
It’s no secret that it’s a tough time to be a Christian. All around us, divisions are obliterating any hope of peace in our society. As the world moves further away from truth, believers are beginning to look more and more like aliens on a strange planet. But what do we do when these emotionally-driven topics knock loudly at the door of the Lord’s Church? What happens when we find ourselves disagreeing with the stance of a fellow brother or sister in Christ?
This is where the enemy presents us with chaos and confusion that can easily create a breeding ground for emotional responses. We expect the dissonance that happens between Christians and the rest of the world. However, we expect and hope to be united and in one accord with others who share the same faith as we do.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
DEALING WITH DIFFICULT TOPICS
It can be extremely frustrating when difficult topics have grey areas and the answers aren’t explicitly stated in Scripture. God, can You just make it clear what we are supposed to believe about everything? But even in the midst of the murky waters, we have been called to unity in the Body of Christ. We know that God is not the Author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). On the contrary, the Christ we serve is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
When we begin attaching our value as faith-filled women to what we believe about worldly issues, God gives us an escape from the temptation to quarrel with other believers who disagree with our stance. In His kindness, God’s Word has provided us with what we need to walk in love and be Christ-like when tensions are high.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3-8).
HOW CAN WE RESPOND IN GODLINESS?
So how can we respond with a posture of godliness when it feels like the very core of who we are is being attacked? On our own, we can’t. But there’s good news. Our Helper, the Holy Spirit, can and will help us extend grace, respond with soft answers that turn away wrath (Proverbs 15:1), and foster unity with our brethren. And this unity, achieved by the power of the Holy Spirit, is one that transcends all of our natural, emotional responses.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).
We can and should be passionate about what we believe in. However, these deep emotions and passionate beliefs can easily lead to the “unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction” we are warned about in 1 Timothy 6:4 (NIV).
Here are 4 practical ways we can be led by the Spirit and ensure our emotions don’t lead to offenses that seep into our relationships and ultimately severs them.
1. PREPARE BY STUDYING GOD’S WORD
When it comes to navigating difficult conversations, it’s easier to walk in step with the Spirit when we know what God’s Word says. With this in mind, it’s essential that we are diligent in studying the Bible. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” God’s Word is a toolkit for Christ-like living. We can pull from it in times of distress and confusion. The more time we invest in learning Scripture, the more likely we are to hide God’s Word in our hearts. And the more likely we are to use it as our first line of defense in a heated situation. No soldier goes into battle unprepared. Likewise, as we fight the good fight of faith, we must be equipped with His Word.
2. POSTURE YOURSELF WITH HUMILITY
Pride is one of Satan’s best schemes to cause division. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be ‘right’ in every disagreement. When an offense happens, we need to identify the thing that is making us so upset over it. Is it that we feel our character is being attacked because of our opposition? Does hearing the other perspective make us uncomfortable? Have we had a personal life experience that leads us to be extra passionate about the topic at hand?
Naming the offense can help us remember that every individual’s thoughts and beliefs are a sum of their experiences. Their beliefs are comprised of things they have learned, heard, and experienced throughout their lifetime. Acknowledging this can lead us to humility and empathy. There’s an old phrase that says we are “first sinners, second sinned against.” How would our humility increase if we approached every relational tension with this mindset?
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
None of us are exempt from this exhortation to count others more significant than ourselves. What does this look like in practical terms? It might require us to bury our pride and admit that we don’t have all the answers. It may require us to do some intentional listening. Perhaps, it will require us to accept that we are not God and can’t judge the actions of others. Humility will cause us discomfort and sacrifice. But the sanctification developed from posturing ourselves with humility is worth it.
3. PAUSE BEFORE RESPONDING
There is great power in pausing. Our emotions can cause us to hit “publish” on a post, hit “send” on a text message, or spew words from our mouths that can’t be taken back. This is precisely why God directs us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). We would be wise to spend more energy on trying to understand than being understood. By doing so, we will establish an atmosphere of mutual humility and respect with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus was not one to run away from hard conversations. He challenged faulty thinking and ideas with parables, truths, and honest feedback. But He also proved His points with humility and grace—and we can take notes from His communication style.
4. PRAY FOR WISDOM AND WORDS
It seems it would be intuitive for believers to use prayer as a first defense, but more often than not, we treat it more like a last resort. How would our conversations be transformed if we were being led by the wisdom of our Wonderful Counselor? Wisdom is one of the few things we are actually guaranteed to receive if we ask for it.
Pray for Wisdom
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
When responding to a text or social media post, we should pause to prayerfully consider our response. We should lay our emotions at our Father’s feet and ask Him for wisdom in how to navigate these issues. But so often, we yield to our emotions instead of surrendering them to Christ. God can provide us with the wisdom and discernment to know whether a conversation is even worth entering into. Sometimes, the Lord might be calling us to respond with the Truth in love. Other times, our assignment may be praying for the person we disagree with. Then trusting the Lord to be the One to provide conviction and clarity.
The only way for us to know the response that will bear fruit and glorify God is to be led by the Holy Spirit. And thankfully, He “helps us in our weakness for we do not know what to pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26a). We will know that we are being led by the Spirit from the fruit that we bear. Spirit-led responses are a path to peace and reason.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17-18).
Pray for Words
For face-to-face conversations, it may feel impossible to pray before responding. But we can use these opportunities to pray with the person we are in opposition with. Can you imagine how the enemy’s plans would be thwarted if two believers who disagree stopped to pray before engaging in discussions over controversial issues?
In Matthew 18:20, God makes it clear to us, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
This simple method of praying for God to grant wisdom and words could transform conversations—big and small. How might our lives and interactions change as a result of this? How might greater unity be achieved if the believers in our government prayed for wisdom and words together? Sisters, it can begin with us!
REMEMBER WE POSSESS THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT
Praise be to God that as believers, we possess the fruits of the Spirit. Therefore, let us strive toward “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). May we never take for granted our ability to tame our fleshly responses and bring our emotions in submission to the Father. And may His grace and mercy continue to pour out for us and through us as a result.
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:23-26)
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