Fight For It

patrick-hendry-1567200-unsplashIf you have followed my blog for any length of time you know I have a passion for the great outdoors. I love God’s creation, the smell of pines, the sounds of nature, seeing a trout breaking the surface of the water to catch its dinner. Nothing, though, tops bow hunting in September in Idaho.

For over 30 years I have taken time each fall to bow hunt in the panhandle of Northern Idaho. Hiking the rugged terrain is incredible and physically taxing. Most years I spent time preparing my body physically during the summer months. One of my favorite ways to get in shape was to take a backpack and fill it with rocks to simulate the work of carrying a heavy hunting pack. Hours on a Stairmaster in the gym helps, but nothing can replace just getting out in the mountains and trudging up some steep hillside.

Burning thigh muscles and sweating like crazy always reminded me that I was training my body, but I hated carrying those rocks! Packing out elk meat after a successful hunt is rewarding and gratifying. Huffing and puffing up and down steep trails with rocks in a back pack is grueling work which serves only to condition my body for the hunt.

In the church I see people carry rocks in their back packs all the time – emotional rocks such as hurt, pain, unforgiveness, bitterness and despair. Unlike physical rocks, which can help prepare us for a hunting excursion, these rocks serve no purpose. Most people have become used to the burden and have adapted to living with continual emotional pain. Sometimes, even staff, elders and leaders carry backpacks laden with useless rocks. Heavily burdened Christians with aches and pains from lugging around deadweight can deeply impact church culture. The weight encumbers people and suffocates the gospel in the church.

I have heard it said, “hurt people, hurt people”. Each of us has some relational hurt from our past. We hurt each other, often unintentionally as a result of our own woundedness. In today’s church world when conflict or relational hurt occurs, we rarely face it head on. Rather than dealing with conflict in a godly way and fighting for relationships, we give up. We quit. I am not saying anyone should stay in an unbiblical or abusive church. I am saying we must have the courage to fight for relationships and do the hard work of keeping a light backpack.

Living with a light backpack means we live out the biblical model as we confront and resolve conflict and work through our relational issues. Unity with one another is so critical to God that Jesus even instructs us to resolve conflict before offering sacrifices. Matthew 5:23-24 says,

“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” (NLT)

We must be willing to remove the rocks we carry in our backpacks, but how? The only way to lighten our load is to have the necessary conversations. That may seem hard, scary or even impossible. In a disciple making culture we value relationship and when we value something then we must have the courage to fight for it.

Hard conversations require courage and also love. As Christians, we must remember that because of what Jesus Christ has done for us we are not only in debt to him, but we also owe a debt of love to each other. In Romans 13:8 Paul writes:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (NIV)

Lugging around a load of emotional rocks does not condition us for disciple making but lightening our load does. Having difficult conversations, in love, with the purpose of restoring relationship, strengthens our disciple making skills. When we value unity in our homes and churches and do the hard work to fight for it, we contribute to a healthy disciple making culture.

Are you in the middle of a conflict right now? Have you been carrying rocks of anger, bitterness or unforgiveness against someone in your life? What is keeping you from resolving the conflict? Pray that God would the provide the opportunity, the courage and the love you need to fight for that relationship.

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