We had a thermostat problem and it was getting out of hand. Actually, we had a thermostat war!! Does this sound drastic? Well, let me prove my point. One dictionary defines “war” as “An armed conflict between two parties.” We definitely had two parties who were armed and dangerous.
• One group wants the temperature a “little” cold during the winter and “slightly” hot during the summer to save needed money. If folks are uncomfortable? Tough! Because everything is for the good of the church and extra funds can be used for needed ministry.
• The other side wants visitors to be comfortable enough to take off their coat without turning into icicles during the winter or suffer from heat stroke in the summer. Besides, any money saved on fuel is spent again on wear and tear on the system.
Unfortunately, the battles were getting out of hand.
Every Sunday morning the war raged on. The first skirmish began as advance scouts from each party arrived to check the temperature. Then throughout the day: before, after and even during the worship service one person would quietly sneak up on the thermostat and tweak it just a bit.
Instantly, someone from the other side would jump up and readjust the setting. On and on it goes throughout the day. Who wins? The battle rages on.
This can be funny but also it can be frustrating. Disagreements pose a danger of distracting us from our primary mission of showing the love of Christ. Our influence as Christians as seen by outsiders often centers on our ability to lovingly resolve disagreements, even minor ones.
Can we as Christians disagree yet still love and respect each other?
Learning how to resolve a difference of opinion over a thermostat can provide answers toward helping us handle really difficult issues, such as our financial crisis, abortion, homosexuality, divorce, ethics, poverty, materialism, pollution, alcoholism, drug addiction and racism.
Paul gives a strong warning in his letter to the Corinthians. “When you have something against another Christian, why do you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter, instead of taking it to other Christians to decide who is right? Don’t you know that someday we Christians are going to judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide these little things among yourselves? I am saying this to shame you.” (Parts of 6:1-5)
Stephen Covey offered advice for resolving conflicts in, Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families.
1. What is the problem from everyone’s point of view? Really listen to one another.
2. What are the key issues involved? Try to identify several points that can be agreed upon.
3. What would constitute a fully acceptable solution? How can both sides feel like winners?
4. Look for creative new approaches and solutions everyone can agree with?
Covey wrote of a “Talking Stick” used by Native American tribes. Whoever holds the stick has the floor and others only ask clarifying questions. When the stick goes around the circle, everyone has the opportunity to be heard and listen to each other.
Jesus never said “winning debates is everything.” Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all.” Our willingness to listen to different points of view in loving humility says a lot about the God we serve.
Are there conflicts in your life, which need resolving? Maybe God through the church can help you discover an answer. Church is a great place to be, if you don’t mind an occasional squabble over the thermostat. Then again, maybe we need our own “Talking Stick.”