Unless we live alone in a cave nestled on some mountainside, we will run into people who oppose us. Sometimes we live in the same house with those people! During our first year of marriage Michael and I perfected the art of opposition. Michael would say something I found embarrassing and I would kick him under the table. He would look at me dumbfounded and later I would cry about how he was so “inappropriate.” Now looking back I would probably respond differently and just laugh because honestly he’s pretty funny and 20 years later I’m less uptight.
Conflict. Before we know it, we’re wrapped up a disagreement, misunderstood, unfairly judged, and offended. But regardless of how opposition finds us, we need a solid foundation on how to respond when we clash with the people we love.
Tucked among the detailed descriptions of offerings and vows in the book Numbers, I found a revealing story of opposition. In chapter 12 Moses’ siblings, Miriam and Aaron, speak against their brother under the pretense of objecting to his wife. Classic sibling shenanigans! However, the heart of the dispute was their opposition to Moses’ ultimate authority and leadership.
God speaks to them about Moses’ faithfulness and favor and Miriam is struck with leprosy.
While reading this passage I tried to imagine myself in Moses’ shoes. What would my honest feelings have been? Would I have felt justified when God punished Miriam? Would I have thought: I told you I was in charge!
Moses’ response is contrary to our fleshly reaction to opposition.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5 (NIV)
Our Fleshly Reaction
Defend Ourselves by Blaming Others
Defame Our Opponent by Gossiping
Diminish Our Faults by Inflating the Faults of Others
A Godly Response
Patient Gentleness: 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… 2 Timothy 2:24-25 (ESV) (this passage is speaking specifically to our interaction with those who don’t know Jesus but the principals apply in all relationships).
The miracle of empathy propels us to imagine a world outside ourselves and as we do compels us to live in a way that passionately embodies the love of Christ.
What will you do when (not if) people oppose you? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below.
For Further Reading on Conflict: