If you have kids you know how frustrating it can be to tell them to do something, but they don’t do it, so you have to tell them again, and maybe even a third or fourth time. Although my son is a pretty good kid, sometimes he doesn’t respond the first, second, or third time I tell him to do something. I’ve been known to raise my voice just a little to get his attention when he doesn’t listen. And somehow that little raise of the voice works.
I think God is the same way, and we sometimes respond to Him much like our kids respond to us. God doesn’t necessarily raise His voice, but He does find creative ways to get His message across if we don’t listen the first few times He tells us directly.
I experienced just such a thing this week. I was upset with a fellow Christian about something, and as I prayed about it, asking God what to do, I understood what His answer and His direction was. I was to call her and ask to talk, and when we did have an opportunity to talk I was to ask if there was something I had done to make her act this way towards me. I was to swallow my pride and try to reconcile any differences we had. God pointed me toward Matthew 18 as a model for how I needed to deal with this situation I was upset about.
Three mornings in a row I prayed and got this same answer. But I didn’t call my fellow Christian. Instead I stewed about it, imagining that she would not respond favorably. I did read Matthew 18, but I didn’t act on the direction it gave me, even though it was the words of Jesus himself telling me what to do.
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” Matthew 18:15-16.
So today God got creative. I received a Facebook message from a friend I had confided in about this situation. She said she couldn’t get it off her mind and that she thought I needed to go talk to the person I was upset with and tell her how I felt. Then she wrote, “That part in the Bible (you’ll know it better than I) about if a person has a problem with his brother, he should go to that person to get it cleared up?” That would be Matthew 18:15.
I finally “listened” and made the call. I got voicemail and am now waiting for a call back to try to schedule a meeting with my fellow Christian. Perhaps if I had listened on Monday the whole thing would be cleared up by now.
God speaks to us through His Holy Spirit and His Word. I am thankful that if I don’t listen and follow-through, He doesn’t give up. He will use creative methods to get my attention and direct me in the path I need to be on. How many disagreements and hurt feelings among believers could be avoided if we would all just heed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and actually treat each other as His Word directs us to do?
The apostle John (known as the apostle whom Jesus love) wrote:
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him. 1 John 2:9-11.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:16-20.
The body of Christ is made up of diverse believers with different backgrounds, temperaments, and personalities. Though we may surely bond more closely with some believers than others, we must all love one another “with actions and in truth.” One of those “actions” is to resolve differences and disagreements in the manner our Savior has commanded us to do. Then we will live in the unity and harmony of the Gospel and God will be glorified.