For us to get into the type of community that can be open and honest we need a lot of things and one of these is permission. No matter what the conflict is if the other person doesn’t want us to speak then they are not going to listen. In churches we often think in terms of authority rather than permission, and when we apply this to conflict it is more often than not disastrous. Now don’t get me wrong, I can envision some situations where someone’s actions are so harmful to themselves and others that we don’t have time to consider whether we have their permission first or not. But this is not the norm, and if we can develop into honest and truthful people then it never will be.
Some may argue that we are given permission simply by being friends with someone, or the fact that another person is a Christian gives us permission to ‘speak into their lives’. The Bible tells us to love others as we love ourselves and not be a stumbling block to others. Just the simple act of asking if you can speak truthfully for a moment changes the dynamic. Added to the humility we looked at last week this puts us on the right foot moving forward.
Ahh but what about those people who don’t give us permission? Simple, don’t say whatever it was you were going to say. Let them know that you have something you would like to share but you only want to do it when they give permission for you to do so. It may be frustrating, you may like you want to shout at them, but what are your motives? For their lives to be better, or for yours? Can you bear the burden if they refuse to cooperate? How did Jesus tackle people? In the case of the rich young ruler he came to Jesus, then received the advice he didn’t want to hear. Jesus also provided the following advice in Matthew 18:15-17:
‘“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.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.’
And we know how Jesus expects us to treat those people…