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25 Mar '11

Reconciling Irreconcilable Differences

Posted by T.J. Addington in conflict, humility, incarnation, relationships, Restoration
One of the realities of life is that there are times when it is impossible to reconcile differences. It may be because two parties start with deeply different philosophical positions that are simple incompatible. It may be that EQ issues with one of the parties is such that it is not possible to rationally dialogue and resolve differences. Sometimes, no matter how much time has been spent in dialogue and conversation, even with a third party present, no progress is made toward real resolution. Many of us have experienced such a situation.

There are some who would take the Rodney King position: "Can't we just all get along?" It is a wonderful but naive thought! Sometimes people cannot just get along in in a manner that is productive. At least if they must be working together. There are situations where even believers are better off going their separate ways but in peace. The word peace is the operative word. 


I once told a staff member who had violated me and leadership principles in our organization that we could resolve our issues two different ways. One was to go through the hard work of working through contentious issues. The other was to acknowledge that we were unlikely to agree but to choose to bless one another.

I love reconciliation - it is at the heart of what God came to do between us and God and between one another. It is always the goal. But what does one do when there cannot be agreement on something deeply important or resolution on a matter that has become conflictual? After all, reconciliation takes two parties and the ability to agree to a resolution.

One possibility is to continue the conflict - but that is not pleasing to God or productive to the kingdom.

The other alternative is to simply acknowledge that we will not resolve our differences but that we can bless one another and choose to live with those differences, not harm the other but rather bless the other. Not all differences are resolvable but we make choices as to our attitudes about people and whether we will live at peace with them, bless them and wish the best for them. That does not mean that we need to pretend we agree and it does not necessarily mean that we have to work together. 


This route is often the most difficult because in the absence of agreement, and being able to negotiate through issues that are close to our heart, we have to give up our need to be right and simply choose to live at peace with one another, to be proactive in our blessing of one another and let time sort out the rest - whether it does or does not. That takes humility because rather than being proven right we simply chose to put the issue aside for the greater cause of Christ and to uphold the reputation of Christ: "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." The unity of God's people is more important than our need to resolve all issues or agree on all issues. In the end it is not about upholding our reputation but His! 

Are both these options true reconciliation? The first is reconciliation through working through the differences. The second is reconciliation through working through attitudes in spite of not being able to resolve the differences. The second is harder and takes greater humility. Both honor God and uphold the reputation of Christ. Both take a desire on both parties to move forward.