Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Conflict succumbs to Love

Posted on 25 Nov 2014 in Christianity, Discipleship, Leadership, Ministry | Comments Off on Conflict succumbs to Love

One thing I’ve had to adapt to in leadership is people’s first emotional response in the wake of conflict or unexpected circumstances. Often, they’re hurtful, sometimes harmful, and almost always inappropriate.

In the face of conflict, many within the church don’t present themselves well, or model what they claim to believe. Lashing and outburst come from place of fear, often the result of a perceived loss.

When we grow afraid of something, our natural response is to intimidate others so that we can save face and stay in power.

It’s in those moments that our response to someone’s else’s actions become vital. We cannot succumb to the same level of decorum that they have, instead, we must respond with love and grace.


When we grow afraid of something, our natural response is to intimidate others so that we can save face and stay in power.



[/pullquote]That interplay in conflict, always choosing to model love and grace in spite of intimidation and fear mongering is the posture of the disciples in Acts 4:23-31.

The Reading

On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“‘Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up lightstock_167786_medium_justin_
    and the rulers band together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.’

Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Love in Adversity

The religious leaders, in the midst of the confrontation with Peter and John, resorted to fear and intimidation. They could sense that their power was being challenged. First, there was the healing, and then the verbal defense. I’m sure they were irate and like all good politicians and authorities, they engaged in saber rattling in hopes that they would stay quiet.

Peter and John were not intimidated.

Instead, they assembled a group of believers, and after some jesting (“Can you believe they thought we’d be quiet about this? Ha!) they began to pray for boldness. They knew that attention was coming to them, and that in the midst of adversity it’s easy to become quiet. Their mission was too important to shrink into the shadows. Their prayer is a powerful one for the church today.

  1. Our movement is rooted in God’s story. The first part of their prayer roots their desire for continued faithfulness in the midst of the story that God is telling.  In the midst of fear or adversity, we often forget this and want to rely on our own power. Somewhere we’ve read a book, or listened to a sermon, or scribbled some notes on how to resolve this. These things are good, but they aren’t step one. Step one is always God’s movement, always God’s story, always God’s power and presence among his creation. The story is unfolding exactly like they he said it would, and they are as much praying to him as they are reassuring themselves of God’s faithfulness yesterday, today, and tomorrow. [pullquote]We ask God to bring people to us, not for us to go out; and we often ask God for more stuff, instead of more of him.[/pullquote]
  2. Above all, keep us faithful. The disciples could sense what was coming. They knew the conflict that Jesus got into with the religious leaders and it was clear that the early church was about to have a similar showdown. Having been chewed out by the religious leaders, the disciples needed, and pleaded, for an extra measure of boldness, courage to present faithfully in what was to come. Interestingly, they aren’t so much asking for a feeling, but an action. Specifically, they are asking for boldness to speak and act in such a way that they honor Jesus. Far too many of our churches, in our mindset of modern persecution, shrink back and hide in fear, the exact opposite of what the early church wanted to have happen.
  3. Demonstration of God’s power. They close their prayer for another measurement of God’s faithfulness. Just as he had been faithful (point one), and just as they desired to be faithful (step two) they knew that they needed God to be faithful for it is only through his power that their mission, purpose and identity make any sense.

And in that prayer, God responds. The house is moved with the power of the Holy Spirit and they see and experience what they had prayed for. Missing in many of our modern prayers is this rootedness. We often fail to place ourselves in God’s history and story, we fail to ask God for boldness in public to declare the message of Jesus, and we don’t plead with God to do great things. Our prayers, by this standard, are often tame and bland. We ask God to bring people to us, not for us to go out; and we often ask God for more stuff, instead of more of him. Peter and John would have scoffed at these ideas, and in an act of greater faithfulness to God, we should too.

May we line ourselves to pray with the early apostles and pray for boldness, and faithfulness to declare all that we have seen and heard from Jesus.

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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