Who stomped on your nerves this week?
When was the last time someone annoyed you with their strong-willed opinion?
How did you respond when someone refused to drop a prickly topic?
If you’re living a healthy, vibrant life in a community, you’ll run smack into people with whom you chafe. You can’t always choose your conflicts, but how can you respond well?
Paul reminds us of this principle from a dank prison cell. His old friend Epaphroditus updates the apostle that a dispute broke out in the Philippi church. The conflict threatens to divide the people Paul loves.
The apostle’s first response isn’t picking sides, slapping wrists, or ushering a verdict.
Paul prays: That your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight. (v. 9)
The pinnacle of Paul’s petition is l-o-v-e.
This is no ordinary love. This deep rooted, agape love is based on a longsuffering commitment to place others well-being above yourself.
Paul doesn’t ask for a droplet or teaspoon. He asks for the wellspring of divine affection to “overflow.” The word used can also be translated abound which means to increase to the point of excess.
Imagine a glass filled until water overflows the rim, spreads across the table, and drips to the ground.
Yet Paul doesn’t stop there.
He prays that love may overflow more and more. In Greek, the use of repetitive language serves to accentuate the words and provide a visual echo. If Paul texted these words today, he’d use a string of exclamations and heart-eyed emojis to emphasize the superabundance of divine affection.
Why does Paul pray this?
He knows that whenever we bump into each other, what’s inside sloshes onto the next person.
Paul petitions God that in the conflict of the church in Philippi, even as viewpoints and perspectives clash, love splashes and splatters, douses and drenches, sloshes and soaks.
When people overflow with love, irritation and annoyance, frustration and divisiveness wash away.
The key to handling conflict well is to abound in love that’s full of knowledge and insight.
You need wisdom coupled with discernment to love well. This means knowing when to speak and when to hold your tongue. How to use a gentle tone. How to recognize the right timing. How to give space and how to seek resolution. How to affirm and reaffirm your love for the person.
This love will inspire people with grace and peace and help you overcome the everyday conflicts you find yourself facing.
Speaking of Paul and Philippians, so many of you have asked to lead Overcomer: 4 Weeks in the Book of Philippians in your small groups and Bible studies, that we’ve done a mini-printing just for you.
You can find copies of this ridiculously popular study, here.
In a time of great conflict, how are you handling difficult conversations?
Please share your wisdom with me below. I want to learn!