Consequences of a person’s actions: Sin vs. Grace in conflict resolution
It is strange to me when the consequences of one’s actions are not told in a way that goes both ways.
If you are listening to a story, and you know that the story teller believes on thing that he or she is trying to illustrate before he or she tells it, and you believe that what they say is untrue, what do you do?
Disagreement is a part of life. But will you attribute what you do not believe to her words, her beliefs, her actions in telling the story, her manner of speaking, etc? The fault we find with others and what we attribute it to can have enormous impacts on how we see the rest of the world.
Let’s pretend that God made you a person who loves words. He plans to use that later, but in the meantime, you’re just listening very carefully to her word choice. You find fault with the tone of her words, here and there, and you become angry. Anger isn’t a good fruit of the spirit, yes? But great. Now you’re angry.
If you are a person that pays attention to the way things are said instead of the specific word components that are inside it, you may well notice the syntax, or the order of how she speaks, and take offense to that. If order is a priority to you because it just is, then you are probably more methodical in how you live other areas of your life, or that is just a skill waiting to blossom. Now, if you become irritated by the way she just traipses over what she says, and attribute that anger to how she speaks instead of what she speaks, then I think that is also not a good thing.
If you are a person who happens to be talking to this person in real time. You meet with her for coffee. She uses her body movements in a way you think are “excessive” and “strange”. Could it be that you are also aware of your body movements, but you think the bigger priority is to make others feel “comfortable”? People project the comfort they would like for themselves, if you look. If her actions in speaking are making you uncomfortable, it may be worth investigating why.
I am talking entirely about examples, although I guess as a female gendered human, this could apply to me, if someone became angry with me. How would I resolve that conflict? That is an equally important question, for humans that are meant to live in harmony.
Well, I know that God’s grace is known by the fruit of his Holy Spirit in others through a person, or the lack thereof. I know that my actions come from my faith. And my faith comes from trusting God (over time). And my trust comes from Christ, and the security I have there. And God is the one who provides all of those things, including the grace I decide to attribute to him or not. Knowing that he does all things for his good and his works are perfect, I can then understand that the order for how the Holy Spirit can move (with no precise terms and only what I have deduced with some touch-and-go practice) is GodàJesusàHoly SpiritàGraceàHuman (me!)àFaith (belief)àAttitudeàActions (to oneself or others, + for grace, – for sin). Knowing that order helps me understand the very nature of God, because he is in all things, but all things come from him.
So. I know that God already sent Christ who came in the Holy Spirit to die for my sins. I know that Grace is how he accomplishes all good things. I know that he is meant to work through humans like you and I. I know that my faith is meant to influence my attitude, and the actions I take. Like tax code, the purpose (fruits and consequences) define a thing, for better or worse (sin/grace = +/-).
God has already made the Grace of the Holy Spirit accessible to me through Christ, so I am not responsible for providing that on my own, and I shouldn’t be. If I believed I was, that would get my faith out of order by making me bigger when I ought to be smaller (look at the word choice in Scripture and the size direction there).
But I am meant to steward whatever good thing God gives me, once it is at the level of human (me!). Thus, if all good things come from God, and he has given me much to steward, in terms of blessing? Then being blind to that duty will affect my faith, my attitude, and my actions.
If faith leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to good works, then how exactly would my faith influence what I do?
Well, all actions are meant to come through faith. Love is the greatest of “all these”, in the Gifts of the Spirit in 1st Corinthians, yes (if you don’t know, you should consider looking it up! It may be worth knowing). So if my faith is rooted on the infinite love God has for me AND other humans (#Greatcommission), then shouldn’t I allow him to use me by giving him his due praise and appreciation for the gifts he has given me, and allowing his Holy Spirit to influence my attitude, and allowing my attitude to help me do good works? If I know a bad fruit by its sinful consequences, then I must also know that doing things wrongly is an option that I don’t want, if I want to follow what God wants for me (and others). I know that if I am ashamed of the presence of God in my life, God will likewise be ashamed of me (#Romans). But I also know that it is not my place to supply my own salvation. Christ did that. God may be disappointed with me, but he will not disown me, so long as I believe that I’ve still got a shot in Jesus, because Christ saved me and he has the power to raise me from the dead with him, literally (#Revelation) and clearly, spiritually, through the Holy Spirit. If God can use Jesus to resurrect Lazarus, and there is no way to know how he wants to accomplish his good things, other than to trust him and allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life, could it be so entirely crazy that he would raise a corpse from the dead? I don’t think so, but then again, that is my choice.
But knowing that my actions will have consequences that are not defined by the action itself, but the action in the context of humanity (which is why the Devil targets humans #duh, and why in Job 2, he had come up from walking around the earth), what do my actions matter?
Well, they matter a great deal. They can either uphold the gospel, or make it harder to have others come to Christ, or any good thing. It’s like Karma, but add Jesus. If you believe that your faith is based on Christ’s power to save, and that is what sets it apart from the rest of world religions, then allowing there to be some truth in other world religions isn’t just fair, it’s obvious. Remember, Christ was a Jew. Without the Jesus, there is no difference, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing unless you shame others for it. If you accept differences and know that it is God who holds the glory, then you don’t need to have a bad attitude that will affect your actions. You can just trust that he will guide you.
So, back to the person who offended you. What in particular offended you? If it was her words (which are a kind of action that helps shape reality through providing justification for all actions (which is basically communication as a whole)), then she may not have realized her words had that power. If it was her mannerisms, then she may not have realized that her way of behaving could be alienating. If it was her way of speaking, then she may not have realized that her way of speaking was potentially offensive.
So now that you have realized it may not be about you in particular, what do you do?
Well, the hardest part is over, now that you have given the benefit of the doubt. You have allowed her patience through grace, which isn’t yours but couldn’t hurt. Now is the time to ask yourself what she might have actually meant. So how do you do that?
Well, that question comes down to intentions. Did she mean to hurt you, or cause the degree of damage which you yourself are feeling? If it is your ability to be hurt or not hurt, based on your faith, and attitude, and actions, and you have already chosen faith, then it follows that you would adjust your attitude, and thus, your actions.
Knowing that all actions with humans have a greater, equal, or lesser reaction, could you be “over-reacting?” Could you be “under-reacting”? If you do, then it may be bad for the conversation as a whole, and for her to become better at learning how not to offend others. If you do not know if she would like to know, perhaps you could just assume “yes” and see what happens. You could offend her. Or she could be grateful. Until you learn to discern between the two in that very moment, based on prior experience trying to use your good judgment to find out, you may very well not know. Best to air on the side of Jesus.
So, you have established that even though you do not know, you will decide to give the benefit of the doubt. That may mean you address what was offensive honestly, and without judgment. It may be good for you to address what is and is not okay for you personally, so she knows to not be rude next time. It isn’t your responsibility, unless you feel like Christ said it was. Which is the truth?
If you tell her, then you provide grace, which is the truth, which comes from God, who is honest, fair, kind, merciful, forgiving, patient, and loving, among other things. If you cannot be kind when you speak, maybe it is best not to speak. But if you can and it is simply a measure of choice? Well then. You should probably say something.
As humans, we never know what kind of an impact our words, or attitudes, or actions, or faith will have on the rest of the world. But it is our responsibility to steward that faith well, because it is not ours, because God sent it. If you believe that Heaven will be greater than the earth, then you believe that the Earth isn’t the end, because there is something better than it. Knowing that the world is with other humans (exclusively), and humans disappoint, and Heaven is with God, and he does not, wouldn’t it make the most sense to aspire towards an attitude of living in Heaven on earth? It is your choice. Think of it as practice.