Quarrels Solve Nothing

In May of 1889 due to flood waters and neglect of needed repairs to a dam near Johnstown, PA, one of the most tragic events occurred in US history as the dam breached. According to the Johnstown Area Heritage Association’s website, 2,209 people died, 1,600 homes were destroyed and $17 million dollars of damage occurred as a ‘….great wave measured 35-40 feet high, hit Johnstown at 40 miles per hour.’[1] This dam’s breach effected the lives of many and may have been averted by proper maintenance.

In the book of Proverbs, there is a verse that uses the imagery of destruction that a breached dam can cause with a common occurrence in our daily lives’ quarrels with others. Proverbs 17:14 says, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” It speaks to the fact that quarrels do not solve anything, but rather cause more destruction than good, but how so?

Quarrels or better stated verbal fights can inflict serious inflections mainly because the dam of our frustrations and anger overflow into the fight.  Often in the heat of the verbal battle, our anger gets the best of us and we say things that hurt others. In a quarrel it is no longer about solving an issue but rather an all-out assault to win our position over another. We do this not by listening or taking in account the other’s position, but rather having an attitude of I must win over the other at any cost. The result is devasting as each person in the quarrel leaves with hurt feelings, anger, resentment and an unresolved issue. Quarrels can leave us in the wake of broken relationships and broken spiritual life, even more in the church these verbal assaults can cause split churches and people abandoning church altogether.

As Christ followers there is another way we must act when dealing with disagreements in our relationships and in the church. One way is discussing an issue before it gets out of hand. This means coming to the table and allowing for each person to talk out the issue in a safe environment. To do this means to respect the other person and their point of view even if you disagree. Listen to what is being said without loading up your ammunition to fire back a response before they are done talking. Allow timeouts when discussing something that is causing yours, theirs or boths blood to boil. Cool off and come back once again to talk calmly and open mindedly with each other. Even call in a fellow brother or sister in Christ to help mediate peace in the situation.

Second, realize sometimes we are going to disagree and sometimes we won’t get our way.  We can attempt to come to a compromise yet in some situations a compromise is not feasible. In those instances for the greater good of peace we must learn to be okay with losing out on our position (unless losing out goes contrary to what the bible says). If we have stated our position and have been listened to, then that is all we should do. Our greater call is that God’s will be done thus our greater call is to show love over winning out in some dispute.

That brings us to the last thing, love. As Christians we must show love. Paul gives a laundry list of things that love is to a church in a huge dispute among themselves. He uses words like patient, forbearing, kind and does not boast to name a few. Yet at the end he says love never fails. No matter what win or lose we never fail when we share love. So the next time we see a quarrel coming, take a moment and heed Proverb 17:14. It may indeed keep us from feeling the damage a quarrel can cause in our lives.

[1] “Statistics about the Great Disaster.” Facts about the 1889 Flood, 2019, www.jaha.org/attractions/johnstown-flood-museum/flood-history/facts-about-the-1889-flood/.

God is in Control

Psalm 73- 1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. 7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. 8 They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. 9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. 10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. 11 They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” 12 This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. 15 If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. 16 When I tried to understand all this it troubled me deeply 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. 18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. 19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! 20 They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. 21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. 23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
Why does it seem that all too often the unjust get away with it or have it easy while those who act justly get the short end of the stick (have it rough)? Well, if you ever thought this, you aren’t the first; in fact there is a Psalm about this. In Psalm 73, the psalmist admits to almost falling in the trap of being envious of those doing wrong because when he compares his circumstances to those doing evil, it looks like they are carefree and his life is not. So, what should we do when we face injustice in the world and in our lives?
First, the Psalmist is too focused on this inequality between him and evil doers until he comes into the sanctuary of God. He remembers that God is in control and that God’s perfect justice will be fulfilled in the end. Justice is God’s in the end, He judges with a perfect wisdom and will not allow anything to go unaccounted for. We must place our trust in God and allow God to avenge for us rather than us take revenge.
Along with that thought of God and justice, we must not forget that God is a God of love and patience. God does not want to see anyone perish and is patient in allowing those who do evil the opportunity to come to Him and His grace. Remember we too at one time did what was not pleasing to the Lord and deserving of punishment, yet the Lord was patient with us and forgave us our sins.
Second, talking about forgiveness, we must be willing to forgive even the hardest, heinous injustice. We all remember that Jesus on the Cross, suffering the most heinous of injustices said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus was thinking of His persecutors as He suffered a painful and gruesome death. Our Lord knows what is to forgive those who hurt Him, aren’t we to follow in His footsteps?
One way to help us with forgiveness is a word called empathy. We put ourselves in their shoes. We look at their life, their upbringing, their culture (if applicable) and their fallenness with a desire to understand (not justify) them. It’s through this process that we gain empathy.
Finally, stand up for those who are being oppressed. One of the offenses of the Israelites in the days of the prophets was that they acted unjustly to those that were in the margins of society (the poor, the foreigners, widows, orphans, etc.). God wanted the leaders of Israel and the wealth to care for all, yet they did not follow God’s wishes and often took advantage and oppressed those who lived at the bottom of the social ranks. God still wants His people to stand up and help those in need. He wants to help stop injustices and for us to care for our fellow man.
We must always remember, even when evil in the world around us seems so strong, God is in control. God is redeeming this world and us as well. We must rest in the hope that one day this world will be restored to as it was before the fall. Even more, we must do our part as effective agents of God’s grace to combat the evil so prevalent in the world around us.