Lesson Ten: Caught in the Middle
Sometimes you’re caught in the middle. When that happens, you can do a lot to honor Principle 13:35 in your church—probably more than you realize.
There’s a Bible verse that says: Do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. (1 Timothy 5:22, NLT). That’s good counsel, especially when you’re caught in the middle of people in conflict.
Typically, when people have been hurt or offended by another, they don’t come to you saying: I want to gossip about someone in the church and sow seeds of division with you. Most likely, they’ll come seeking prayer or counsel. But when they bring their hurt to you rather than talking directly to the one who hurt or offended them, the result is the same. You’re caught in the middle. And usually no good comes from that, unless you act wisely.
Most people who come to you don’t think they’re being divisive, but that doesn’t make what they’re doing any less so. All they’re thinking about is their hurt. And they want to talk to someone about that.
While the people who come to you may not have evil intent, still what they’re doing is destructive both to the church and to their own spiritual well-being. When you’re caught in the middle, you can play a major role in setting them on a healthy path.
How? Communicate clearly your policy.
You don’t have to sound self-righteous or condemning. Just be loving and supportive and say something like this:
It sounds to me like this is something that you need to talk to so-and-so about. Do you know how to do that?
If they’re willing to talk directly to the other person, then encourage them to do that. If they feel that’s too overwhelming or they don’t know how, then share this course with them.
Be careful. Christians like to be helpers. But your help isn’t helping if you allow yourself to be caught in the middle. Don’t be drawn into talking about another person. Don’t share in the sins of others or participate in gossip or division. Be someone who honors Principle 13:35 and encourage others to do the same.
So, when you’re caught in the middle, don’t stay there. Stand by your policy and refuse to share in the sins of others.
This course is designed to help people manage interpersonal conflict when they’ve been hurt or offended by others. A lot of times that hurt doesn’t stem from sin, but sometimes it does.
When your hurt stems from another’s sin, many of the skills that you’ve learned in Principle 13:35 still apply.
- Don’t wait. Take the initiative, and seek resolution.
- Take your concern directly to the offender, not some third party.
- Avoid a harsh start. Don’t blame or accuse.
- Use the “XYZ Plus” Statement.
- Manage any defensiveness from them with Power Listening.
However, if that’s not sufficient to bring about resolution, then you can’t just walk away from a situation when sin is involved. Your best course of action is to apply the teaching of Matthew 18:15-17 and take things to the next level.
Even then, the outcome may not be ideal. But you can have peace of mind knowing that you did your best to work through the situation.
Sometimes sin is the cause of your hurt. But often it’s just a clash of personalities or different ways that people do things. When expectations aren’t met, hurt results.
Know this. The work of God is far too important to be undermined by any conflict in the church regardless of why it arises. Principle 13:35 must govern everything that we do at church, including how we manage conflict. Do your part in honoring this principle both when you’re engaged in conflict and when you’re caught in the middle.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35).
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The Big Idea
Adopt a clear policy of encouraging hurt people to talk to their offender first before talking to anyone else. Recommend the Principle 13:35 course to them if they don’t know how to approach such a conversation a healthy way.