I’m not always a big fan of meetings at work. When run correctly, they can be productive and useful, but even the best of them fragment the day’s schedule and make it more difficult to work on projects that require extended focus and attention. Another challenge of meetings is that sometimes their topics create conflict. This doesn’t mean that my colleagues are mean-spirited, but there are definitely times when strong opinions have been lined up on two sides of a problem, and emotions spill over a little bit while searching for the best solution.
One Friday, though, I learned something from my manager (at the time) about meetings. We had gotten out of a meeting that could have gone poorly, but actually ended up being pretty good. In a tidbit of wisdom, my manager pointed out that, “No one wants to get into a fight on Friday.” And, that makes sense. After all, with the anticipation of a weekend, those who work a Monday-Friday schedule are in good humor on a Friday. In addition, I think that a lot of us don’t want to carry conflict into a weekend, and have it hanging over our heads for two extra days until we can resolve it the next Monday.
So, if you’re trying to resolve something challenging, I guess you could try scheduling the discussion on a Friday.
However, this got me thinking: If we can be nicer to each other on a Friday (whether an actual day of the week, or any time when we are trying really hard to do so), why can’t we do so the rest of the week?
After all, the book of Romans gives us the following instructions:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18 NIV
Some of you might already do a good job of this. The peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and the kindhearted (see Colossians 3:12-15) are a gift to any group. I remember a colleague who I would refer to as a “diplomat”. He would sit quietly in meetings, and – when he was ready to speak – would regularly share some insight that promoted harmony and wisdom.
Others of us (myself included) will cringe at the possibility of getting along with everyone (especially those who are challenging to love) all of the time! That might seem impossible, and we protest, “But you have no idea who I have to deal with on those other days of the week!” That may very well be true, but the author of Romans (Paul the apostle) still tells us to do our part.
So, how in the world do we do this? Well, for one thing, we don’t achieve this from the “world” at all. Yes, there are probably self-help books that purport to teach patience and other relevant skills, but as long as we live with our sinful natures, having an “iron will” can only get us so far.
God offers us a better way, though:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Galatians 5:22-26 NIV
Unlike those who teach us to do better on our own (where we remain in control and somehow make all of the right decisions), God knows that we need help. It is not in becoming more powerful on our own that allows us to follow God’s instructions for a fulfilled life (and a healthy community), but rather in giving over our will to Him. Only by yielding to the Holy Spirit can we achieve the peace with others that Jesus demonstrated. As we study Jesus’ life, we find that others didn’t always live in peace with Him. However, Jesus gives us the ultimate example of reaching out to those – including us – who were opposed to Himself (see Romans 5:6-11), and sacrificially making a way for everyone to be restored to peace with God.
In God’s kingdom, we see that it is not our own fallen nature producing good results (or “fruit”) in our own lives. Rather, the Holy Spirit (one of the three persons of God) does that. We don’t just conquer our own sinful behavior, we leave it on the cross of Jesus Christ (i.e., God the Son). We see here that we must take action to live in a way that pleases God, but that action is largely comprised of listening to and following the Holy Spirit’s direction.
That is how we can live at peace with others (at least, for our part of the relationship), every day of the week!
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.