Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam;
so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.
When a container of water cracks, when it is opened only by a hair, water seeps out and cannot be retrieved. Cover it with your hands, put a cloth tightly around it, the water continues to seep. It cannot be contained. And even if you do seal the crack, you cannot reclaim the water. It flows into every crevice nearby. Such is the problem when a pipe leaks. You may find water damage in one place a wall, a ceiling, the floor only to discover that the leak is elsewhere because the water flows to wherever there is least resistance.
So it is with strife. Once it is let out, it travels wherever it can, in different directions wherever there is least resistance. It stains the clean surfaces of the room. It cannot be put back in its container as though it had not spilled out. Wipe the surface dry, patch and paint the stains and cracks; nevertheless, the damage was made and memories keep the strife in storage. There is less trust now, less fellowship. Like undersurface damage that is never restored, so damage in the minds and souls of fellow believers and of neighbors and of family members remain through the years.
And that is assuming effort is made to deal with the strife. More likely, the crack widens into an opening and as water pours forth, so strife pours forth. Now I know where you really stand! I’ve never trusted you and you have proven why! Then the charges multiply and opportunity for recrimination is looked for.
And where all this is likely to happen is in the church amongst the fellowship of the followers of Christ. So quit before the quarrel breaks out! Whatever damage you think will occur because you hold your tongue, consider the damage that will occur when you speak in strife. And if you must speak up, consider what you will say and how you will say it before you speak. Consider how you will help your fellow believer with your words. Consider if that really is your motive. For once the crack is made, the water of strife will come forth.
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
The Ministry of Reconciliation
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.