Conflict is inevitable in a world marred by sin. Selfishness, pride, ambition, arrogance, ignorance… all these and a dozen other vices prevent us from communicating as effectively as we’d like to. Often, they prevent us from even desiring effective communication. And even when there’s no overt sin problem, there’s still the apparently insurmountable problem of sheer difference. We think differently, act differently, speak differently. We have different goals, different ways of prioritizing common goals, different ways of achieving even the things we have in common. These differences lead us to misapprehend, misinterpret, and mistrust other peoples’ motives and integrity. Put all this together in a world of scarcity, loss, and disappointment, and it’s a wonder that there’s room to get anything productive done for the tidal wave of strife threatening to sweep us away.
In short, our world is rife with the potential for inter-personal conflict.
In the midst of this reality, Christians are called to demonstrate the peaceful nature of their heavenly Father – we are to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:8). Yet there’s a difficulty that we face, as much as anybody else. In fact, if we are not careful, Christians are more susceptible to this danger than others.
It’s the danger of thinking – when all is said and done – that we really are right.
Now, certainly in any conflict there is more right and less right. But often, both (or all) sides are just wrong before a perfectly righteous and holy God. Job had to learn this as much as Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar. He was surely “more right” than his friends were in this particular conflict (Job 42:7-8) – and from the mouth of God, no less!
But were he to have focused on his “more-rightness” compared to his friends, he would have missed his total wrongness before God (Job 38-41). He would have missed his chance for genuine repentance (Job 42:1-6). He would have missed the opportunity to be used by God to bring his friends to a better understanding of the Absolute Right that transcended all their relative rightness (Job 42:9). He would have missed the blessings that only come on the other side of a full trust in God (Job 42:10-17).
And that is the hard part of conflict. To give more weight to the 4 chapters of our wrongness before God, than to the 2 verses of our comparative rightness to others. And then to humble ourselves before a holy and righteous God, and humbly lead those we’re in conflict with to bow together in his presence.
This is hard. But only then does true resolution come.
There is a danger that threatens always to imperil the Christian faith. It is the danger that comes from syncretism. Syncretism is that attitude toward religion which holds that no one religion can be said to possess or to offer the whole truth, and that the way to a world religion is to take the best from all religions and to mold it all into a new religion that is an amalgam of all existing religions. The idea is that the message of Christ Jesus has to be filled out by material from other sources. On this point Paul is uncompromising. There is no one who can add anything to Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ there came to men the full and final and perfect revelation of God, and we need nothing more.
— William Barclay, The All-Sufficient Christ
In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
— Paul, Colossians 2:3
In recognition of my first year ever having to file a tax return to the Internal Revenue Service of the United States… and in celebration of my having completed that arduous pitfall-ridden process… this.
Click image to enlarge
Source: H&R Block
Last weekend my youth group attended the T3 youth conference, hosted by the Lewisville church of Christ in Lewisville, TX. Reed Swindle, the Youth and Family Minister at Lewisville, did an excellent job of organizing a spiritually uplifiting and educational program. It was designed to encourage teens by providing answers to some of the tough questions that they face as they seek to live out and communicate their faith in a curious and sometimes hostile world.
As I observed the conference and my youth group, it occurred to me to wonder about the questions being asked and answered. I struggle with knowing what questions teens are dealing with, so I was curious to see the response of the kids to the various sessions being offered.
The conference was set up so that the kids chose 5 out of 30 or so sessions that they could attend. In descending order of popularity, here are the sessions by number of attendees in my youth group:
- Where Do I Begin Studying the Bible For Myself – 12 attendees (out of 18)
- How Did We Get The Bible? – 8
- Are Members of the Church of Christ The Only Ones Going to Heaven? – 7
- Where Did The Church Of Christ Come From? – 7
- How To Let Jesus be Seen In Me – 7
- How To Make Prayer Work – 7
- Does A Person Have To Be Baptized To Go To Heaven? – 6
- How Does God View Sin? – 6
- How To Survive High School – 6
- How To Make My Faith Stronger – 6
- How To Prepare Myself To Be Faithful In College – 4
- What About “Once Saved, Always Saved”? – 3
- Is Homosexuality A Sin? – 2
- How to Make A Biblical Conversation Peaceful and Productive – 2
- Hey, I Might Want to Be A Youth Minister or Preacher One Day – 1
- How To Lead Friends To Christ When They Have Problems – 1
- How To Be A Spiritual Leader On Your Team – 1
- How To Use and Abuse Social Media – 1
- The Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments – 1
- Why Do You Take The Lord’s Supper Every Week – 1
- Why Doesn’t Your Church Have Instruments – 1
- Hey, I Might Want to Be A Missionary One Day – 0
- How to Reach the Hispanic Community – 0
- How to Start A Bible Discussion – 0
- How to Get An Unfaithful Youth Group Member Back – 0
- The Old Testament in 35 Minutes – 0
- The Conversion Accounts in Acts – 0
- What is Premillennialism – 0
A couple of observations, then a few questions.
First – by far the most popular class was the one about studying the Bible personally, followed closely by the session about where the Bible comes from. To me this translates into a two-fold thrust of curiosity – the authority and applicability of the Bible. That definitely lines up with what I’ve been observing about young people: they want to follow God as he reveals himself in the Bible… BUT… they need to be given sufficient reasons to do so. They have legitimate questions about the authority of Scripture and how to understand it. Pat answers on the order of “because the Bible says so” will not be sufficient to sustain them as their intellect and curiosity develop. They must be told and shown why the Bible is authoritative in the first place, and how we got to our “the Bible says so” answer.
Second observation – I think there’s a potentially misleading division in the attendance figures I give above. The “How to Survive High School” class had 6 in attendance, and the “How to Prepare Myself To Be Faithful In College” class had 4. I think those classes could really be viewed as one general topic of faithfulness in the world, and particularly academia. (Incidentally, there were no overlapping attendees in those classes, and the attendees split down into older and younger for the college and high school classes, respectively – which I think bears out my observation). When combined with the numbers for the “How to Let Jesus Be Seen In Me” class, another favorite, I’m getting a picture that these kids want and need practical solutions for living out the Christian faith.
- Are these the “right” questions? If you have the privilege of working with young people, would you focus on a whole different set of questions, or do these topics cover a fairly good range of what your group is curious about and struggling with? Or your own child(ren), for that matter.
- What other questions might you suggest? (I might personally suggest “How do you know that Jesus rose from the dead?” or something along those lines).
- What are some practical ways that you have found useful in pulling questions out of young people?
Really enjoyed this… hope you do too.
I remember sitting in a church listening to a preacher tell about someone that had made a profound impact on his life and ministry. This unnamed friend had prayed for the preacher every day, at the same time each day, for several years. Friends like those are the kind you thank God for – especially when facing the rigors of ministry.
I’ve observed over time that there are several who have this kind of heart toward the minister of God’s word. And then there are others, who may not consider the beneficial effect their prayers may have on a man’s ministry. Read the rest of this entry »
In my home there’s a nook. In the nook is a desk, next to the desk is a shelf, and on the shelf is a book – the highly recommended The God of the Towel by Jim McGuiggan. As I sit at the desk, contemplating my life of ministry, my work at Montwood, and tomorrow’s Bible class – and the tremendous impact that I want to have in all of them – the following words leap off the page at me: Read the rest of this entry »