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.
Really enjoyed this… hope you do too.
For some reason I thought that when I graduated from SIBI, I’d have time to catch up on the mountain of reading accumulating on my bookshelf – despite the fact that I was taking a position working with youth.
Silly me. Read the rest of this entry »
With everything happening this summer, I’m taking some time away from this blog to focus on some urgent and important matters. For those that don’t know, Bridget and I are moving from Lubbock to El Paso where I will be the youth and family minister at the Montwood church of Christ. Between a new job and a new city, plus Ezra’s usual summer visit, I don’t anticipate having the time to say anything meaningful for the next month or two. I’m hoping to be back at the end of summer. In the meantime, please pray for Bridget and me as we transition into our next phase of kingdom service.
Being held back hardly has a positive connotation. Think of being held back in school, or some person or circumstance holding back your potential. In such terms, it certainly doesn’t seem as though holding us back is something that God would do, but I’m convinced he does. Rather than allowing us to rush headfirst into a situation that will harm us, God does many things that seem painful and restrictive from a limited perspective. However, on closer examination and reflection, those things might be God’s way of either preventing us from harm or setting us up for a situation that will be even better than the one we are facing.
Numbers 22-24 records how a king named Balak hired a prophet named Balaam to curse the people of Israel. Unfortunately (?), Balaam had enough respect for God to not say something that he hadn’t been commanded to say. When the prophet was unable to do what the king required of him, Balak had this response:
I said, ‘I will certainly honor you,’ but the LORD has held you back from honor.” – Numbers 24:11
Balaam’s response is classic for Christians, especially those with a word ministry. In a nutshell, he says “I told you already. It doesn’t matter how much you pay me; I’m only going to say what God tells me.”
As I read that, it occurs to me that the human response to Balaam’s sentiment is to think that God is holding him back. He could have “a house full of silver and gold” – if only God would let him say what Balak wants him to.
It would certainly be easy for a Christian to think that way. The teachings of Jesus simply forbid Christians from behaving the way that the world does, which means that Christians are held back from a lot of the things.
We’re held back from pursuing wealth at any cost. We’re held back from giving in to every sexual desire that crosses our minds. We’re held back from addictive pursuits. We’re held back from hateful thoughts, bitter words, and vengeful actions. In fact, we’re held back from many things that the world looks at and screams “go for it!” and pursues at every opportunity.
If we’re not careful, we could begin to imagine that we are being held back from great opportunities, rather than grasping the truth that we are being held back from the edge of a cliff.
God loves us with an incredible love, and when he does hold us back, it is always for our good.
There are still people out there wondering if social media is addictive. I’d say that if you can’t even sign off while SWAT members are aiming guns at your blockaded hotel room, that qualifies.
Read the whole story here.
Probably the most well-known religious teaching ever is in the gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7 – often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. Most people probably know at least some portion of this teaching of Jesus, even if they don’t know they know it. (Test yourself: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” “Seek, and you will find.” “The meek… shall inherit the earth.” Any of these sound familiar?)
What most people probably don’t know is that Jesus came down off the mountain and immediately put his words into action – he got to work healing folks. In fact, the Sermon (chs 5-7) is followed by an extended presentation of Jesus’ healing power (chs 8-9). And all of it is sandwiched between 2 similar statements in 4:23 and 9:35 – that Jesus went everywhere teaching and healing.
Following in the Master’s footsteps… I’m glad that in addition to agriculture and teaching, we’ve also had the opportunity to be involved in medical missions while here in Zambia. The night we got here, a container was being unloaded with all kinds of stuff for local villages and hospitals. The first few days we were here there was a lot of sorting of clothing, books, and medical equipment. After a few days the medical equipment was delivered to local hospitals and clinics. For the next few days there were specific medical excursions into some of the villages.
The missionaries heading this up, Ty and Judy Jones, were conducting an optical clinic in the villages (Judy is an eye doctor). We accompanied them a couple of days and assisted in providing glasses to locals. So many of them have poor eyesight, so the optical clinic is always well received. People stand in line for hours for the opportunity to have their eyes checked and get glasses.
It was a bittersweet time. One woman came in with her two young children who were both born blind; heartbreaking to know that there was nothing that could be done. Then you have men and women in their 80s and 90s (the oldest man we saw was 99, I think) who rejoice at being able to have clearer vision.
The best part for me was knowing that we were not only helping physically, but beginning to open the door for spiritual help as well. For example, one of these villages was the same village where there was an agriculture workshop going on with school staff as well. And of course the eye charts being used had John 3:16 written out to test reading ability.