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Friday, June 15, 2007

More On Conflict

So I have a dear friend, Doug, who can both bless and challenge with his words. (He really is a wise prophet in many ways.) He and I share some very common perspectives in life, mostly because of the brokenness that we also share. I'm truly blessed to have him for a friend. Anyway, Doug reads my blog on conflict this week and sends me an e-mail. What he says seems relevant and smart. Let me share some of it with you.

Doug said, "You are blessed because of your role as a person who facilitates reconciliation. Scripture calls you a peacemaker." In fact, Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." He called each of us, as Christ-followers, to be instruments of peace wherever we are. But I notice that it's not possible to be a peacemaker unless one wades into conflict to do it. After all, in the absence of conflict, why would anyone need a peacemaker!

Doug continued, saying,
"On the related note of helping people in an organization all stay pointed in the right direction, I just finished a book by a pastor in Ghana named Dag Heward-Mills on leadership/followship in the church titled, 'Loyalty and Disloyalty.' It’s a very practical and easy read on how people wander off the reservation in a church. ... The enemy is really cunning and relentless in the area of dividing and splitting up churches. The chief tools seem to be mistrust and--- Taa-Daa … CONFLICT."

Doug says, "I like the idea of a lack of love being at the root of why conflict is unresolved or escalates." James 4:1-3 says,
"What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure."

Now my friend Doug summarizes that simply, saying, “I am willing to put my selfish wants above my regard for you. I want what I want, no matter what.” And he comments that, "This puts me way out of sync with God." I think he's right. No only does this put us out of sync with God, but it puts us squarely in the middle of conflict!

John 13:34-35, according to my friend, puts it another very startling way. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. Doug comments that it's interesting how Jesus said it would be love for one another, not party affiliation, tithing, bumper stickers, witnessing, signs and wonders, or even preaching that would be the distinctive badge of the true disciple. (I see his point.)

And he summarizes the whole subject by saying, "A safe synthesis of these two scriptural principals would be that though truly devoted Christ-followers may not be completely free of the tendency toward conflict (as a result of our sin nature—I am after all, selfish), our lives will be marked by the type of unselfish love that leads toward reconciliation rather than escalation."

I believe Doug has summarized it well. That is the point. Let's face it, we are all sinners. We're selfish. Our perspectives, thinking and attitudes are all flawed. So conflict is inevitable. Some might even say it's more likely amongst Christians because of Satan's destructive bent towards us. But the hallmark of a true Christ-follower is not the absence of conflict. Rather it is the obvious bent toward reconciliation rather than escalation. Blessed are the peacemakers.

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