Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Heart of Conflict

So we all experience it on a regular basis whether we want to admit it or not. Conflict. What is it and where does it come from? Why can't we live without conflict? Remember the words of Rodney King, "Why can't we all just get along?" Well? Why can't we all just get along? Why is it that we experience conflict at home, at work, and even in our churches? The reason is really quite simple: sin. We ALL have hearts that are prone to idolatry. We desire to run our own life our own way. We want to have our proverbial cake and eat it too. We think our opinions are more important than the opinions of others. Our boss thinks our work was substandard while we think it was impeccable.

We live in a culture that has become more and more averse to confrontation. But in a fallen world, is such an aspiration wise or even possible? I think it is not. Sin makes conflict unavoidable. Any idea that postulates that conflict can be erased from the scene of every day living is seriously detached from reality. Conflict is a fact of life just as much as death itself. It is impossible to live life for very long without some sort of conflict arising. If this is true, then the question arises, "how do we deal with conflict?" In order to deal with conflict, we must first have a firm handle on the heart of conflict. The heart of conflict is the human heart. The human heart, in its fallen condition is the heart of all human conflict. One desire is placed over against another desire and conflict is born. James says, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" (James 4:1) There you have it. Read the entire 4th chapter of James for an more thorough understanding of the cause of conflict. Doing so will help you understand why you may be experiencing the frustration you are.

Conflict is the direct result of our own personal lusts or desires. These desires may be unholy or holy. That is not the point. The point is that conflict is produced by competing desires within us and within the body of Christ. In order to determine whether or not you are sinning, you must examine, as honestly as you can, the nature of your desire. This requires a great deal of personal honesty. Don't lie to yourself. You know why you desire the things you do. First, if your desire contradicts God's clearly revealed will in Scripture, then your desire is sinful. You can stop there. The examination process need go no further. You are in sin any time your desire contradicts God's revealed desires. But there are times when that is not the case. Sometimes your desires and God's desires are the same. For instance, you may desire that your spouse communicate with your more openly. Or you may desire that your church remain faithful to Scripture in certain areas. And you may note that things in those areas are not going as desired. Now you must decide how to respond. Either way, your response must take into account God's sovereign control over all things. Joseph was cast into prison unjustly, against God's character, and still it was firmly within God's design. Joseph was responsible for responding rightly. This is just as true for you and I today. Even when we are catching the worst of it, when our desires are clearly biblical, and still we experience terrible disappointments, our main concern must be with the godliness of our response to the situation.

Churches split and are torn apart because people have conflict. Most of the time, the conflict involves sin on both sides. In some instances, it involves sin on the part of individuals. In some cases, leadership within the church is in the wrong. I know. Blasphemy you say. Some church leaders would have you believe that they are above being charged with sin or error. I know, I have experienced that first hand. How dare you accuse a pastor of sin, I heard. Really? Are we serious? Do we really think that a pastor or elders are somehow different than the rest of us sinners? Aren't pastors and elders just as dependent on grace as the rest of us? Are those who fill these offices not the same "kind" of sinners we all are? Okay, while most of you can see the stupidity of such thinking, that doesn't seem to be as apparent to some. So conflict is the result of unmet desires on the part of EVERYONE within the church. No one is exempt. What is the answer? The answer is in searching your heart first and foremost to make sure that your desire is in accord with God's word. In the process, be honest with yourself. Why do you REALLY want what it is you want. Secondly, be willing to accept the fact that you may not get your way because God may have decreed otherwise. Accept God's sovereign control over the situation. Finally, above all else, no matter what else happens, LOVE your fellow brother and sister in Christ. Regardless of the nature of the conflict, NOTHING is more important than Christian charity. Do not allow your desires to cause you to engage in hateful or unloving behavior toward those with whom you disagree. Manage your emotions. Do not allow your emotions to manage you.

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