Please refer to Monday’s article for the broader context of this discussion.
Reference Text: Romans 5:6-10
Continuing to use God as the ultimate example in conflict resolution, today we will consider our relationships in the world. I’m assuming that your life is a bit like mine and conflict doesn’t usually arise among casual acquaintances. Conflict in the world is most often with those people we interact with on a daily basis at work, school, etc. The unique thing about this conflict is that, usually, the other individual involved cares nothing about God or what pleases God.
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” John 15:18-19
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” I John 3:1
“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” II Timothy 3:12
Pause & Reflect
If we don’t have conflict in the world we must ask ourselves an important question: are we letting our lights shine? Jesus made it clear to his disciples that the world would hate them because it hated Him. In John 3:20, Jesus said “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” If our lives are actually reflecting Jesus, it will produce conflict with the world. This is the conflict we will be addressing. If we’ve got conflict arising from our ungodly behavior clashing with the ungodly behavior of others that is a different issue all together.
Reconciliation did not depend on our “worthiness.”
Look at the words used to describe us in Romans 5:6-10. We were helpless, ungodly, sinners, and enemies. Are any of us worthy of the sacrifice of Jesus? Yet God reached out to us to resolve the conflict anyway. We don’t make the attempt towards reconciliation because of the character or receptiveness of the other person. We take action and respond in love because it is what we have been called to do as children of God. Far too often I put people into one of two buckets. Bucket one, they are friends and useful to me. Bucket two, they are worthless and I have no use for them. Generally the way someone treats me determines what bucket I put them in. If God had the same buckets we would all be fighting for space in bucket two. God looks at us differently. He sees me, created in His image, and sees my pain, my ignorance, my suffering, and He longs for me and seeks me out. How do we develop this same attitude and what does it look like?
As we’ve discussed in an earlier article we only have control over ourselves and nothing in this world speaks louder than our response when we are shown hate. I Peter 2:12, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” Just a few verses later Peter says “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed”, (vs. 21-24). A few observations about these passages to help us approach conflict:
First, who are we trying to glorify? If all we care about is our own reputation or being “right”, conflict will remain and get worse. From another angle, if we are only seeking resolution so that our lives can be more peaceful or more comfortable then we will fail God’s purpose for our lives. When we attempt to resolve conflict with the people of this world the purpose should be for the glory of God. Sometimes that will result in our peaceful relationships but ultimately our desire should be for peace between our “enemy” and their God. Is that my goal?
Second, do we approach conflict from empathy or from self-righteousness?
We too were lost. Christ bore our sins on that cross and He suffered pain so we could be healed. Our approach to conflict resolution must come from a position of empathy and understanding. What did it take for me to be healed? I needed a Savior that didn’t take the rejection personally and toss me into the “useless” bucket, but one that rolled up His sleeves and continued to love me and sacrifice for me when I was His enemy.
Finally, who do I trust? The text in I Peter 2 says that He “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously”. When I reject someone or retaliate or ignore them I am basically trusting in myself to resolve the issue. Instead, when I show kindness, when I shower them with good deeds, when I sacrifice for them, I am entrusting myself to God to resolve the issue.
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
When we reflect Jesus we will have conflict in the world. If we face the conflict secure in the peace of Jesus we might be able to rescue a few out of this world so that they too can have peace with God.