Confession and the beauty of being known, Part 3

Thanks for stopping by as we bring our series on confession to a close. I hope to hear back from you, and would love to read your thoughts in the comments section below.

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keep-calm-and-confess-your-sins-2Confession brings us out of the darkness

Sin grows, and gains strength in the darkness. 1 John says it like this:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Part of what makes sin so destructive, and how people find that their lives have spun out of control, is the fact that they took the brokenness in their lives, shoved it in a closet, and hoped it never resurfaces again.

But that just doesn’t happen does it?

To suppress is to allow infection

When we refuse to bring the issues in our heart out into the open, when we refuse to admit that we are in need of help, the rottenness will continue to spread and in the end will cause more damage than we ever imagined possible.

But when we bring our issues into the light, when we admit our mistakes and ask God and another for help, we will watch as that rot and decay begins to be removed and heal. Instead of festering in the dark, you’ll find healing in the light.

We are a people made to live in the light. And confession is one of the main ways this will happen!

Confession allows us to participate

“Honestly, once you realize that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is less about the sin and more about Christ’s death and resurrection having victory in a person’s life, the sins lose all of their luster, and Jesus’ victory takes center stage.”

Discretion is necessary

I believe it actually goes without saying that the practice and sacrament of confession isn’t a free license to share everything with everyone. The harsh reality is that no all can be trusted. Not all are ready to bear a burden from another.

But there are people ready and willing to shoulder what you have to share.

And through prayer, God wants to bring that person into your life and allow you to share your story with another.

Very often, rules of confession dictate that if you’re a man, find a man to talk with. Same goes for women.

If you’re married, there are times when it’s healthy and beneficial for you to have your confessional partner be your spouse, however there are also times when your confessions will cause harm and pain to your spouse.

Often times, meetings like AA will encourage you to find a sponsor who is outside your family system. During your steps, you will approach your spouse, admit to wrong doing, and ask for forgiveness (then work hard to earn their trust again!)…but sometimes it takes starting with another before working back into the home.

Take away:

Find a person with whom you can begin that process of confession. Maybe that person will be in this church, maybe they wont be.

Maybe you will need to find a counselor or therapist (and in that there is no shame!), or maybe you’ll need to join a recovery group like AA.

But I plead with you to find someone with whom you can be truly honest about your life.

And commit to being in that relationship with them. Weekly or bi-weekly. It doesn’t so much matter how often as much as it matters that you’re consistent.

And in this consistency, I know you’ll witness the power of grace in a way you never expected.

Benediction:

In closing, I want to read the serenity prayer. It was written in 1943 by Reinhold Niebur..it goes like this.

God, give me grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did,

This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

 

Confession and the Beauty of being known, Part 2

keep-calm-and-confess-here-9Confession Humbles

In Isaiah, the Lord describes the attitude of man when he says…

“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.

It is nearly impossible to truly apologize, admit wrong doing, and to do so in an arrogant way. Sure, it’s possible to use an apology out of coercion or as an attempt to manipulate a person or situation, but that’s not what we’re talking about today.

We are talking about, face on the ground, tears from our eyes, know we’ve done things wrong apologies.

When you honestly go before someone and admit your mistakes, and ask for forgiveness, that has a way of revealing the weakest parts of yourself. It shows what we, as people, so rigidly try to disguise: our humanity.
I believe this is one of the reasons why we’re told to confess to one another. It’s a daily reminder to the church that there isn’t a person alive who isn’t in need of grace. There isn’t a person who is beyond needing help, and there isn’t a person who can survive without community.

To confess as a practice means more often than not means that we’re living out the life of a humble Christ follower.

And like baptism reminds us of our resurrection in Christ, confession reminds us of our constant need of forgiveness.

In simple, confession makes sure we don’t get too big for our britches.

Confession Heals:

James 5:13-16

13Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

When one reads this passage, they could easily get lost in the first half of the passage. It’s one that is quoted often, and used any time a person is feeling ill, struggling with disease or is in need of God’s miraculous healing.

A body can break down, fall apart, and decay and it’s not considered uncomfortable to ask for prayer.

Is there shame in asking for this healing? Is there reason to be embarrassed about asking for prayer?

Absolutely not!

Spirit like body

In the same way, in the same verse, we see the spiritual parallel the physical. We are instructed to pray in the same way for our spiritual/emotional needs as well as our physical ones.

Confession connects us with others

Have you ever heard soldiers talk about the men and women then go to war along side? If so, you will hear them talk about shared experiences, shared stories. They will say things like, “So-and-so is my brother” or “I would die for them.” Many soldiers do die for a fellow soldier.

What brings them to a place of closeness or to share such a tight bond with one another?

Is it the fact they make the same money, or dress in the same way?

They’re close because they have shared a similar stretch of road. They’ve experienced difficult challenges, learned to rely on one another, and trust in each other. When a person experiences a life-altering experience, it’s difficult for others to really grasp why that matters. Often, family and friends will begin to grow tired of the old “war stories.”

But have you ever seen or heard two soldiers together? They nearly always fall back in to remember days they were together.war

While the situation is different, and the stories won’t be the same, the act of finding a person and sharing life’s deepest and darkest moments with them, will draw you together in a way that no other will match.

When you find someone that you can share your mistakes and your failures with, you will begin to understand grace and how secure that grace can make you.

There is nothing better than bearing your soul to someone, sharing something you always believed would push you outside of all relationships, and having them come back with “thank you for trusting me. You’re loved.”

That moment is life changing!

Swing by tomorrow as we bring our series on confession to a close.

 

Confession and the beauty of being known, Part 1

keep-calm-and-confess-nowThe terror of being known

We have difficulty admitting our mistakes.

We feel like people won’t accept us as we are.

This leads us into isolation. Some might call it a cave.

We hear talk of the forgiveness of God and the power of God to change our hearts, but we find we never can live in that victory.

We read the Bible, do Bible studies, and listen to preachers hoping that somehow life will become different. That somehow we won’t feel the oppressive guilt deep inside of us.

The feeling that, when the pastor talks about the problem I so deeply struggle with, everyone is looking at me.

Our efforts don’t matter, do they?

And, it’s not as though you don’t try. You try hard and often. You invest blood, sweat and buckets of tears to this. Asking God to take this cup from you.

We hear about the forgiveness of God and the power of God to change our hearts. But we find that we can never live in that victory.

And the level or the scale of “life-altering issues” can be wide sweeping. Maybe you are a closet alcoholic, food-aholic, sex-aholic, or gambling addict.

Maybe you secretly inflict pain on yourself. Wishing to punish yourself for the things you’ve done wrong. Or because you want to feel something…anything.

Maybe you steal because you want the control, or you feel entitled.

Maybe you give yourself away to others because you want to feel wanted. Even if for just a moment.

Maybe you find your attitude is your stumbling block.

Out of nowhere, you will find yourself exploding with anger. Raging against the person closest to you.

Maybe you judge people relentlessly (yourself included).

You feel such anger and resentment against people different from yourself. (race, religion, political affiliation, or gender.)

Maybe you are always looking for the latest news, gossip or info on your friends and co-workers…and maybe the best part of your day is passing that info on to another.iStock_000013094923Small

Maybe someone abused you verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually. Maybe they took something that wasn’t freely offered and maybe they gave something that was never wanted.

Maybe you’re addicted to consumption. Maybe all you think about is the next pay check and what you’ll buy when you get it.

Maybe your experience is much darker than what I’ve even spoken.

And maybe…just maybe, you think there’s hope is not a possibility.

And probably you feel that confession is the last thing on earth you want to participate in.

After all, to confess is an incredible risk.

To put our life out in the open, to describe what’s happening inside of us, using words, and entrust those words with another person is a risky venture…isn’t it?

So, this begs the question… why should we confess to one another?

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Swing by tomorrow as we continue our conversation about confession

On the importance of asking “Why”

When I was a kid, I asked questions. A lot.

I mean, all of the time.

My parents now laugh about the fact that they would often reach their limit of answers and struggle to maintain their sanity. (which, to their ever-living-credit I never remember them exasperated or frustrated.)

But they aren’t abnormal. Having a son and a daughter myself, I know that I have a future filled with a million questions.

As a church, we’re beginning a sermon series on some of the difficult questions that comes along side, or before one comes to faith. And it has me wondering what our response is to people when they come with questions; especially questions to which we don’t have answers, or questions that make us feel uncomfortable.

The truth is that there is something about questions, asked often, that puts us on the defensive, or that makes us feel uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because we don’t have the answers. Maybe we struggle with the questions being asked, and we don’t like to be reminded of our uncertainty.

So, instead of engaging the question we brush them aside under the belief that people just need more “faith.”

And so people are left asking, wondering, questioning alone. Feeling their questions are not welcomed and unwanted. That their questioning will keep them from their Heavenly Father.

As a church, we are all guilty of this, aren’t we?

Can you imagine the beautiful ways God might move if the church engaged our culture and our people’s questions concerns and doubts?

In my experience, creating a culture of questions will do three things:

It will remind us how big our God really is.

Every Sunday we worship, pray to, and talk about a God who created the heavens, the earth, conquered death, and offers that power to us. However, that is where our practical belief of God ends. We become afraid that a question is too big, and God is too small. (Maybe we’d never actually say it this way…but we all have felt this, and wrestled with this.)

When we embrace big questions it gives God the chance to come through in big ways. Our questions remind us that in all ways, we serve a King who is all-powerful, and a Father who is all loving. And that we can come to him with everything.

Remind us how small we really are.

Let’s face it. We get a little big in the britches sometimes, don’t we? We think we’re big stuff, and that we have all the answers. Armed with this belief, questions become threatening to our worldview because, the more questions are asked, the higher the chance we will come across a question we don’t have answers for.

Terrifying, indeed.

These questions remind us that we’re human, imperfect and in need of a Father who is all-powerful, all-knowing and always present. It’s a reminder that we can crawl into his lap and trust we are in the safest place in the world.

Teach people that they can be themselves before God.

There is nothing more beautiful than a child’s innocence. They have no shame in their not knowing. A child just wants answers to what they don’t know. They are curious, and they ask. There isn’t a belief that they need everything to be in order before coming to God, and they don’t believe their self-worth is tied in what they know. They know they belong. Period. And it’s that belonging that gives them permission to ask.

So, as a church, let’s be a place that gives people permission to ask questions. Let’s not be afraid of what might happen if we don’t know the answer. We can rest in the truth that our Daddy knows…and that our only responsibility is to point people to him.

He will take care of the rest.

Book Review: “If Only- Letting Go of Regret” by Michelle Van Loon

IfOnly_BlogTourBanner

Let’s face it, we’ve all done something we regret in our lives. Maybe it was the time you lied about the origins of the ding in your parent’s Buick. Maybe this regret is rooted in a weak moment where you found yourself crossing boundaries you never meant to cross…

Maybe you cheated on a Chemistry test…

Maybe you cheated on a spouse…

Maybe you passed gas and blamed it on the dog.

For all of us, the details are all different, but the story is always the same. We acted in the wrong, and because of our actions, we felt that pang of guilt deep in our soul.

“Why did I lie?” we ask.

“How could I be so reckless and self-centered?” we lament.

These laments create in us a desire to crawl into some forgotten corner, or better yet, a shower that will hopefully allow us to scrub ourselves free of the guilt which now covers us like tar.

Guilt. Shame. Regret.

Emotions and feelings we are all too familiar with, and these are emotions and feelings we’re not all too sure how to deal with, and move past.

In “If Only,” Michelle Van Loon attempts to do that very thing.

if onlyThings I liked:

If Only is filled with stories and written in an easy narrative form. Mrs. Van Loon fills the pages with story after story from her own life, and in doing so, she puts skin and bones to a topic which is often dealt with in the abstract. If Only isn’t a term paper filled with words with no meaning, rather Mrs. Van Loon has placed pen to paper and brought before the reader the result of her own wounds and experience out in a way which invites the reader, hand in hand, into their own pain, and hopefully, through this pain into a place of healing.

In If Only, Van Loon gives permission to seek help: As Christians, we so often do great damage by over-spiritualizing serious emotional and mental wounds. We offer $5 words and overused maxims about faith and healing, all while ignoring the desperate need for a hurting individual to find healing from men and women trained to help others process and find resolution from the scars that come from their past. Our over-spiritualization of our emotional wounds creates within people a dichotomy: the spiritual self and the hurting self, or our Sunday self, and our Monday self.  This attempt at emotional compartmentalization is at odds with the real message of the Gospel…the message that God wants to redeem, not just the Sunday self, but the entire self, and one of the beautiful ways he accomplishes this is through the counseling and therapy. If Only gives its readers the permission to reach out for help.

Permission.

Oh, how needed is this word in the church today!

Through her story, Van Loon leads us to examine our own baggage: There is no more disarming way to bring a person into the realization of their own deep need for healing than to share how you have found healing yourself. As people, we’re far more interested in learning from someone who has experienced the thing we desperately long for. It’s why an addict finds such solace in the presence of other addicts, and why they find the deepest healing from those who have experience victory over vices of their own. In If Only, Michelle has begun the process of creating a community of sorts. A collaboration of like-minded ragamuffins who are all walking together in their pursuit of healing.

If only is designed for self-reflection: At the end of each chapter, the reader will be invited into a series of questions designed to aid in leading the reader into a deeper understanding of their own self. In what ways do the principles discussed in the chapter intersect with their own lives? How is God interested in redeeming and freeing them? How can I find a deeper healing? The questions are simple, intuitive and greatly aid in driving the messages found on each page home.

What I wished for more of:

If Only stops a step short. There were moments in my reading of If Only that I longed for the message to move to a deeper level, for Mrs. Van Loon and the reader to move away from the Sunshine and into the mess of the Spiritual life. I found that what makes this book engaging and inviting is the very thing that keeps it from entering into the darkness in which our guilt and pain resides.

Now, I do understand the reality that a book can never truly delve into the full darkness of a humans experience. This is the area for God and a trained to probe and pry. However, I still found myself hoping for that next step.

Overall:

If Only is a beautifully written book, and will be an important work to those who live with the moment-by-moment anxiety and despair over something that they did in their past. Kudos to Mrs. Van Loon for her courage in sharing her story, and for doing it in a way that is engaging and relevant for people today.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Would I recommend this book to others? Absolutely.

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More about Michelle:

MichelleMichelle Van Loon is the author If Only: Letting Go Of Regret (Beacon Hill Press, 2014) and two books about the parables of Christ. She’s contributed to four recent devotional projects including the Hope In The Mourning Bible (Zondervan). She’s been a church communications director, served on staff at Trinity International University, and currently serves as a consultant for a handful of small faith-based non-profits. She’s currently enrolled part-time at Northern Seminary. She’s married to Bill, and is mother to three and grandmother to two. Her writing focuses on issues of the church and spiritual formation. She blogs at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/pilgrimsroadtrip/.

On Language and the Kingdom: Chop Stick Theology

where-to-put-your-chopsticks-big1

Missional Language

If we were to set up ministry in a culture other than ours, we could be taught to speak, write and listen in the receiving countries native tongue. We would be taught about cultural taboos, and about the formation of their thoughts. We would hopefully learn why it is that they are offended by chopsticks left standing up in a bowl of rice, or why you never let someone drink alone. We would learn why one should take their shoes off in one culture’s home, and why you should burp after a meal in anothers.

Culture is deeply personal. People are inseparable from the culture in which they are reared.

We understand that, while the Gospel is greater than language, it can often times be undone by a careless word or an uneducated assumption. For some reason, God has chosen to operate within the rigid confines of our narrow words. He chooses to operate through us, and move through our words. This is why Peter warns that not everyone should strive to be preachers and teachers because they will be judged by a higher standard. (James:3:1-12)

Those who speak to others are responsible for the words they choose to speak.

So the responsibility becomes ours, then, to speak our words with a greater understanding of how they will be perceived. In an age of political correctness, it is easy to want to react against the wave of cautions words. We want to “say what we mean and be done with it.”

The danger in this, though, is that our words have a larger impact than we might understand. “Saying what we mean” might be another way to say, “saying what we think they deserve.” Our recklessness might cut deeper than we know, and make the receivers heart further from the true message of Christ.

So take account of the audience to which you are speaking, and consider the audience you want. Reflect on how you choose to use your words. For generational gaps can be as large and deep as continental gaps. Socioeconomic gaps can be as vast and wide as the oceans. It would do our churches some good to take these “cultural” differences into consideration, and begin to view the local church as an intercultural ministry- even if everything on the surface seems similar and comfortable.

If Christians start with an assumption that the words they say, and the views they hold, might not be received as they intend, and then speak from a place of care and sensitivity, they might find that the beautiful words of Christ will have a more unobstructed way to the heart.

The South African president, Nelson Mandela, once said,

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

The Gospel isn’t intended for the head, rather it’s intended for the heart. May we be a people who seek to use the language of the people, and with that language, speak to the heart.

On Language and the Kingdom: The Limits of Language

words

The Limits of Language

Language is important to us. We express private, and important parts of ourselves to others through language, and others express these intimate moments with us. “Language” is the vehicle by which we connect with the people around us.

The poet, Thomas Hume, expressed it this way when he said,

“Language is by its very nature a communal thing; that is, it expresses never the exact thing but a compromise – that which is common to you, me, and everybody.”

Language is something shared by all. Using language, we celebrate life together, and using language we mourn death together.

Language is the gift from a God who wants to communicate with his children. He doesn’t just make us able to understand in order for us to listen, no, he gives us a voice in which to verbally dance with our Father. He opens opportunity for involvement and interaction. He gives us the Scriptures, written using man-made words, in order to express something inexpressible the love of God.

Though, where language creates life, language can also create death.

We so often forget that, unlike God, “language” is fallible. Language is a slave to experience and to context. So often we forget that language is not universal truth. Christ is.

We teach Scripture, but forget that we are communicating the truth of that Scripture in our own “dialect”- preaching the word as we have seen it through our own lens, experience and developed it out of our personal, mental framework. Life has shaped the way in which we receive the words that come from a speaker’s mouth. An aloof, or disinterested father’s commitment to be home for Christmas will be received differently than the words of a consistent, and passionately loving father.

So it is with people in our churches.

Sure, on the outside they might all share a similar appearance, speak similar phrases and terminology, but this doesn’t mean that they are all saying the same things. Speaking similar “words” doesn’t mean that we are all part of the same culture or people-group.

The message is true, and our motives are pure, but others will be receiving the message in an entirely different way. We all might speak the same “parent language,” but that does not mean that we are all speaking the same “dialect.”

And all of this is only for those who actually go to church. There is an entire portion of our society that have no desire to step foot inside a church. Why? Because they don’t understand our language. It’s possible they have heard our words, or phrases, and have interpreted them in a way that, though intended with love, spoke only of hate.

We told them we could never love them the way they are.

Our language was not a language of warmth and hospitality. It was a language of cold exclusion.

Part two tomorrow!

An Off The Shelf Blogger

Exiting news is afoot!

Recently, I was approached about becoming an “Off The Shelf Blogger” for Beacon Hill Press based out of Kansas City, Missouri. Beacon Hill is the publishing arm of the Nazarene church, the same Nazarene Church I am ordained under and currently minister within.

Who are the Nazarenes? We are a simple, and relatively (In relation to the Powerhouse Catholic Church or Southern Baptist/Presbyterian denominations) small group of people dedicated to bringing the optimism of grace to all. We align theologically very closely with the Salvation Army or the Methodists, but, in the end, we are all part of the same team; no matter what your theological bent (With a few exceptions…e.g. Churches like Westboro Baptist are a group we obviously refuse to associate with).

A bit more about “Off the Shelf.”

Off The Shelf-V3

Being part of the “Off The Shelf” team will provide an opportunity for myself and Beacon Hill to team up together in effort to help promote new works that will come out over the next few years. Beacon will send me (along with several other bloggers) a specific book, and I (we) will take a few days to read and reflect over it, and will then write a review of that book.

What does being part of “Off The Shelf” mean this means for this blog?
This will open up this space for new conversations and for new stories to be told. Occasionally, the writers of the chose books will stop by to contribute a guest post, or they might participate in an interview. Either way this is a chance for this blog to host writers of various genders, backgrounds and experiences, and that is reason enough to move forward.

We will continue to have our previous conversations on life, faith and pop-culture. This will just be another piece added to the mix, and should create a more vibrant picture for all of us.

Whats up for round one?

I will hit the ground running, and so will be kicking things off by taking a look at If Only: Letting Go of Regret, by Michelle Van Loon. Michelle is a contributor at Patheos.com and the Her-meneutics blog, and has written two books on parables.

if only

She will be stopping by our blog on June 24th. Be sure to stop by to say hello! You can look for a review of her book before then.

Want more info?
Check out Beacon Hill Press here.
Purchase If only here.

 

 

Better Together: Starting With Me, Pt 3

Better Together

Resolution

Narrative Arc:

So often we perceive conflict as an extremely negative thing in our lives, and if not dealt with, or it over takes our life, it can be a very destructive force against us.

However, that doesn’t always need to be the case.

Think about it this way. Take a moment and think about all the stories that you grew up reading. If you do, you will quickly fin that everything that makes these stories great is found within the conflict in them. This is a universal truth: whether it was children’s lit, young adult lit, or adult lit….conflict creates fantastic stories.

For instance:

Where the wild things are.

The Hunger Games

Star Wars

Green Eggs and Ham

These stories exist, because of the growth that we witness as a direct result of the conflict within the story. The stronger the conflict, the better the arc, and the greater the growth within the story.

It’s important that we, as people, embrace the conflict within our lives. We must not run from it, and we must not deflect it. This is incredibly difficult, but is made possible when we make Christ our center, and when we know where our security rests.

So as we move on this week, and as we move into further discussions about what conflict means for us as people, and how to deal with it, I have two wishes for each of you.

May conflict push you towards Christ.

When you find yourself hurt, angry, or frustrated, let that bring you to a place of self-examination. Let it bring you to a place where you’re able to evaluate why the conflict matters. Are you trying to hold on to power? Are you trying to control another? Are you placing importance or value on something that doesn’t matter or that will ultimately consume you?

If so, let it go. Give it to God. Don’t try to control the situation, and don’t try to control the individual. First, instead, start with yourself. Am I relying on someone to fulfill a part of myself. When we do this, we’ll never be fulfilled and never be happy.

So in these moments of conflict, may we re-establish our trust and reliance on God. May he, again, become the anchor of our lives.

May conflict encourage you to take another step

May it be something that encourages you to challenge a long-held belief.

Maybe it be something that encourages you to forgive. Or let go.

May it be something you embrace.

And may it be something that draws you into Christ, and helps you take another step in your dependence on him.

May we not be, like the church in Corinth, a group of people divided over a non-essential. May we not hold to our ideologies, instead, may we be a group that unites around the cause of Christ.

Better Together: Starting With Me, Pt. 2

Better Together

Continuing our series dealing with conflict within the church.

Tension

And this happens so easily to us, doesn’t it?

We blink, and we’ve surrounded ourselves with like-minded people, or refuse to pursue a real, open, relationship with someone else within our community.

We become unwilling to have the difficult conversations with the world around us. We choose the simplicity of black and whites, instead of wrestling with the difficulties and tension that comes with genuine friendship.

And before we know it, we lack depth and color in our lives. What once was a dynamic and growing friendship, has become a Facebook style world; where width in number of friends exceeds the depth of friendship.

We lack the beauty of knowing others, and lack the beauty of being known.

Who has a friend, or a group of friends that you would trust with your life? That all is known and all is accepted?

How often, when you were beginning that journey of friendship, did you find yourself in conflict? Did you ever have to work through feelings of hurt, or anger?

Of course you did. That is the natural progression of relationships.

But we, as humans, tend to run from what is difficult, don’t we?

It is easier to stay in that comfortable place where we can like or not like a comment. We can share pictures without hearing someone’s opinion. We can laugh instead of cry, but we’ll never feel fulfilled.

This is a life that will be scrubbed of much of life’s conflict, but it’s a life that will never be fulfilling.

So, in beginning the discussion of conflict and, more specifically, the internal examination of self during conflict, there are 3 questions that we should always be asking when in conflict with others.

Where is your identity coming from in this moment?

We mentioned this earlier, but if you are in conflict with others, take a moment and ask yourself, what are you defending, and more specifically, where is your identity in this moment coming from?

Are you placing your hope in an ideal? Are you placing your trust in a political party?

Are you resting your identity in the hope that everyone will like you? Are you afraid of connection, and thus creating conflict to push others away?

Are you more concerned with appearance than with genuineness?

Do you just want to win? Period. Maybe you don’t even really, if you get down to it, care about the issue at hand.

But it all comes down to Identity.

We talk about Identity a lot here at living vine. We talk about it in relation to our spiritual life, our prayer life, our church life, our hearts, minds and all the in-between. We talk about it so often because it matters so much.

We talk about it because, where our Identity rests, the rest of our-self will follow. We will be rooted in and transformed into whatever it is that we id with.

If our identity is being right, we’ll never be satisfied until everyone believes we’re right (and that will never happen!)

If our identity is in a religious theology or political affiliation, then we’ll never be satisfied with less than complete control of others and ideological agreement.

If our identity is rooted in anything other than God, then we will find that disagreements will become us versus them, and we will push people away when they don’t fit our expectations.

For the Christ follower rooted in Christ, a disagreements and conflict should never become us vs them. Rather, the Christ-follower is called to servanthood.

We are to live out sacrificial lives towards others.

Part of the scandal of the Christ-centered life is the calling to die to our own rights, and to serve others without any expectation for return, and to love unconditionally.

When ideologies become the most important thing, people become enemies, however, when Christ is our identity, people with whom we disagree are seen as people created in the image of God.

Where once we would seek revenge and retaliation, we are called to pray and act in love.

Where we might seek to hold a grudge, the Christ follower is called to forgive and release to God.

As Christ followers, we’re called to live out sacrificial lives towards others…even those who disagree with us, or those who aim to harm us.

This is modeled by Christ on his way to the cross. In conflict, as followers of Christ, we are called to lay down our rights, and surrender others to Christ. We are called to seek reconciliation, and allow justice and judgement be rendered by God and God alone.

A much, much different message than the one we’re fed by our culture.