Continuing our series dealing with conflict within the church.
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.