As we behold with fear and awe the just started war on Iraq, we think of conflict
being inevitable. Especially so when it comes to personal conflicts.And
we can see that the Conflict is unavoidable and not necessarily bad.
Now, one of the most practical things we can do is realize that as
far as conflict is concerned...
The problem is not the problem. Disagreement over issues is not what
causes us to walk all over one another. Disagreement is not what causes
committee meeting to erupt in anger. The real story of conflict occurs
not in what we are disagreeing about, but in why and how we are disagreeing.
Until we get below surface issues to our own unseen motives, we have
not even begun to deal with the problems that are dividing us. And
until we get below our unseen motives to the underlying beliefs that
form them, we will still have a very shallow approach to conflict.
Our differences might be important. What we need to see, however,
is that issues do not cause conflict. Unseen motives and underlying
misbeliefs cause conflict.
To cultivate relationships that enjoy the freedom of healthy disagreement,
we need to develop an understanding of unseen motives.
Motives Behind Issues.
The issues in a conflict are like the tip of an iceberg. Underneath
are the unseen motives that cause healthy disagreements to turn sour.
The Apostle James shows us (James 3:13-16) that unseen motives can
cause us to be like trouble looking for a place to happen. He made
it clear that if we resent the attention or recognition that someone
else is getting (envy), or if we are committed to getting ahead even
at the expense of others (self-seeking or selfish ambition), we have
a hidden conflict of interest that will shape and sour our approach
Paul, on the other hand, shows us ( 2Tim. 2:24-26) that if our motives
are right, we can act graciously- even toward those who are against
us. Even if we are convinced that the other side is caught in serious
error, our goal can be for their good.
James and Paul are not alone in their emphasis on the role of right
attitudes and motives. The whole Bible is a book of the heart. The
Scriptures teach us that if our motives aren't right, our knowledge,
faith, and self-sacrifice are of little value in the eyes of God (1Cor.13:1-3).
Over and over the Word of God calls for the kind of love that is a
motive before it is an action. The Scriptures are also clear about
what happens when bad motives displace good ones. (Lk. 22:14-27).
Beliefs Behind Motives.
Conflict could be defined as "two or more people trying to occupy
the same space or control the same limited resources." This was
what was happening between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. There was
not room for both of them. (Gen.13:1-9).
Abram's response was peaceful- offering Lot his choice of land. The
reason for Abram's generosity goes beyond his good motives. Abram
was able to be so vulnerable because he was being taught by God to
realize that his well-being was not found in his own clenched fists
but in the open hand of the One who was leading him (Gen. 13:14-18).
Our motives and approach to conflict will not be shaped by rules but
by whether or not we join Abram in trusing the Provider God. Are we
willing to let Him provide for us on His terms and in His time? Or
do we believe our security depends on our ability to take matters
into our own hands?
This is not to say that we are to lie down and let people walk on
us whenever they want. Love doesn't always give others their way.
Sometimes they need to feel the weight and intensity of our concerns
and convictions. In the process, however, they need to sense that
our disagreement is gracious and loving in nature. They need to know
that we are not resisting merely to protect our own interests. And
the only way we can be so loving is to rest in God's ability to provide
People who know they are secure in God's hand find their motives shaped
in that awareness. They learn to live with grace, to love freely,
and to trust God from day to day when matters beyond their control
do not go their way.
Misbelief Behind Cycles.
We repeat cycles of conflict when we assume that what we want is always
what we need, or when we are more concerned about the people who are
against us than God who is for us. Misbeliefs are the fuel of ongoing
cycles of conflict. They lead us to think that it is up to us to take
matters in hand, and that if we don't protect ourselves no one else
Underlying misbeliefs also help to explain why the apostle Paul wrote
as he did to disputing parties in Philippi. See Philippians 4:2-7.
He must have known something of the matters that were separating them.
Yet he didn't even mention the specific issues. Instead, he wrote
as if the details could be worked out once both sides came to terms
with the underlying misbeliefs that had caused them to turn away from
the Lord and against one another.
By addressing the real issues underlying belief, Paul gave them a
means of breaking the cycle of conflict that could have spread to
many others. He knew that the formula for unity is not found in agreeing
about all issues. Neither is the solution merely in knowing that we
should find it within ourselves to love one another. The answer for
those who know God is to have the right beliefs about Him in the troubling
circumstances of life. This alone will enable us to avoid the self-protection,
fear, and anger that otherwise lead to returning evil for evil and
harm for harm.
*******************Letter # 12 (23.3.2003)*********************