The Uncommon Path
Over recent weeks, major national and international events have dominated our news feeds and vied for our attention– political changes and upheavals, the return of annual international sporting events and the finals of ever-popular ‘reality’ shows!
Whether it is Britain’s referendum to leave the European Union, the Australian Federal election; Wimbledon, the Tour de France or other sports; or even the latest round of Grand Finales of various TV programs – all these feature groups of people in competition with each other.
Some of these competitions are unfriendly by nature, but even those that should be friendly often seem to give rise to unkind words and actions. It seems that whenever you have two or more people working or playing closely together, conflict is not far away.
No matter how similar people are to each other, or how much they share the same values and passions, we still have differences. Many of these differences arise simply because we have been created uniquely, have varied histories, different personal preferences, and see things from different perspectives. Difference can bring great richness!
However, because of our innate sinful selfish nature we also want to satisfy and please ourselves in priority to satisfying and pleasing anyone else. It often doesn’t take long for even simple differences to degenerate into damaging interactions, often resulting in hurt people and broken relationships.
So what can we do when we find ourselves “locked” in a relational conflict? In war, military commanders strategise and decide whether it is better to attack, dig in, retreat or surrender. Aren’t we the same? We tend to choose, often unthinkingly, between ‘fight’ (attack, dig in) and ‘flight’ (retreat, surrender).
More rarely, military commanders may consider a cease-fire and peace talks. We can do the same. This is completely counter-cultural and contrary to our tendency toward self-interest. We can seek to see and give weight to the other person’s interests and not focus only on our own (Phil. 2:3-4). We can choose to take a good hard look at ourselves, our behaviour and our attitudes. Then we can choose to confess, repent and seek forgiveness (from God and those we have offended) for anything we have done which has contributed to the conflict escalating – knowing that he will forgive us! (1 John 1:9).
Why would we choose to walk this uncommon path? Why might we call the ‘ceasefire’ and instigate the peace-talks, especially when someone has deeply hurt us? Ultimately, it’s because God has modelled this to us thorough his son Jesus. God took the initiative to reconcile with us – even though he is perfect and loving and even though it was our sin that broke that relationship with him!
In our everyday conflicts, we are more like the person we are fighting than we care to imagine. Just like the person who has hurt us, we aren’t perfect. We need forgiveness, we crave mercy and compassion – and God through Jesus offers it to us. This is his gift of grace and peace to us even though we don’t deserve it! And best of all we can share it.
Does choosing to confess and seek peace and reconciliation mean that we do not want or seek truth or justice? Not at all! When we do this we are actually demonstrating our loving commitment to each other and to God, and a humble trust in him to reign lovingly, righteously and sovereignly – even in the midst of conflict.
Did you ever think that the link between the confession of our sins and our trust in God was that close? It’s worth thinking about.
To find out more about what the Bible has to say about confession and how to make a good confession read Chapter 6 of The Peacemaker (Ken Sande).
(Over this year, through each edition of Peace It Together, we will be sharing the basic peacemaking principles as covered in each chapter of the book, The Peacemaker (by Ken Sande).)