Winning the Battle
Kyle Giersdorf, aka “Bugha,” is 16 years old and wants to buy a new desk. He has enough money. He has $US3 million. How? He recently won the inaugural Fortnite World Cup, beating 99 other players.
Fortnite is a live, online game of battles between mythical characters controlled by contestants all over the world. The aim is to be ‘the last man standing’. Kyle was that man.
The idea of ‘The battle’ is a big one in the entertainment world, and also our experience of life. So much of the conflict we know reduces to ‘a battle’, a contest to see who wins, who is ‘the last man standing’.
Of course, the way to win a battle is to exploit the other’s weaknesses, every mistake, so we can win.
But God’s way for his people is different
In conflict, we so naturally want to win. As part of this, we want to point to the wrongs of the other person while minimising our own. In order to justify ourselves. But Jesus rebukes us:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3-4)
As we are searching out the ‘specks’ in the other person, Jesus says we have a huge ‘plank’ of our own!
How can that be? Surely not! Sometimes their fault is just obvious! What does he mean?
It’s not called a plank because it’s bigger. It is called a ‘plank’ for other reasons. Firstly because it is our personal responsibility. It should be our first concern before God. The other people’s issues are ‘specks’ for us because they are their concern before God, their responsibility, not ours.
The other reason is that our ‘plank’ seriously distorts how we see the situation. We are seeing it from the perspective of self-righteousness. Jesus rebukes us further:
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5)
We are ‘hypocrites’ because we are insisting the other person’s faults are the main issue, when we ourselves are not recognising our own prior responsibilities!
God wants us to deal with our conflicts using a different set of priorities. He wants us to:
- face the stubbornness of our own sin, and
- fully and genuinely own, confess and repent of our own failings first,
rather than being focused on another person’s wrongs. Only then, with a much humbler sense of ourselves and of the situation (and therefore ‘seeing clearly’) will we be ready to rightly and more usefully help another person who has done wrong.
But how can our hearts be possibly willing to do this – to remove our own ‘plank’ first? How can we put aside our self-righteousness in that moment!
This is only possible when we understand personally God’s astonishing love for us! We owe a vast, vast debt to God for the wrongs we have done in our own lives. Yet in his Son, Jesus Christ, He paid that debt in full, and forgave us completely and forever. We ‘stand’ now only because of Jesus Christ. We ourselves have brought nothing to the table other than our sin.
A heart so humbled by this profound reality is moved and motivated to respond very differently when it faces conflict. Indeed, a humbled and grateful heart can bring something transformative and unexpectedly beautiful into what otherwise might have been just another one of those dark battles between naturally self-centred people.
Because Jesus, by his death, causes us now to stand in God’s presence, forgiven and accepted, it is less important now that we be ‘the last person standing’ in this moment and in this conflict. And such humility brings something good to the situation that can change what’s happening.
How about you? Are you willing to daily live in the light of the amazing grace shown to you? Can you see that taking the plank out of your eye first does not mean you ‘lose the battle’ in your interpersonal conflicts at all?
It is, in fact, God’s way for us to win this moment’s personal inner spiritual battle against self-righteousness, through Christ who has already won for us the Great Battle against sin and death.
Then, with the eyes of our heart able to see clearly, we’ll be in a much better position and frame of mind to talk to the other person about their ‘speck’.
You can learn more about this and other peacemaking principles on our website.
This article is by David Coy. David is married to Noreen, and they have four married daughters and three grandchildren. He trained and has worked as an Anglican minister. David connected with PeaceWise training in 2011 and is now working in biblical peacemaking through Turning Point Ministry Services.