In his last blog post dealing with tension, Ben stated the following: “The idea shouldn’t be to make the tension disappear but to learn how to harness its generated power and aim it together instead of at each other. The only way that happens is if we keep our eyes on Jesus, submit ourselves to the Spirit, and strive together towards making Jesus known; that’s what we were made for.”
As I thought about what Ben was calling us to think through, I was reminded of the age-old adage that the absence of conflict doesn’t necessarily equate to the presence of peace. Our goal when tension and conflict are present should not be to simply make it all disappear; rather, we should be willing to work through it together to bring about true Biblical peace and unity.
With that said, I think that I often look at conflict as something that happens on the outside. I think of conflict as an entity that someone else brings to the table. My typical response when I’m angry, irritated or frustrated is to explain those things by looking outside of myself. My response is usually to justify my anger by pointing somewhere other than to myself. Could it really be possible that I play a role in the tension around me?
James 4:1-3 states the following:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (ESV)
In this passage, James rips away the curtains on our hearts and purposefully reminds us that conflict and tension are actually spiritual issues. They are issues that are directly connected to our hearts and to our desires. More directly put, conflict and tension often result from who or what rules our hearts in place of Jesus. There is a battle for control of our hearts that is fought in every situation and relationship in our lives. To better deal with conflict and tension, we must understand what role our hearts play in these situations.
According to Romans 1, my heart will either be ruled by Jesus or by some created entity (an idol). When my heart longs for anything other than Jesus, I will undoubtedly experience regular conflicts with others. I will love you to the end if you’re helping me get what I want, but you will just be an obstacle for me to overcome if you stand in my way. When my heart is ruled by my own desires, I’m judging you and holding you accountable to my standards and your ability to deliver the desires of my heart.
When my heart is ruled by Jesus, I fully understand the wickedness of my own heart and the immeasurable grace extended to me by Jesus. People who understand their own need for grace are really the only ones capable of extending it to others. When I find myself to be frustrated with those around me, when I sense tension and conflict from the outside in, or when I become aggravated at the experiences and viewpoints of others, I need to look inward at the desires of my heart and see if they properly align with the truths of the Gospel and the reality of grace offered to me through Jesus.
Consider this quote from Paul David Tripp that can be found on his website:
“You see, God’s grace is not just a past grace–the grace of your salvation; God’s grace is not just a future grace–the grace of eternity. God’s grace is a present grace–it’s a grace for what you face in the struggles of life in a fallen world, right here, right now. And what this means is–you don’t have to live controlled by conflict any longer; your relationships can change; reconciliation is possible; peace is possible! Why? Not because of your strength and wisdom, but because the God of grace has given you grace that is form-fit for just what you are going through in your relationships today, right here, right now.”
In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus says the following:
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (ESV)
As we face conflict and tension that we think is coming from external places, Jesus’ words here should push us towards examining our own hearts to see what idols or desires or anything else are actually taking the place of Jesus. The problem may actually be internal to our hearts rather than external with the people around us. I pray that we will surrender the desires of our hearts to Jesus before we are quick to lash out at others.