Skip to main content

Root of Conflict

1 John 1:9-11 (ESV)
"Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.  But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes."

The Arbinger Institute is an organization dedicated to conflict resolution and peace making.  They travel all over the world coaching businesses on how to resolve conflict resulting in exceptional performance from the teams they work with.  In their research they have discovered that all conflict stems from self justification.  They report that we blind ourselves to the reality of the situation and treat other people as objects or obstacles so that we can maintain our own narrative. This then invites those around us to do the same to us.  1 John describes this same dynamic, when we hate others, we are blinded by the darkness.  We are unable to see anything clearly, even ourselves.    

There are 4 common ways that we justify ourselves.  The first is called "seen as".  We want people to see us in a certain way, and we will hide the parts of ourselves that challenge that image in the darkness.  If someone challenges that image, we will lash out at them, silence them, or discredit them.  The second justification is "I deserve". Our personal narrative includes a great deal of self sacrifice that has earned us special treatment or privileges. We rarely tell tales of our enemies sacrifice.  The third form of justification is "better than".  Our narrative places us in certain groups and those groups often belong to some form of hierarchy.  Anything that challenges our status within the hierarchy can pull us into the darkness.  The final form of justification is the elusive, pious "less than".  This is the label we use when our narrative is that of a victim.  Our identity as a victim can also blind us to the humanity of our enemy.  



If you explore those times that you "hate your brother", you will likely find one of these four viewpoints at the root of it.  No doubt they have their own self justification going on, but it is only by offering grace to one another that we escape the trap of self justification and conflict.  Thankfully we are able to offer grace to each other because Christ first showed us grace.  If you love your brother as a choice, you are inviting them to join you in the light.  At that point you cease to be a stumbling block, and as the scripture says, in you "there is no cause for stumbling".  So love your brother and love your enemy, because living is the light is worth forfeiting our right to justify our own narrative, and by doing this, we share the narrative of Christ in our stead.   

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Death Will Lose it's Sting

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 1 Corinthians 15:51-57. In these verses, Paul reveals a mystery, that in the end some will be transformed, given a new body, instead of facing death.  In other words death is not one of life's two certain terms.  It seems taxes may be the only guarantee.   "...in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except  death and taxes ." - Benjamin Franklin. Ok, all jokes aside, these verses are difficult to read.  Paul looks forward to a time when death will have no victory, it will have lost its sting.  But today, we are in the middle of a pandemic, surrounded by death.  Many are scared for their lives, or their loved ones, and too many have already been lost.  Death does not seem to have lost its sting at all, it feels as if it is closing in. When I worked in wilderness therapy I remember holding a child who was desperately trying to kill himself.  We cried together as he struggled to end it, and I struggled

Fool for Christ

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 2 Corinthians 5.  Verse 13 stood out to me. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. - 2 Corinthians 5:13a (NLT) John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard churches did a famous sermon called "I am a fool for Christ, whose fool are you?".  Reading this week's text reminded me of this wonderful sermon.  Wimber's sermon reminds us that, as christians, we are called to something truly radical.  The christian walk is strange and counter cultural.  Jesus once explained this to his disciples in John 15 "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. You don't belong to this world, I have chosen you out of it.  That is why the world hates you."   Peter, in a letter to the church, later referred to all of us as strangers just passing through this world.   Do you feel like a stranger?  Do you feel like the world hates you?  Are you a fool for Christ? Here is the thing, you are going t

Looking Back?

"Remember Lot’s wife!  "   -  Luke 17:32 This is one of the shortest verses in the Bible.  Jesus was talking about the terrible circumstances that will be present when he comes back.  He was warning people that they would not see it coming.  People will be going about their business and then suddenly, without warning, chaos will take over.  People will need to flee, and he warns them not to go back for their possessions, for anything.  This is where he says "Remember Lot's wife!".  In desperation he pleads with them to remember the fate of this woman.  To his listeners it would bring to mind the story of Lot and his family fleeing the destruction of Sodom.  They too were warned not to go back for anything, not to even look back, but Lot's wife did look back.  And when she did, she turned into a pillar of salt.   Metaphorically speaking this is often what happens when we look back.  We get frozen in place and we cease moving forward.  I have a childhood frie