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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.   

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