Some lessons are hard to learn. I was not very good at math, and I am still not good at it. I truly think my mind was wired to reject math because no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to grasp the complexities of it. In school I excelled in English, History and Social Studies, but you put me in a math class and I failed miserably. Some lessons are hard to learn.
Each one of us have different ways in which we learn. Some of us are more verbal learners. We learn better by listening to an instructor. Some of us are more hands-on. We learn better by doing the work, rather than just seeing it done or listening to how to do it. Then there is me. I learn the hard way. I learn by example. I am what is called a visual learner. If you show me how to do something, I usually am pretty good at picking it up and not having to learn it again. I wish I could say that I learn spiritual lessons like this, but I don’t. Unfortunately, the Lord has to use many different methods for me to get it through my thick head. Most of the time, (well, ok, all the time) He has to use discipline to make it stick.
One of my go to books when I need to hear His instructions is the book of Philippians. For some reason this letter that Paul wrote speaks to my stubborn heart more so than the others. The lesson He has been trying to teach me is about conflict. I have been struggling with conflict a lot lately; this conflict has affected my relationship with the love of my life. This has caused me to seek the Lord daily in prayer and supplication, asking for His wisdom, His direction, and His understanding- and yes, even His discipline.
Let’s be honest, no one likes conflict. No one likes to be the cause of it, and no one likes to be the recipient of it either. As Christians, we are commanded throughout the Bible to face conflict and deal with it immediately before it leads to more sin, bitterness, and in the end- division. But more often than not, we do the opposite. If you are like me, you run from it, or you try to turn it around on the other person and make it their fault. The lesson I am learning is that conflict is always a result of sin- my sin.
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the other interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 ESV
Paul urges us to not allow rivalry or conceit be in our relationships. Rivalry is a result of pride; and we know that pride is sin. Rivalry occurs when we think someone is better than us, or we feel like we have to compete with others. How are ways that we compete? We compete for attention, respect, honor, and to have our thoughts and opinions heard. I grew up in a family that talked over one another. At family get togethers, many times the conversations would end up turning into shouting matches to see who could be heard over the other. When we allow competition, or even the thought of competition enter our minds, we have to stop and take a look inward. Why is it so important that you be heard? Is it not your sinful pride trying to take the higher place? Is it not your pride trying to yell over everyone else, so you can be heard? More than likely, that is the case.
We must be careful to guard our thoughts in an effort to resolve conflict, but also, we must guard our tongues. We must be mindful at all times that it is never about us. Contrary to popular belief- the world does not revolve around you, and it surely does not revolve around me. The Bible teaches us that it clearly revolves around Jesus Christ.
“For in Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:16 ESV
Next, Paul admonishes us to not let conceit be the cause of conflict. Conceit is thinking more highly of oneself than one should. Conceit says, “I know more, I am more, so he/she should listen to me more than to anyone else.” Conceit is also unwilling to see its own sins. Conceit readily points out other’s sins and faults, but never sees its own. Conceit is self-focused, and only in a very ungodly and sinful way is it focused on others. Conceit points at every one else but is unwilling to point that finger back upon itself. I am guilty of this sin, and because of this sin, I have caused more conflict than necessary.
Conceit says, “Lord, if he would love me better, I would love him more,” or “If he would respect me, then I would be willing to respect him.” Conceit always looks at the other person to do right, before it is willing to do what is right. This is why Paul writes that we are to be humble with one another, seeking the benefit of others before we seek our own. Conceit is a very harsh sin and can separate the strongest of loves if we let it. Paul urges us in the very next sentence to look out for the interests of others- not only our own.
One truth the Lord has hit me hard with in regard to conflict is that He is not concerned with “his” sin- He is only focused on mine. These conflicts are a result of my pride and my unwillingness to look at my own heart. You cannot look out for the interests of others if all you are focused on is what they are doing or not doing. When I stand before the Almighty God and that great and glorious day, He is not going to hold me accountable for anyone else’s sins but my own. The Lord has also clearly shown me that its not about how others love me, honor me, or respect me; its about how I love, honor and respect them. That is what He is going to hold me accountable to.
In conclusion, this lesson my God has been trying to teach me is simply this- Conflict always arises as a result of sin- my sin. My loving and God-fearing man always says, “It takes one to start a fight and one to end it.” How wise are his words! It truly does only take one- let that one be you. Amen?