Friday, February 01, 2008

Peacemaking for Families: The Heart of Conflict

These are my notes for the Bible class I'm teaching this week at the Contact Church.

*When we are engaged in a conflict, we would be wise to examine our own hearts. Our hearts may be the problem. As Jesus said, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander" (Matthew 15:19, NIV).

*James wrote, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:1-3, NIV). Many fights occur because our desires become demands. When our demands are not met, we blame whoever is not meeting our demands and conflict breaks out.

*Some desires (like greed) are inherently wrong. Other desires (like peace and quiet) are not inherently wrong. If good desires are not being met, talk with your spouse or children. Don't let it cause bitterness or resentment. If wrong desires come up, turn away from them and look for something good to replace them.

*"It is often not what we want that is the problem, but that we want it too much. For example, it is not unreasonable for a man to want a passionate sexual relationship with his wife, or for a wife to want open and honest communication with her husband, or for either of them to want a steadily growing savings account. These are good desires, but if they turn into demands that must be met in order for either spouse to be satisfied and fulfilled, they result in bitterness, resentment, or self-pity that can destroy a marriage" (Peacemaking for Families, p. 19).

*One dangerous tendency of engaging in a conflict can be judgmentalism. As Ken Sande and Tom Raabe wrote, "Scripture teaches that we should observe and evaluate others' behavior so that we can respond and minister to them in appropriate ways, which may even involve loving confrontation (see Matthew 7:1-2; 18:15; Galatians 6:1). We cross the line, however, when we begin to sinfully judge others, which is characterized by a feeling of superiority, indignation, condemnation, bitterness, or resentment. Sinful judging often involves speculating on others' motives. Most of all, it reveals the absence of a genuine love and concern toward them...The closer we are to others, the more we expect of them and the more likely we are to judge them when they fail to meet our expectations (Peacemaking for Families, p. 21).

*After our desires become demands, and we start judging the one who is not meeting our demands, we are likely to resort to punishing him or her in some way. Our tactics may vary: mean or sarcastic words, pouting, withholding affection, physical violence, sexual abuse, or other tactics. But our goal is the same: punishment.

*Ultimately, we must look to God for the cure for our bad hearts. He alone can break the cycle and bring us freedom from our destructive thoughts and patterns of living. "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1-2, NIV). "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4, NIV). "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2, NIV).

*After our initial salvation, God gives us at least 3 aids to help us to live free from our sinful tendencies and temptations: His Word, His Spirit, and His Church. "As you diligently study and meditate on the Bible and sit under regular, sound preaching, God will use His Word like a spotlight and a scalpel in your heart. It will reveal your idolatrous desires and show you how to love and worship God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. The Holy Spirit aids our helping us to understand the Bible, to identify our sin, and to pursue a godly life (1 Corinthians 2:10-15; Philippians 2:13)...Finally God had surrounded us with brothers and sisters in Christ who can teach us, lovingly confront us...and provide encouragement and guidance in our spiritual growth (Galatians 6:1; Romans 15:14)" (Peacemaking for Families, p. 26).

*When we find our satisfaction in God, our lives find ultimate fulfillment. Our desires are less likely to become demands. We are less likely to become judgmental and determined to punish others. We are more likely to live with our families in true peace.

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