Archive for May 28th, 2012

Over time and through hundreds of conversations we came to recognize that change does not happen without conflict. As we reviewed the biblical patterns, every time-without exception-the people of God began to make adjustments to join God in his activity, conflict emerged. Blackaby and King (1990) call it “the crisis of belief.”

Jim Herrington;Mike Bonem;James H. Furr. Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series)

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”

Matt. 5:9

I think that too often we equate peace strictly with the absence of conflict.  The church is supposed to be a peaceful place, right?  The people of God are supposed to be a shining example of peace in the world.  As the quote above indicates this is not the biblical standard.  With all change comes conflict and change is one of the hallmark qualities of our relationship with Christ.  We are all on a pathway of change from the moment we accept Christ into our hearts.  We are all changing, individually into the mind of Christ and corporately into the body of Christ.  Consider the words of the Prince of Peace:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Matthew 10:34

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12

Much of Scripture is born out of conflict.  Jesus taught out of his conflict with the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Paul addresses points of conflict in almost every one of his epistles.  The Old Testament is replete with conflict as Israel moves in and out of proper relationship with God.  So where is the peace?

Peace is not in the absence of conflict (this does not exist on earth).  Peace is in the resolution of conflict.  The Bible is a story of conflict resolution.  Adam and Eve brought conflict between man and God.  Jesus brings resolution, the only resolution.  That resolution is  both a process here on earth as we follow Him and an instantaneous reality.  This resolution process is a process of change and as the quote above notes, change brings conflict.  It brings internal conflict as God moves us repeatedly out of our comfort zones.  It brings external conflict as he calls the Body of Christ in its many manifestations to greater maturity.  “Rather speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…” Ephesians 4:15

But praise the Lord he doesn’t wait for us.  The resolution is also an instantaneous reality.  “But now in Christ you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”  Ephesians 2:14-15

So here perhaps we find the crux of the matter.  Conflict is the result of change.  It can be healthy and in conflict we can have the peace promised by God.  Christ did not come to eliminate conflict.  Christ came to destroy hostility which extends not from change but from division.  When the dividing wall between man and God is destroyed, peace naturally occurs regardless of the level of conflict around us.  Romans 8:7 tells us that the sinful mind is hostile to God and the chapter goes on to tell us that the Holy Spirit by living in us transforms us from enemies of God into His children.  We become worthy to call him “Daddy”!  When we come to him as Daddy with our prayers, petitions, requests and thanksgiving then we are able to experience the peace of God which is already an eternal truth for His children.  William H. Willimon put it this way, “The issue becomes:  Which side are you on?  In doing so, we eliminate the human and personal side of a conflict, with all its modifying elements.”  (Leadership Handbook of Management & Administration)  When we abandon the godly purpose of the conflicts in our lives conflict moves into division (which side are you on?) and division moves into hostility.  This is ambrosia to Satan and the destroyer of churches.  More importantly it breaks the heart of God to see his people engaging in the very thing that Christ came  and destroyed.

So as the children of God we engage conflict and change with the guidance of Scripture and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit; knowing that our peace lies not in the shifting sands circumstance but on the solid rock of our God.  It is division, first between ourselves and God and then between each other that destroys our ability to grasp the peace that is already there.

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