Resolving Conflict: Conflicts of Position: Adults and Peers
Conflict of position
Tonight we’re concluding our series by talking about conflict that comes from the position you hold in relation to another person. For example, when someone is in authority over you, there is almost always a degree of tensionÿ.ÿ.ÿ. I think also, in some settings (perhaps settings where there is some competition), there is a degree of conflict with our peers. In other words, you can readily identify those who are above you. And you can identify those who are beneath you. But it’s the people who are abreast of you that are hardest to relate to. Are they a threat? Will you wind up above them or below them? And this can lead to tension with your peers. Tonight we promised a movie, which we have. Keep in mind about our movies, they are intended for funÿ.ÿ.ÿ. (after movie) Obviously the point that we kept hitting again and again was that humans have an innate pridefulness, a desire to be in charge, that leads to conflict. It is true that we have learned in life there must be certain restraints, there must be social graces and agreements or else there would be anarchy. Some people have submitted to these agreements (probably most of us here), and some have not. But even among those of us who have submitted to the social contracts of authority, respect, etc., there is still tension. You will have tension between you and bosses, teachersÿ.ÿ.ÿ. You will have tension between you and peersÿ.ÿ.ÿ. What I want to talk about tonight is God’s answer to those tensions. I want to assume that they exist. Although, I realize that for some of us here these conflicts may be less obvious than for others. Because I know that many of us are avoiders of conflict. So when tension comes up between us and peers, we retreat. When conflict comes up between us and authorities, we avoid it or quickly supress it. And more than one movie or book has been written on the premise that those among us who may seem to have the least amount of conflict, who may seem to be the most peaceable, have a war raging on the inside that sooner or later manifests itself. Example: A classic like The Secret Life of Walter Mittyÿ.ÿ.ÿ. I want to assume that at many times in our lives there will be serious tension with other people based on the position they hold in relation to us. How does God look at this?
God is sovereign
First of all, I want to go back to something we talked about last week, when we discussed conflict with God. We made the point that conflict with God was tied to the notion of God’s sovereignty. That means that God is in control of all things. God is so vast, and so infinite, he is able to know and have authority over each and every thing that happens in this world. Hence the conflict we talked about last week. If God is responsible for everything, and things go wrong, then we have a problem with God.
With authority (Rom. 13:1)
Well, this is certainly the case when it comes to the tensions we are talking about tonight. When it comes to authority, for example, a passage that is very clear on that is Rom.ÿ13:1ÿ.ÿ.ÿ. This does not mean that God personally placed each and every Hitlerÿ.ÿ.ÿ. But it does mean that nobody gets in authority without God letting it happen. And God allowed it to happen. God knew about it. He sees it. He could prevent it, but he does not. So, that person’s authority is there because God allows it to be. (I hesitate to use the word “approved”ÿ.ÿ.ÿ.)
With our peers (Pro. 15:25; Psa. 7:8-10; Psa. 146:9; 147:6; 2 Chron. 16:9)
There is a frequent refrain in the Bible that if you are in a situation of danger, unfairness, threat, or competition, and your heart is for God?you trust in the Lord?then he will take care of you. That is his business. He wants to take care of us. He is interested in our well-being. He wants to vindicate those who are unfairly treated. He wants the best for you. To look at a few passagesÿ.ÿ.ÿ. These passages relate to God’s sovereignty. They teach us that he is aware of each and every little situation that we are going through. And they also teach us about his good intentions for us. They teach us that he wants the best for us. To apply this in our relationships, what it means is that if there is an authority in our lives?even one that’s unfair?God wants to see that we are taken care of. He wants to see that justice is done. And he wants the best for you in that situation. He has you in that situation because he loves you! Also, with peers this principle applies. With this person over here I’m competing with, I don’t have to worry about who’s going to wind up on top. If I somehow do better than that person, it will be because of God. If he winds up on top, again, it will be because God, in his love for me, said, “I don’t want you there right now.” What I’m recommending here is that the answer to our struggles and tensions is to have a very practical trust in God. He is in charge of your life and he wants the best for you (Rom.ÿ8:28). I should say at this point that this principle does not apply to everyone. There are many who have not given their lives to God. They have not put their faith in God. The Bible teaches us that there are some peple who have a relationship with God and some who don’t, and the difference is one of choice. God offers us a choice. If you want a relationship with God, then you have to come to him and request the forgiveness of your sins. And you have to invite him to come into your lifeÿ.ÿ.ÿ.
There is a story from the life of David that really gets at what we’re talking about right here. In this story, David comes right up to the edge of doing something really stupid, and that is vindicating himself?taking matters into his own hands. David, for those of you who don’t know, was a king of Israel. But before he was a king, he was a shepherd. He was a shepherd who really loved the Lord. His relationship with the Lord was very intimate and personal. David wrote many of the Psalms that we have in our Bible today. Out of the blue one day God’s prophet, Samuel, came and annointed David to be the next king. The only problem was, there was already a king in Israel. And that king wasn’t David’s father, he wasn’t even distantly related to David. So you had a situation where David is just sitting there, and God comes to him and says, “You are going to be king.” And that immediately puts a note of tension in his relationship with the current king. Especially because, before long, a series of events made it very clear to everyone that David was God’s annointed. David was God’s choice as the next king. This enraged the current king, king Saul. And he began to pursue David to try to kill him. This turned David into a renegade. He had a band of men he lived with and travelled with. There was an event that happened durring this time that tempted David to take matters into his own hands.
Saul in the cave (1 Sam. 24)
The setting is that Saul is actually out hunting for David, to kill him. He considers David a threat to the throneÿ.ÿ.ÿ. Well, if all things, Saul comes into this cave that David is in (high tension)ÿ.ÿ.ÿ. What I want you to notice is that David began to be convicted. He was convicted about what he had done. Even though he hadn’t killed Saul, he had reached out his hand against him. And notice the reason he was conscience-stricken (v.ÿ6). Saul was the “Lord’s annointed.” But you see, David could say, ‘So am I the Lord’s annointed.” And he could see that Saul was trying to kill him. And he could see that Saul was a bad man. And he had all kinds of good reasons to plunge his sword right into Saul! But David’s conscience on this matter was so sensitive that he realized even disrespecting king Saul, by cutting off the corner of his robe, was going too far. It was showing disrespect for God’s annointed. It was taking matters into his own hands. The larger picture is that David knew, “If God wants me to be king, then he’ll make me king. If he wants to protect me, no guy named ‘king Saul’ can hurt me.”
The principle: Our life is in God’s hands
There is a principle here that applies both to our relationships with authorities and to our relationships with peers. It is the principle that things are in God’s hands. If he wants to remove this authority over me, he will. If he wants me to succeed more than my peers, he will see to that.
Stories from my life
I thought of stories from my own life where I’ve seen this at work. I have always been a very competitive person. I have always had a real hard time with authority. So I have lots of stories about tensions and conflicts in my life.
The “Bad, naughty Buck” story
I remember one time in my life when I was just getting involved in this church. I was just getting involved in the sense that I really wanted to walk with God. I had been involved with this church for years before, because my family is very involved here. So, the unfortunate thing is that I was this guy who was lurking around the church, but I was not interested in following God. I was a bad and naughty boy. Then that changed. I wanted to turn my life around and follow God. And the amazing thing about God is that he always forgives, acceptsÿ.ÿ.ÿ. And when I turned my heart to him, he knew that I was sincere. But people can’t tell these things. They see the same guy who caused all this trouble saying, “Oh, but I want to turn my life around now!” Some of them believe you and are happy. Some don’t. It really bothered me that people were skeptical of me. Some of them were leaders in the church. Some of them were peers. Then, to make things worse, I continued to screw up. I would do something naughty. And the story would spread. That really bothered me. It didn’t matter that the story was true. I felt it was maliciously spread by people who didn’t like me. For me, my reputation and the stories spread about me and the distrust, were directly related to the kinds of things we’ve been talking about tonight. With my peers, I arrogantly thought, “It’s because they’re threatened by me.” In the case of authorities, I thought they wanted to suppress me. But stories were spread about me?most of them true, some of them exaggerated. People didn’t trust me. And all of this was a struggle for my pride. But as I got before the Lord and asked him, “Why Lord? Why am I viewed with such suspicion? Why is my reputation so dark?” The answer that came to me was, “The person who’s soiled laundry is hanging out has nothing to fear. He has nothing to hide.” I realized, “God wants me in this position.” He wants to work on my humility. But even more than that, he wants to work on my honesty. I was a lurker. I was a deceiver. And in the midst of all the stories and distrust, it was like, “What’s the point of lying anymore? What’s the point of trying to look good? I can be honest about myself because people think the worst about me anyway!” That may sound like a terrible time for some of you. But that was such a healing time in my life. God taught me durring that time that the approval of other people was none of my business. My reputation was in his handsÿ.ÿ.ÿ. But the principle that I want to get through to you is that when it comes to your relationship to other people, your relationship to authorities or your relationship to peers, these things are in God’s hands. If you go through a period where you are being treated unfairly, ask God, “What do you have to teach me durring this time?”ÿ.ÿ.ÿ.
It is the Lord who promotes me. It is the Lord who vindicates me. It is the Lord who allows people to be in authority over me. Overall emphasis: The difference between the horizontal and vertical focus.