If you want to plunge a social gathering into chaos and hurt feelings, bring up the topic of gun control. While all sides agree that the horrific shootings we see are all too common, the preferred solutions couldn’t be further apart. Our perspective tends to reflect how and where we were raised on an issue like this.
From birth to 12 years old, I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania where you were considered a fool if you didn’t have a gun in your home to protect yourself. With my elementary school friends, I passed my hunter safety course at 12 years old and learned to shoot a rifle accurately at targets on shooting ranges. I was all prepared to embark on many hunting adventures, then our family moved to the suburbs of Chicago just before hunting season began.
In suburban Chicago, most of my friends thought guns were foolishly dangerous and that only law enforcement should have them. If you encounter a dangerous situation, you should call the police. The police will come quickly and protect you from harm. Most of my friends in the Chicago suburbs strongly opposed gun ownership for average citizens because more gun ownership would inevitably lead to more mass shootings and violence. To them, you didn’t have to look any further than the nightly news about shootings in Chicago for proof.
Each belief could easily find statistics and facts that “prove” their point, and with their own personal experiences they could make even a stronger case. How we respond to night club, church, school, and workplace violence is largely shaped by the beliefs about guns that we have found to be truest. We tend to embrace the facts that help us hold to our beliefs about what will really make us the safest.
This principle holds true for nearly every conflict: our responses reflect what we believe to be true.
- If I believe that my wife is disrespectful to me, then I will likely respond with defensiveness when I am asked.
- If my wife feels like I am not carrying my fair share of the weight around the house, then she may nag or criticize.
- If my kids feel like I am treating one more fairly or kindly than the other, then jealous arguments tends to proceed.
Bottom Line: We act upon what we believe to be true and reasonable.
James 3 makes some really interesting observations when it comes to conflict we face and what be believe to be true. James warns us that we often don’t see the issues clearly, and this is a large part of why we fail to have the ability to navigate conflict wisely. James 3 gives us four conflict dynamics that we ought to examine if we are going to navigate conflict. If any of these four dynamics are true of us, it will undermine our ability to navigate conflict successfully.
Hypocrisy  Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.
Explanation: I can’t tell you how many times in counseling that I have been reminded by someone in the midst of the conflict that “I am the good one here. I am the one who is trying. I didn’t create this mess.” How would you respond if you have a husband or wife like I do? Insisting that your own way is the only reasonable way doesn’t demonstrate the meekness of wisdom. Conclusion: If we have God’s heart in conflict, we prove that by how wisely we respond.
Self Deception –  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth
Explanation: At the core of virtually every conflict is the statement- “I want and I will pursue.” However, James reminds us that in most conflict we are serving the “Kingdom of I” not the “Kingdom of Christ.” When “I” takes over, conflict ensues. Conclusion: If we have God’s heart in conflict, we prove that by whose agenda we seek.
Hard- Heartedness –  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
Explanation: If we have reasonable demands, we should get a reasonable response. Right? “I’m not asking for the moon!” James warns us that our selfishness is at the sources of so much wickedness. When money, sex, power peace, security, respect become the longings our heart, even good things become distorted by our selfishness. Conclusion: If we have God’s heart in conflict, we seek his priorities.
Immaturity –  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
Explanation: Those with wisdom in conflicts are not proud, selfish, and rude, but rather they reflect Christ. Could it be said of you that you have the characteristics of vs. 17 when you are in the midst of a conflict? Unfortunately, that could be said of many us too often. Perhaps just pick one of those qualities and begin to focus on making that true of you. Conclusion: If have God’s heart in conflict, we have a heart that aligns with God’s character.
Why must we check our heart when it comes to our conflicts? Check out the principle James teaches in then next verse in James 3. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (ESV)
The humble pursuit of peace is a blessing to ourselves, others, and ultimately pleasing to God. The humility to pursue peace God’s way results in a harvest of good fruit that will do good for both you and those around you. James is clear that our own agenda’s get in the way in conflict and we are often self-deceived about it. Have the humility to seek help and get the obstacles you might be dealing with out of the way.
If we can be of help to you as a counseling center, we would love to help. We all have conflict, will you respond wisely during the next one you face?