Engage Conflict Part 2: A Theological Affirmation

Last week I wrote about how engaging conflict can be more beneficial than avoiding it all together.  In that post I decided to cover only the heart of the idea and omit some of the more nuanced arguments and refutations that probably should be discussed.  I left those parts out of the original post in order to keep the post from being monotonous and too lengthy for the casual reader to enjoy.  In this post I seek to address one of those previously omitted topics.

Here is a link to the original post: https://openspacetothink.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/engage-conflict/

If engaging conflict can be more beneficial than avoiding it, then should it be recommended that we seek out conflict?  This is a valid question worth considering on more than one level.  It seems that on the surface deliberately seeking out conflict would be inadvisable, and it is, but the real question is why is it so.  This is an especially important question to ask when reflecting on how overcoming conflict can be viewed as an opportunity to display attributes of God and thus glorify Him. My conclusion would at first seem to be inconsistent or (probably more likely) actually contradictory.  That is if it were viewed that overcoming conflict is glorifying to God and I am now advocating that we not deliberately seek out conflict.  After all if overcoming conflict is glorifying to God then shouldn’t be take every opportunity to overcome conflict?  And how should we do this more often, but to seek out opportunities to do so?  This line of thinking is easy to follow, but I think at the heart of it exists a misconception about the very essence of conflict.

I want to issue a warning that I suspect you might not need, but should be mentioned nonetheless.  This discussion is about to become very theological. From my perspective, the understanding of why conflict exists is deeply rooted in Biblical history and theology.  If the word theology seems too academic or impractical, I assure you it is not my intent to put on an appearance of academic superiority.  I only aim to be verbally accurate, and this by all intents and purposes will be a theological discussion.  That being said, let’s continue with the topic of conflict and its origins.

A major part of the Christian worldview is the idea that conflict has not always existed nor will it always exist.  In the beginning of the Bible there exists a brief account of the creation of the world and what it was like in perfection.  The first two chapters of the book of Genesis describe what a world without conflict is like and how it operates.  Then in the third chapter of Genesis sin enters the world when both man and woman decide to deliberately disobey God’s command to not eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  This is precisely when conflict enters the world.  Previously, there had not yet been a conflict between any man, nor had there been a conflict between man and God.  From this point forward conflicts would exist between God and man and between man and man, and for that matter between man and nature.  Conflict exists because the world is not perfect.  If all things were the way that God created them to be, then there would be no conflict.  Unfortunately for us, conflict exists.

The incredibly short summation of the rest of the Bible is that God is in the process of bringing all of creation back into perfection by defeating all evil and conflict.  As a result of which we are promised is a world that is free of sin, evil, and conflict. This picture is described in the last two chapters of the book of Revelation.  In other religions it is thought that good and evil are both eternal concepts or forces that are locked in an eternal struggle against one another.  This idea however is not one that exists in Christianity.  It is clearly seen in the Biblical text that God (that is the Trinity) alone is eternal. The concept of evil is clearly portrayed as having a beginning (Genesis 3) and an end (Revelation 21).  It is in understanding this important idea that we can begin to answer the original question of whether we should deliberately seek out or conflict.

On the grand timeline of eternity our lives here on Earth seems like mere milliseconds in comparison to everything else.  That means the majority of eternity will exist without evil or conflict.  It is because of this that I propose that we should engage conflict as it comes to us while we are pursuing God in His perfection, instead of pursuing conflict to overcome or even creating conflict to overcome. I propose that we should strive for the things that God desires.  If the story of this creation is that God wants reunite us in perfection with Him without evil or conflict, then we should desire Him without evil or conflict.  Likewise when conflict did come to exist God did not avoid it, but rather He became human in the person of Jesus in order to engage conflict and overcome it permanently.

This I present this case for engaging conflict that comes to you instead of seeking out conflict in a lengthy explanation that probably can best be summed up in Paul’s words:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18

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