On March 3, 1991 on a California freeway, the driver of a speeding vehicle was arrested after a car chase. As the arrest unfolded, the officers involved used excessive force in subduing the driver, a recent parolee, who happened to be intoxicated. The videotape of the incident quickly hit the news cycle and was shown worldwide. The incident became racially charged, and riots occurred in the Los Angeles area causing widespread, extensive damage resulting in many in injuries and several fatalities.
During the riots, Rodney King, the man arrested and beaten by the police, appeared on television and offered his now famous plea, “Can we all get along?”
It is a profound question, really, and the answer is, “Not usually!” Whether it is between individuals, or within a family, or in a business, or an organization, yes, even a church, conflicts often break out and seem to be intractable. It seems that the closer the relationships, the stronger feelings can be when disagreement arises.
Of course this circumstance is not new or of recent origin. History’s first family, who had lived in a perfect setting until they were evicted because of sin, experienced a heartbreaking tragedy when two brothers had conflict and Cain slew his younger sibling, Abel.
Down through time, we see factions squaring off, engaging in conflict to gain the advantage. The sands of time are soaked with the blood of many battles. The military cemeteries with their neat rows of thousands of grave markers are a sobering reminder of the results of such conflicts.
Even when armed conflicts are not involved, strife and disagreements often result in broken families, miscommunications and shattered relationships. Thriving businesses fail when the principals have a falling out. Church organizations split and go their separate ways often over seemingly trivial matters, usually centering on personalities or differences with leadership. These are stressful times. Tempers flare and relationships can become frayed under the pressures as differing priorities bring people into conflict.
The prophet Isaiah addressed this when he wrote, “The way of peace they have not known” (Isaiah 59:8).
Why? What is the underlying cause of this acrimony and strife? The instruction book for mankind, The Holy Bible, makes it very plain. For example, “By pride comes nothing but strife” (Proverbs 13:10). In yet another pithy saying it states, “When pride comes, then comes shame” (Proverbs 11:2). Over and over, these scriptures play out in all levels of society, from families to great nations.
And there is more! “He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will be prospered” (Proverbs 28:25).
In the times of the apostles in the New Testament Church, there were conflicts and contentions that had to be resolved and they were recorded for our instruction. Peter gave this profound admonition: “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5–6).
Last year, at our annual Church gathering known as the Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23:33–36), I heard Tomorrow’s World writer John Meakin begin a sermon this way: “The answer is humility! Now, what is the question?” While at first this may seem to be an oversimplification, it becomes very clear—when we ponder the above-mentioned scriptures, along with many more examples and instructions found in the Bible—that this is a profound answer to the question: “Why controversy and strife?” In human relationships, conflict is almost always a result of selfish motives, pride and a lack of humility.
So, the next time you feel provoked or inclined to enter the fray of interpersonal conflict, consider the answer: “Humility!”
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