Christine Rhyner

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Perspectives & 5 of the 10 Commandments of Conflict
7/17/2016 12:00:01 AM by: Christine

This blog is a loose portion of my nonfiction book-in-progress called Script-Flips. You can of course read about it on this site. The following just gives it a bit more clarity. To make the post a bit more manageable, it is two parts. If you like you can simply scroll down to the “Commandments” for a quick read. :)

I wanted to write a book about everyday spiritual forces of good and evil in an average life. We all experience them though we may call them by names such as trauma, angels, illness, strange encounters, blessings, dreams, entertainment, nature, divine intervention, even politics, cultural conditions and more.

Consider life to be a stage in which we play out roles, not unlike Shakespeare’s “Seven Stages of Man” from the monologue in “As You Like it.” As we do, God interrupts our performances with glimpses into the spiritual realms.

He does this for His purposes which always include drawing us towards Him, though far too many today find the awful in life and apostacy and hypocrisy within the body of Christ reasons to reject or misinterpret a God who would allow such pain. Others believe a God is so all-inclusive we will all get to heaven no matter what we believe, and a good portion of our culture and the media perpetuates this notion.

If we can recognize that He flips the scripts of our lives as the Master Director calling the shots in order to create a grand production of our lives with a glorious finale we can better understand two things. 1) A loving God wants to make Himself known to us and conform us to the image of Jesus. 2) He will do this using both the spiritual battles of darkness that surround us as well as glimpses of hope and eternity to sustain us.

But it isn’t an easy book to write. Things are changing all around us so fast and edits and updates are frequent. It’s also never easy to be transparent, honest, raw even. If I’m going to bother to incorporate personal experience in nonfiction what’s the point unless I am ‘real’ in my writing?

Of course real is vulnerable. For the writer real can be painful from constant cuts into layers of self that find themselves planted on a page to an anonymous audience who may not relate to real. Or to the author’s particular version of real. Or who may find it uncomfortable.

Real can surely be rejected or criticized. Or appreciated. You can never predict how people might receive real. People’s varying perspectives on others’ realities is at the heart of conflict. And conflict is neither right nor wrong but differences in perspective.

This particular topic is inspired from many months ago. A pastor talked about the inevitability of conflict in every life, but also preparedness for the discord to come in the months ahead. I wrote down many thoughts and impressions about conflict but unfortunately did not receive the gift of this wisdom and put it into practice.

We can all be polite and show restraint during live, interpersonal connections. But social media is a different animal, especially with a raging globe and nation so at odds with itself. A cell or personal computer is a comfort zone from which we don’t have to hear, see or feel people’s reactions.

Have you taken to social media in beast-mode, blocking, unfriending or deleting because yours and others’ points of view conflict? Have others done the same to you? Have you found yourself angered or even disgusted with opinions, assertions or jabs at your political or religious views, yet still unleashed a torrent of your own hateful words? I am guilty.

I have been both outraged as well as outraged others. While I am in no way trying to diminish legitimate frustration, disappointments and righteous anger experienced by a suffering nation, I know there is a beast at work in me that needs to be subdued. The Director is crying “Cut!” to the improvisations of the beast known as the flesh with its knee jerk reactions, judgments and unrestrained words that hurt others—and myself. And for that I am deeply convicted, sorry for those I have offended, and humbled. And yes, even after publishing a book on hurtful words. Sometimes writers write what they need to read. 

THE FIRST FIVE COMMANDMENTS OF CONFLICT:

  1. Show Respect: When we strongly oppose another’s point of view it’s human nature to want to not only want to tear it down but associate the ideas with the worth of the person. 1 Peter 2:17 says this, “Show proper respect to everyone.” When we show respect to others we are polite. We give consideration to a belief or thought process that differs from ours because just as God has given us free will to choose, so does he give it to others. When we show respect we may actually learn something new and valuable or have a better understanding of what motivates another.
  2. Speak Truthfully:  This is where “spin” gets in the way of fact. The media is so good at taking an event, comment or idea and spinning it into something fraught with all sorts of other implications, meanings and so-called “truth.” Before you know it groups of people are asserting that things are true when they aren’t. How many times can you think of where what you thought was true turned out not to be? Probably quite a few. Ephesians 4:25 tells us, “Therefore, each one of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully…”
  3. Listen Carefully:  This is so incredibly important. Life is noisy and filled with distractions in the 21st Century. It takes discipline and practice to learn to listen. When we interact with others we can find them focused on a smart phone or staring off. At times we may be guilty of the same. Quite often, when in conflict with another, we aren’t really paying attention to the other person but thinking about what we next want to say. But listen! James 1:19-20 commands that “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” In other words, besides paying full attention to someone you disagree with, watch your tone of voice (or writing). As soon as you ratchet it up to a hot temper, the wall between you and others grows higher. You shut down communication and the opportunity to get past disagreement and conflict.
  4. Value and Protect Your Conscience: Do our actions, thoughts and words during conflict conform to or run contrary to God and His laws? And do we treasure those laws? In Acts 24: 16, the Apostle Paul states, “…I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” Paul has been wrongfully accused of much discord in Caesarea with creating riots, being a ‘ringleader’ of unrest and more. He responds with self-evaluation which we all have the capacity for. He says, “My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple or stirring up a crowd…” And this is how he knows his conscience is clear. When engaged in conflict, do we allow the Holy Spirit to prompt us towards God’s laws or do we shut Him out only to allow our sense of righteousness treat others insensitively and without compassion?
  5. Be Open to Justifiable Correction:  In many conflicts, both sides have valid points. We can stubbornly hold onto beliefs or opinions for various reasons. Sometimes we need what can be referred to as a “reality check.” This is where, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.” Proverbs 15:31. This can take many forms, this ‘rebuke’ from the Lord. He may use another person to chastise us. It may come as a check in our spirit or as a ‘silencing’ from the Lord.

My own rebuke has come from a marathon of online rage towards government and my image of the country I want to live in and for my children to enjoy freedom. It has come in the form of spirit crushing realization it is futility. Not only is it not working (as if my rants into cyberspace could change a nation to my content), it’s working against the success of the very battle God does expect me to engage in. That is to daily put on the full armor of the Lord (Ephesians 5) and stand against an enemy that knows how to push my buttons. he seeks to condemn for the past, rob away the present with distraction, and destroy the future with angst. he turns my natural bent towards justice into such an unbearable sense of injustice it makes me physically ill. he casts nightmares into what should be peaceful rest. I hear him approaching on many sleepless nights like ripples in a pond. The gentle sound is really the warning of an imminent tsunami. Hours later there is a terrorist attack or police gunned down in cold blood or an outrageous law being implemented. Then turmoil is about anything and everything and it bubbles up and spills over onto people and places where it does not belong as I give him the power to drag me out from under the Shadow of the Almighty. And the beauty of the message that God is working to orchestrate in the production of my life turns into some awful clip of an angry protest. Only the mob is made up of so many twisted images of me. No more!

Can I find those in agreement? Yes. But there is there is no comfort in shared contempt, no true connection or solution, just turns at a spoon stirring a bitter brew.

Many times I have wondered why everyone isn’t revved up about the condition of the country and where it has been careening towards a long time. Do they not care? Well, some do not. And there are those who perhaps do, but are living lives more yielded to the Master Director of all creation. Their minds are set on more of the things of God and not of this world. (Colossians 3:1-2) I long to surround myself with their wisdom and maturity because I cannot walk this walk alone anymore. I want to be living out this script: The one that knows that Jesus didn’t issue a call for political change when he lived on earth, not even by peaceful protest. The one where the gospel He preached didn’t have to do with social reform, social justice or political reform. The one that didn’t try to change governments and institutions, but changed people’s hearts and pointed them to God’s kingdom. The one that preached the saving power of the gospel and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

I cannot continue, despite the sense of betrayal and disdain I feel for some who are part of it, to revile government. The Bible commands us to respect and honor those in office, whether we dislike them, disagree with them or did not vote for them. (Romans 13:1-7) Ouch. It makes no sense in the physical to me, but that is the Director’s instruction.  I also know we are to pray for them (Colossians 4:2), and though it’s easy to beg God to have them do justly and wisely and seek Him, the only way I can truly pray anything else is to cry out to God to soften my heart. But it’s the heart which is the really the first place where we must address conflict. The Lord has used personal and global tragedy, evil and pain to show me that angry opposition against those who do not heed Him, when He is in control of EVERYTHING is actually my own opposition to the Master Director’s plans and commands. He is saying, “Look up! Seek me and reflect my love, all is in my Hands.”  And I need God to continue to transform and heal me from that conflict within.    

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