Conflict

As I write this devotional 18 days into the new year, I realize that some of us are possibly already beginning to question our ability to follow through on resolutions we may have made to bring changes to our lives. It is truly discouraging when we find ourselves falling short of our goals for ourselves, or repeating some behaviors that are hurtful to others or to ourselves. I have been thinking a lot recently about the general climate of judgment and disrespect for those who do not share our values and/or priorities in life. We are quick to criticize and slow to forgive these days, whether in the context of political views or interpersonal conflicts.

Some of these conflict situations are relatively insignificant in the big scheme of things, but they are still important to us. One example in our lives right now is the “minor” annoyance we experience now that we have moved into an apartment, and have been disturbed by the loud footsteps of our new neighbors upstairs. Compounding the problem for us has been a sense that the apartment manager has been unsympathetic to our situation and has defended the upstairs tenants’ rights to normal living activities. We do not question their right to normal activities, but believe that some simple consideration of our situation would result in adjustments to their behavior – it is possible for people (even them!) to step lightly.

Multiply this tiny little conflict by 150 million, and we find ourselves in the current situation in the country where political differences seem insurmountable, and we are tempted to consider those with whom we disagree not just as differing with us, but somehow as ignorant or worse, as evil. People from all perspectives may not agree about particular issues, but most agree that we are choking on a polluted atmosphere in which we are drawn to interact only with the people with whom we agree. It is important to be clear about our core values and to not trade those away. However, whether it is a conflict with a neighbor or coworker, or a stark political disagreement, we are still called to show love for others.

And it is never too late to restart our efforts to carry out our resolutions or to improve our relationships with those with whom we are in conflict. For example, today the apartment manager, from whom we felt insensitivity and even disrespect, returned from an extended personal leave and greeted me with a cheerful inquiry of how we are doing and a hug. This was totally unexpected, but has generated in us a willingness to renew our efforts to build a more positive relationship with our neighbor. Similarly, I have been trying to consistently be loving and engaging with one of my cousins with whom I have vigorous political differences. Tammy Heflebower pointed to this kind of effort to find and build peace in her devotional on Tuesday. The Apostle Paul refers to this in Ephesians 2:14: “For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”

May we be guided more by the Prince of Peace than by the things which divide us, even as we continue to carry out our efforts to live a life committed to Jesus and his vision for our world.

David Erickson-Pearson

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