I receive the Table Talk magazine monthly from Ligonier Ministries. August’s issue came yesterday and it is an intriguing look into Eastern Spirituality. The lead articles look into why Eastern religions are so captivating to us in the West, why eastern Spirituality is still idolatry, what is Taoism and Eastern enlightenment, and so on. It is worth reading.
I may blog about those concerns later, but Alexander Strauch has a nice little column on conflict and how Christians should respond to it. Alexander Strauch has written a good book on this issue called, If You Bite and Devour One Another.
In his column, Strauch examines Galatians 5 as a wealth of biblical principles for handling conflict. By conflict, as is evidenced from Paul’s letter to Galatia, we mean personal conflict either within the church or in the secular culture. It is Paul’s argument that when conflict arises, the new life that has been brought to us by the power of the Holy Spirit should shine forth, not the old person of flesh we once were. If we continue in the way of flesh, that is, “if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5.15).
Paul then lets the church know what the old self will produce in conflict. He shows us eight sins that will lead to biting and devouring, “Now the works of the flesh are evident…enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy” (Galatians 5.19-21).
The old self, the sins we used to be mastered by, are in direct opposition to the work of the Holy Spirit living in us. Paul says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other” (Galatians 5.17).
This leads us to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider our predicament in the midst of conflict. Do you, when you are challenged by someone, upset, or angered, resort to the sins of the flesh, or do you submit to the work of the Spirit? What are the qualities of the Spirit, you ask? The Spirit’s purpose is to draw us to becoming more Christ-like.
Paul tells us some of these qualities: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5.22-23). The most intriguing one to me is self-control. It would seem that many of the other qualities stem from this particular one. If you are in control of yourself, you are more apt to show the love of Christ, the patience of Christ, and so on. But what does it mean to be in control of yourself? I think it means being aware of your calling. You are called to be like Christ. Live into who you are.
“We know that we are walking by the Spirit and being led by the Spirit when we see ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ displayed in our daily conduct and inner attitudes. ‘The fruit of the Spirit,’ then, provides an objective guide to our attitudes and behavior when dealing with conflict. So we should always ask ourselves: ‘Am I displaying a Christlike character and the life of the Spirit when I deal with disagreement or someone who opposes me?” (Page 75)
Strauch lends some advice by insisting that Christians view conflict as a test to gauge Christ-like character. Next time conflict arises, be cognizant of your character. “Conflict presents one of the toughest challenges to walking by the Spirit” (page 75). This difficult test will provide Christians an opportunity to show those around us the reality of the Gospel, the power of the Holy Spirit and the hope we have in Jesus. Present the world the fruit of the Holy Spirit, not the sins of the flesh.