We live in a culture of conflict. All you have to do is open a news feed. Now, before you blame the current conflict on someone or something, think about this. There was conflict before the current one and there will be conflict after the existing one. The Bible reminds us that conflict is a component of living as fallen people.
Jesus reminds us that conflict, or tribulation as he calls it, is a part of our lives. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”” (John 16:33) Jesus is reminding his followers that conflict is the result of differing expectations which are rooted in different value systems. The followers of Jesus will face conflict because their value system (Biblical) clashes with the value system of culture.
You, as Jesus’ follower, have at least three options. You could just give in and surrender at the expense of His peace in your life. You could attempt to ignore it, or complain about it, but that does not make it go away. The third option is to prepare for it so that you can respond in a Jesus honoring way.
If you should choose to prepare for conflict the first thing you must embrace is the spiritual underpinning of conflict. The Apostle Paul reminds us: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) This is where most of us fail during those difficult times. We think that we are locked in conflict with another person (and we are to an extent) but fail to grasp that the underlying conflict is spiritual in nature.
The reason why Jesus’ teaching is so difficult for us to understand is because we are focused on our physical adversary. How could Jesus teach, “But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39b) It is because He knows that we are fighting a spiritual battle.
It is believed that when Paul wrote this next words that he was chained to a Roman Soldier. The Roman Soldiers represented the best fighting men in the world of his day and part of the most militarily powerful government in the world. And yet he has these words for those of us that choose not to compromise or ignore but to prepare to face conflict in a Jesus honoring way. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13) The evil day is not some prophetic day but the day that you face conflict. We are reminded that just like the physical soldier of the day, we need to be prepared as spiritual warriors. Paul then uses the soldier’s armor as a metaphor for the believer’s need to be spiritually prepared. The problem is if you fail to prepare for the conflict you are preparing to fail.
A casual reading of our preparation in Ephesians 6:12-20 shows the necessity of learning and living God’s truth. So ask yourself, “Am I Ready for Conflict?”
-Pastor Joe Parkinson