Well, here we are in beautiful “Mini-sooota,” with its 10,000 lakes, beautiful vegetation, and thousands of parks and recreation facilities headed into one of our wonderful national holidays that celebrates our nation’s “birthday,” July 4th. We celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
This celebrates the time we broke free of the rule of England and what we saw as unfair taxation. As has been said, “If our forefathers thought it was bad having taxes without representation, they should see how taxation with representation is going.”
Here in Minnesota, we have all these beautiful gifts and assets given to us by our Father, God Almighty, but this weekend, we cannot play in hundreds of those parks because our governor and our legislature decided to shut down the State of Minnesota sending about 22,000 state employees to the unemployment office.
Yet we, along with, I believe, some six other states are a pre-cursor of things to come on the federal level. In August, Congress will once again take up the subject of raising the debt ceiling for the United States of America. On both the federal and state level, legislatures are facing some cold hard facts. Debt, and what to do about it. I have been a businessman for 49 years and I can give you the best I have to offer. I don’t know!
There are godly principles to follow in conflict resolution however. Yes, we deal with the fact that unity between man and God was broken when man chose to desire equality with God to be more important that to simply trust God to provide for his Creation from his Creation. Yes, we can lament the fact that sin causes conflict. So are we then just left to our own devices to resolve these issues?
I volunteer at the Conflict Resolution Center here in Minnesota. In our training we are taught, as volunteers, “Leave your own opinions at the door. The conflict is between two parties, the resolution can be found between those two parties.” Having been a “directive” counselor my entire business life, this has been hard. However there is truth in this concept.
Conflict is to be embraced. Conflict is a natural part of life, much like the “food chain” God has put in place in the Animal Kingdom. Conflict is not merely a product of the “secular society,” but arises in the Church as well. Also, in families, and obviously in politics.
In his epistle, St. James, talks about conflict and wisdom. The ancients thought that the one who would win an argument was the one who was best at Rhetoric. James disputes that:
Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers. Does a spring gush forth from the same opening both pure and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine figs? Neither can salt water yield fresh.
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.
St. James has given us pretty good guidelines for conflict resolution.
1. Remember the person you are in dispute with is also a child of God, created by God, whether that person acknowledges God or not.
2. You can have a difference of opinion while not giving up your personal value system. My father’s favorite slogan was, “It is a difference of opinion that makes for a horse race in Kentucky.” Not every person bets on the same horse in the Kentucky Derby.
3. Treat each person as God would have you treat them — without judgment. “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” Matt 5:45. There is only one judgment seat, and that is occupied.
4. Look for your own fault in the conflict. Jesus tells us we look at the “speck” in our brother’s eye and ignore the LOG in our own.
5. Study what James calls Wisdom. “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace. Give up your ego and look for solutions that are “win-win” situations. Jesus is never about “winning,” but about relationships.
6. Keep your eye on the long-term goal. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” Mt. 5:9.
You know, when it comes down to it, following Jesus’ way makes sense even in terms of finances. It is far less costly to mediate a dispute than to go through the emotional scars, the expensive attorneys, and the costly judgment of a court trial.
Can you imagine the result at every level of our government if the wisdom from above were applied to solve problems? Don’t forget to pray for our country!
Be happy. Be courageous! Shalom!