The Conflict Killer

Photo by hurley_gurlie182 - morgueFile

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to observe that every kingdom belongs to the realm of a king; simply by definition a kingdom is a king’s domain. There is no established size to a kingdom—the extent of the realm depends mainly on geography and the might of the king.

In the West we don’t talk in kingdom terms these days. Kingdoms, after all, are not very democratic. We don’t think it’s right for the average person not to have a voice (or apparent voice) in the affairs of the state. Even in nations with a king or queen, such as the United Kingdom, the monarch’s power is diminished greatly by a constitutional monarchy.

Photo by Jessie B. Awalt - U.S. Navy - Public Domain

The move away from absolute monarchies has taken place for a very good reason—despotism. Time and time again, citizens of countries across the globe have learned (in an all-too-real manner) the importance of limiting the power of their leaders. One of the more recent efforts took place in Libya as the people sacrificially fought to bring down Muammar Gaddafi, the self-appointed king of kings of Africa.

In March of 2009 Gaddafi stormed out of an Arab summit proclaiming: “I am an international leader, the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam (leader) of Muslims, and my international status does not allow me to descend to a lower level.”[1]

Without question Gaddafi was an eccentric, often exhibiting bizarre behavior. But still his comments are typical of human thinking, “My . . .  status will not allow me to descend to a lower level.”

We’ve learned to utilize governmental structures to limit the human lusts for power and self-exaltation, but human nature has failed to evolve beyond these base desires. Instead, narcissism, the desire to be a god, is on the rise in Western culture. Whether it be in the home, the local country club, or the church, we constantly see these tendencies played out on a day to day basis. I’ll go into greater detail in the future, but for now I’d like to contrast the natural human tendency toward self-exaltation with the life of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was an extreme radical in His day for more than one reason. There’s no question that He proclaimed His own deity, but His attitudes and actions were often the opposite of what one would expect from the true King of Kings. Jesus purposely went lower instead of higher. Rather than parade with kings and priests, Jesus mingled with not only common people, but with the outcasts that even the commoners despised. I think it safe to say that many cultures value humility as a virtue mostly because of the life of Christ.

Humility is a conflict killer. Many an explosive situation can be diffused simply by descending to a lower level. Pride always takes offense. Humility looks beyond personal offense and is able to honor others even in the midst of heated conflict.

Last week I had an encounter with a woman who was spittin’ mad at me for a wrong that I did not do. My natural tendency may have been to respond with anger, but instead I choose to bite my lip and follow Christ’s example by treating her with respect and listening to her concerns. Before long the situation had been diffused and she was showing me pictures of her pet!

Photo by jdurham - morgueFile

It is my experience that people in our culture are becoming increasingly harsh and territorial. This trend coincides with a progression away from Biblical Christianity toward secularization. A few secularists see humility as a virtue, but in general humility makes little sense apart from a religious context. All of this means that the prevalence of conflict around us isn’t going diminish anytime soon.

Our Lord once said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” Matthew 5:9 (ESV). Those who want to be conflict killers can only do so as they surrender to the humble nature of our Lord and Savior.

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7 thoughts on “The Conflict Killer

  1. I wonder how much of our harsh and territorial nature stems from the rise of technology and its ability to make human interactions less necessary.

    I honestly do not believe that America was ever a Christian or a moral nation. Nations tend to act in their best interest typically at the detriment of other nations and even its own citizens. It is somewhat terrifying because there has been a sort of re-writing of American history over the past couple decades as if scholars have completely forgotten about salutary neglect, our imperialist wars, and so on. My feeling is that America is all about money and all the moralist language was written to make us feel justified in our greed. This plays out somewhat in American Sphinx the biography of Thomas Jefferson, who I didn’t care for before, and really disliked afterward.

    America could learn a lesson or two from this blog.

  2. Jason, I have a couple of friends who work for large Christian aid organizations that focus much of their efforts to work with those who are poverty stricken in other nations. I was surprised to learn that a high percentage of their budgets comes from the U.S. government. I realize that it’s not much in the grand scheme of things, and that all too often ulterior motives are involved. At the same time, I think that our nation has a level of genuine generosity that is unsurpassed.

    Just thought I’d give you another angle. 🙂 Bob

  3. While, I’m familiar with similar programs, if we’re doing it for selfish reasons it isn’t really altruism. It seems like a lot of American generosity has strings attached. I think here we’re probably just bound to disagree. I’d love to believe that America has good intentions for other nations but there is just so much history to the contrary. At least it’s fair to say we’re both patriotic?

  4. J, I’d say that we’re both patriotic, but probably not in the traditional sense. I love this country, but I understand that any form of human government is marked by the fallen nature of man.

    Regarding our nation’s “generosity” I don’t question that a large percentage is motivated by ulterior motives. But I also think a good bit stems from a certain measure of nobility that was woven into the foundation of our nation.

    I like to think that we at least value honor and integrity even if they aren’t exemplified by all of our politicians. I have friends who have done considerable missions work in other nations and they seem to concur that even on our worst day, our government standards far exceed those of many other countries where corruption and bribery are the acceptable norm.

    I do believe that the U.S. was founded on Christian principles to a degree, but freedom only works when people put others before themselves. The further we fall from Biblical influences, the more self-serving our definition of freedom becomes.

  5. Outstanding post Bob – both when working in customer service and education, i have noticed that it is very hard for a person to remain angry at a person who acts in a humble manner. When a student comes to me angry, my first response (after years of teaching and fumbling first) is to assume that they are right and justified in their complaint. I ask them to go through the problem or numbers together with me and see if we can figure out a solution – together – emphasizing “We”. Of course, I think I have become quite good at this professionally, yet I am still very weak with it in my personal relationships. This post serves as a good reminder to keep working on that area!

    1. Jeff, I loved The Story of Stuff video! This has been a theme I’ve emphasized for a long time, although the video production is much better researched and developed.

      In my mind, there is no question that we are consumer-driven pawns and that our environment of hyper-consumption contributes significantly to our societal problems of conflict.

      However, you are right in assuming that you and I have some level of disagreement on the topic. I believe that the root problem is humankind’s fallen nature and that certain types of environments simply provide the opportunity for that nature to run its full course. Advertising works so effectively because it preys upon the base nature of mankind: pride, lust, idolatry, etc.

      It would be interesting to see the correlation between the decline of Christianity in U.S. culture and the growth of consumerism. Even many professing Christians are more enamored with “stuff” than they are with the Creator of the Universe!

  6. On a more societal level, I wish that Americans and our leaders could really work on humility. I find that any time a politician acts in a humble manner, they are eviscerated by the media and considered “weak”. We also have become way too focused on revenge as an answer both domestically and internationally:

    Internationally: For instance, imagine if our answer to 9-11 was to track Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in a police-like manner and spend the trillions of dollars we spent on war on building relationships with the civilian populations of these countries and creating networks – I would bet anything that by now, the civilian populations would have gladly handed over the terrorists if we had acted in kindness rather than an extremely violent revenge. After all, after 9-11, enormous rallies were held in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries rallying in support of the US. It was not until we started wars that the rallies were anti-US.

    Domestically: We spend 100’s of billions of dollars each year, arresting, prosecuting, and housing drug users. Each drug user costs 44,000 a year, on average to house and at any one time there are well over a million minor drug users in jail. Then, these drug users come out and nearly all of them revert back to drugs, or sometimes are exposed to harder drugs in jail. Often, because they have been in jail, they can’t get a job, lost family and friends, etc., so it is very likely that they will be back in jail, perhaps for something worse. Imagine if instead of spending 44,000 thousand to house over a million drug users, we acted in a more forgiving way and spent 4,000 each for treatment programs. These programs are only 30-40 percent effective, but 1/10th the cost and about 30 percent more effective than incarceration. This forgiveness could help millions of people each year, keep families together, and stop a cycle that has been drastically increasing the amount of inmates in jail since the start of the war on drugs (300,000 people in jail in 1980, now about 3 million).

    Finally, I think we will disagree here, but I really find a lot of our struggles in humility to have developed from the hyper-capitalism of the last 30 years, where greed has become good, and the greediest people in our society are often idolized (See the Waltons and Steve Jobs – who treat their workers horrifically and give very little to charity, yet are idolized by most, just to name two of the many). We have become competitors rather than communities and because we are competitors rather than communities means that every benefit that one person gets creates animosity among the rest of the population. If we stopped the hyper – competition that I think comes from the way we have become a consumption oriented society, then we could truly come closer to being brothers and sisters rather than competitors.

    I find this video invaluable to explain the era of hyper consumption that we are in that dominates every aspect of our life – we (me included) have become obsessed with “stuff” and until we break this addiction, we will be more competitors that a community (this is a short excerpt):

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