The setting is modern day Iraq. A soldier specially trained is cautiously approaching a large torpedo shaped bomb capable of destroying the lives of anyone within half a block. He has good intentions of defusing it and bringing peace instead of destruction. The bomb is a real threat – it is dangerous and any wrong move, any wrong wire that is cut is instant death.
When you see a bomb, the temptation is anger - to kick, to scream, to lose your temper and crush it. But will that have any effect? Yes! It will explode and you with it! Many others will be killed as well. You don’t fight a bomb with another bomb.
Every difference of opinion is like a bomb which has the potential to destroy everything around it. And so every conflict has even more potential for damage.
How do you defuse a bomb? How do you defuse the bomb of conflict? Of offense? Of differences of view or opinion? There is a special key to keeping the peace – to defusing the bomb. How do you defuse a bomb of conflict? With humility! You defuse it with gentleness, with love, with humility. Humility is the key to disarming any attack. As Paul wrote: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him…”
Now you may have read this passage many times – especially verse 7: “casting all your anxieties on Him.” This verse is a precious encouragement in times of worry. But notice the context in which worry appears. This passage is not about worry concerning paying the bills or surviving an illness or getting a job. This is about conflict!
Let’s go back to the bomb squad. That man and everyone around that bomb is sweating. They’re concerned. They see the horrible danger and the violence of what that bomb represents. Let me tell you – they are full of anxiety. They are not happy men.
And so also worry or anxiety is a part of any conflict. Any attack produces anxiety – who likes attack? Who likes conflict? No one! But it happens all the time. People attack us with their words. People attack us with their actions. Or with their silence and lack of action. Sometimes we feel attacked and it’s unintentional – just a difference of view or opinion. It’s a bomb and we start sweating. We lose sleep. We lose peace. It’s the enemy ready to destroy!
The question is: What sets off the bomb of the enemy? Anger. Resentment. Offense. Counter-attack. Pride. And when we respond to any conflict, any attack, any difference with anger, resentment, and counter-attack, it’s like cutting the wrong wire and ka-boom! People are destroyed. Relationships are ruined. Marriages break up. Congregations split and on and on it goes. The enemy wins every time when we respond to conflict with PRIDE. As our Scripture writes: “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Pride is the original sin. It’s the sin of Satan as he sought to be like God. Satan was the holiest of angels – the most beautiful and closest to the throne. And yet he fell into pride desiring the worship of God Almighty.
And so every one of us – as close as we get to the Lord, so also we get close to the temptation of pride. We are in danger of thinking of ourselves as better than others. Unconsciously we put ourselves on a pedestal. “I’m the better Christian. I’m the faithful one.” And when we go down that road, we end in disaster. Because when the bomb of differences – the bomb of conflict comes along – we will react with pride every time. And then there is only destruction.
What do we do in any situation like this when there offense, when there is attack, when there is a conflict of interests?
1. Cast our anxiety on God.
We cast all our anxieties on him! It’s important to entrust your life totally to God. He’s ultimately in control. He knows about the problems – he knows about conflicts. His Son went through plenty of situations like that.
Just thinking of Rich. I saw him right after he broke his hip. He was doing well, trusting in the Lord. What can you do when you get in an accident? You can pine and worry. You can start wondering if you’re going to survive surgery. What are you going to do about the bills? About work? About this situation and that situation? Once fear starts taking control, there’s no controlling it and all peace is gone! That’s why we have to do something with the anxious situation of anxiety when we come across it right away and deal with this core issue.
We are to cast ALL of our anxieties upon him. Don’t keep even one. Every single worry that bothers you unload it upon the Savior. There is not a reason to hold it when he is capable. What will keep us from handing our problems over? Pride! I can deal with it. I’m strong enough. Soon you will find you are NOT strong enough. Only God can deal with it.
Whatever the situation we come across in life, we hand it over in faith to God and know that he will take care of us. He will not abandon us and let us dangle out over the fire for fun. God is not like that, because he cares for us. He cares for YOU his precious child.
2. Humble ourselves.
But don’t stop there. Don’t you dare just let it go and hope that God will change the conflict, disarm the bomb and give you peace. He expects action on our part. What is that action? Humbling ourselves!
What does that mean? It means first of all praying for each other. Pray for your enemy. Pray for the one who is attacking you. Pray for the one you can’t seem to get along with. Pray for the one who has a different viewpoint than you. Pray for their welfare and their good. Pray for their blessing.
Secondly, it means assuming the best and not the worst from each person. No matter what our feelings, we are to assume that they have good intentions and not evil. We are to put a charitable construction on everything someone does and says or doesn’t do and doesn’t say. This doesn’t mean agreeing with lies or falsehood. But we bring out what is a blessing. We speak of the good things. This is vital because when we assume evil, we WILL find evil every time. And that is where false accusations begin. That is where false communications comes in. And that is an immediate bomb exploding and destroying.
Thirdly, it means going out of your way to serve them and speak well of every other person around you – especially those who are your enemies.. Jesus commands us to do so! There’s no question about it. Jesus washed his disciples feet – every one of them a few hours later would betray him, abandon him. Peter denied him three times and Jesus knew it would happen. He was God and still he humbled himself and we are to do the same.
Fourthly, it means a willingness to try to see things from another point of view than your own. Now as I make this point most of us (myself included) are probably thinking: “Yeah I hope so and so start seeing the situation from MY perspective. They will finally see the light.” That is NOT humility – it is pride. Instead we ask: “How can I understand her? How can I see it the way he sees it? How can I get on the same page?” We are to have “humility toward one another” and not expect others to humble themselves under us!
It must be done daily.
Every day we run into bombs, into mines, into potential destruction and our natural instinct is going to be to rise up in pride and fight back in anger at injustice or words that offend.
It can start at the breakfast table. Or with a word at work. Or around the coffee table at church. Or running into someone at the store. But Paul wrote: “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility…” How often do we clothe ourselves? Every morning as we prepare for the day. The Lord knows what we will be facing each day and so we need to be ready armed with humility and not a sword of attack and defense. Our weapon is humility every time!
A good example is David from our Scripture reading today (1 Samuel 24:1-15). Saul had laid down a huge bomb right in front of David day after day after day. Saul was jealous of David’s success and popularity and so he sought his life. David was forced to live in the wilderness and was running from Saul year after year falsely accused and tortured by his king. Talk about an anxious situation!
And then came this golden opportunity in the cave. David was hiding in this cave and Saul came in to relieve himself. It seemed as if God handed Saul to him on a platter…when actually, this was the closest David got to the “bomb” of conflict. David could kill Saul and free himself from this torture. Or he could humble himself under the king. Which situation would cause the most destruction? Killing God’s anointed king!
Instead, David defuses the situation by letting Saul go but first he secretly cuts a corner of Saul’s robe while he is in the cave. Notice David’s reaction: “David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.” (5) Even cutting a little of the king’s robe was enough of a rebellion for David to sorrow over. Then he completely disarms the conflict – how? He humbles himself calling Saul “My Lord and King!” And then he says this about himself in verse 14 “After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea!” Did it defuse the situation? Absolutely! Notice Saul’s reaction (16): “Is this your voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice and wept…”
Look now at Jesus who diffused the counter-attack by Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane with humility.
Look at the comments of Jesus from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” They have been deceived! And he sorrows for them and loves them.
Matthew 5:41 “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Or as Eugene Peterson translates it: “If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice servant life.”
Natural reaction: “I’ve got to fight for my rights! I’ve got to get equal treatment! I’ve got to document this situation so people know that I was forced to go a mile!”
Why did Jesus tell us to do the exact opposite of what is right? Because he’s interested in your witness to the one who is forcing you! He wants to use you as a testimony – as a servant to reach him. Do you think for one moment that fighting against this man and demanding your rights is going to bring him one step closer to the Lord? If anything, he’s going to reject the Lord and never want anything to do with Christians. But it is humility that will win him. It is unconditional love that will touch his heart. And that’s why Jesus commanded this.
Every bomb, every conflict is a chance for destruction, but also an opportunity for two things to happen. First, you will grow as you give it over to God and humble yourself to your neighbor. You will grow in Christlikeness as never before. Maybe you will realize that you need to change, maybe not. But either way, your pride will die and that is awesome. You will be able to bless others as never before.
Secondly, your neighbor will be exposed to Christ. Like Saul, ultimately, you might touch your neighbor’s heart and bless him or her. The one you go an extra mile with may end up on the road with you for the rest of your life! It’s all worth it to be able to bless another life.
Friends, humility is always a winning situation. Always! You will ALWAYS be blessed through humbling yourself under the mighty hand of God. So why not start today? There is no good reason not since it can only bring blessing to your life and others as well.