Summary: What’s the cure for the common conflict? It’s grace
Open: Well today we are going to be continuing in our study through the book of James. This morning we will be exploring another topic that is relevant to every single person here today -- the topic we are going to looking at this morning is conflict.
I read a story this week about two farms in Canada this past week. There are two parallel fences two feet apart that run for about half a mile. Why two fences when only one would do? Well, two farmers, Paul and Oscar, had a conflict that soon became a feud. Paul wanted to build a fence and split the cost, but Oscar was unwilling to contribute. Since he wanted to keep cattle on his land, Paul went ahead and had the fence built anyway. After the fence was complete, Oscar said to Paul: "I see we have a fence." What do you mean "we"? Paul replied. "I got the property line surveyed and built the fence two feet into my land. That means some of my land is outside the fence. And if any of your cows set foot on my land, I'll shoot them." Oscar knew that Paul wasn't joking, so when he eventually decided to use the land adjoining Paul's for pasture, he was forced to build another fence, two feet away. Oscar and Paul are both gone now, but their double fence stands as a monument to the high price we pay for unresolved conflict.
That's the way it goes isn't it? Some little thing, some insignificant thing comes along and people begin to fight with one another. And up goes the fence on one side. Then up goes the fence on the other side. And two people who are commanded by God to "love thy neighbor as yourself," live on in some weird state of coexistence. This slide would really illustrate dozens of situations I've seen over the years. Sometimes it would be a picture of a husband and wife. Each accusing the other of causing all the problems in their relationship. It might serve as a picture of two people who used to be best friends, but refuse to even talk to one another not because of some disagreement they've had. I've even seen apply to people who call themselves Christians in the same church -- even in the same worship service. Lifting their voices in praise to God but very guarded behind their own fence line when it comes to relating to each other because they individually feel the other party has offended them. Each party behind their own little barricade. This picture really serves a metaphor for dozens of situations I've witnessed. I can't think of how many situations I've seen like this in real life.
It's really amazing how unprepared we really are when it comes to managing conflict in our lives. And there is no way to escape conflict. From the moment we are birthed into the world we are thrust into conflict situations. Baby says, "it's feeding time." Mom says, "It's 4 AM, please wait." Conflict. It's everywhere at every conceivable level. Conflict in families, conflict in marriages, conflict in the workplace, conflict in every arena of human existence that escalates ultimately to conflict between nations where peoples as nations are warring against one another...that's simply the macrocosm of the microcosm of conflict that exists in the heart of a worldly person. It's in the littlest things or the biggest things. Ill - The other day I was driving to Logan airport in Boston. I don't know who designed the toll booths there, but there is this area where there are 8 lanes going into the toll booths and on the other side it narrows down to 4 lanes. (It's really a beautiful example of thoughtful civil engineering.) So as you come out of the booths everyone is jockeying for position -- many have to change lanes and such. So there was this car with what looked like 4 teenagers right beside me and I'm sitting there waiting for my opportunity to get into the lane I needed. Sitting right next to me, about three feet from my window was this teenage boy in the passenger seat who looks me in the eye and then flashes an obscene gesture at me -- you know -- the universal sign of disapproval. He wasn't the driver. He knew nothing about me -- I would have gladly let them go first. He didn't know anything about me - for all he knew I was a wonderful person. But, I mean, this guy had to have something brewing inside of him -- some kind of internal conflict that he felt compelled to give me that message. Here's a guy that was living in absolute conflict and if you got into the 14 feet he wanted to occupy, you're in real trouble. I mean, the hostility is mindboggling.