Summary: Conflict is fundamentally spiritual, not just interpersonal, founded in insecurity and elusive. But persistence in prayer will ultimately provide peace.
When Jesus spoke of those who cry, “Peace, peace” when there is no peace, He must have foreseen the pain of the present time. Never before in human history, I would suspect, have more people felt less peace than now. Everywhere you turn there is the evidence of a generation which is deeply troubled, and does not know how to find peace. And yet we keep trying to find peace, using all the wrong things, all the things that do not work.
Some of us are anxious about our financial future, and so we try a variety of things to secure ourselves. We invest or we divest; we save or we gamble; we go for the high-flyers or we go for the blue chips. We think we can cure our concern by counting our coin; but we discover that we are just as anxious at a million dollars as we were at a hundred.
Some of us are anxious about our jobs, and so we attempt any number of things to protect ourselves. We play office politics, we work long hours, we take on extra work, we tell ourselves we will do whatever it takes to succeed. We think we can ease our anxiety by running the rat race, but even if you win the rat race, you still feel you are just a rat!
Peace, peace, when there is no peace. Isn’t that our time? Even Bush and Kerry took their wives on Dr. Phil’s show to get a little probing done and to be more comfortable with themselves.
Where can peace be found? What is a true and dependable source of peace of mind? And if there is a source of peace, is there a price we have to pay to get it? What will it cost us, this elusive thing called peace? What is the price of peace?
My thesis today is that peace is fundamentally a spiritual issue, no matter what else it may look like. Peace is at its core a spiritual issue, and we will not find peace until we identify it that way. Yes, there is a price to be paid in order to have peace. Let’s examine this together.
Sometimes conflict – peacelessness – looks like it’s all interpersonal. Sometimes if you cannot find peace, it seems as though it’s “their” fault. You know, “they”, those people out there who are so bent on having their own way that they can’t see the truth, which is my way! Often conflict looks like it is the clash of different personalities, and if only you could get people to hear one another, it would all work out. Isn’t that our common sense?
A number of years ago I took a personality test called the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory. The Myers-Briggs is designed to analyze the way we take in information and make decisions. It is supposed to predict how people will work with one another. Well, I tested out as an INTJ – I won’t bother to unpack all that, but let’s just say it speaks of a person who is introverted, who operates on reason more than on instinct, and who makes up his mind about something and plows ahead. Not long after I found out what Myers-Briggs box I was in, a psychologist who was familiar with our congregation at Takoma Park told me that he suspected that four of the five pastors who had served there before me had been INTJ’s, and that he thought probably most of our people were as well. So we are all the same personality type, and that means we should all get along well together, right? All operating with the same style, so nothing but peace, right?
You are way ahead of me. Wrong! Among these quiet, introverted people, there have been numerous conflicts, numerous breaches of the peace. They are so quiet sometimes you can hardly even notice – introverts fight, they just fight quietly! But breaches of the peace nonetheless. Why?
Because conflict, peacelessness, is fundamentally a spiritual issue, not an interpersonal one. Because the way to peace is not just through ironing out interpersonal differences; the way to peace is to let the Living God direct us to what is truly important.
In this final chapter of the Philippian letter, Paul calls attention to two women, and summons them to “be of the same mind in the Lord”. How would you like to be Euodia or Syntyche?! Whatever quarrel they had got immortalized in the Scriptures, so that nearly two thousand years later we are reading about their conflict! But Paul urges Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mind – how? In the Lord! In the Lord! And then goes on to ask the readers of his letter to help these ladies unsnarl their snit, because they both have struggled for the work of the gospel.