The Real Conflict, Part 2

(These images are from the sermon I preached on 10/13/13. Since you can't see the images from the podcast, I thought I'd include them here.) 

At its heart, all anger is foolish. As I illustrated in last week's post, sinful anger fails to see the world as it really is. We tend to blame our anger on circumstances or other people when the Bible clearly teaches that our primary problem is within. When we fight our spouses and kids and friends, we're allowing ourselves to be distracted from the real war raging in our hearts.

How can we be so foolish? 

Foolishness is essentially practical atheism. Psalm 14:1 says, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no god.'" Maybe I claim to be a Christian, but when I'm angry with my kids or my wife, my heart is not a Christian. No matter what my mouth is saying, my heart is saying, "There is no god." And if there is no god, then I am god. 

Romans 11:36 declares that all things are "from God, through God, and to God." But the fool believes all things are "from me, through me, and to me." In other words, when I'm angry, I'm believing and acting like I am the center of the universe. This has enormous implications for our relationships.

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  • If I'm the center of the universe, then everything I say carries the weight of divine law --  my desires become demands, my suggestions become commands, my statements become absolute truth. 
  • If I'm the center of the universe, everyone else exists to serve me. My wife and my kids are my subjects and owe me respect, deference, and absolute allegiance. I appreciate them as long as they maintain my kingdom. But if they compromise something that's important to me, there will be problems. 
  • If I'm the center of the universe, everything is interpreted personally. Everything is important insofar as it affects me. If my kids spill their milk, it's not an accident. It's disrespect. If my wife is late for dinner, or the grocery store closes early, or my coworker forgets a deadline, it's treason. My servants clearly hate me. 
  • If I'm the center of the universe, then my full wrath is justified. If you're my servant and you've disregarded my law and are rebelling against my rule, then you deserve my punishment. That's what anger is -- an attempt to right what's wrong through aggressive tactics. Whether we yell or sulk or refuse kindness, we're seeking to punish someone for perceived wrongs.
  • Last, if I'm the center of the universe, then I'm happy about all this. The fool delights in foolishness. Everyone enjoys anger for a time. Giving our spouse the silent treatment just feels right. 

This sounds absurd. Indeed, if anyone claimed to be the center of the universe, they'd be declared insane. But all sin, including anger, is absurd. If you follow the logic behind our anger to its final conclusion, this is the universe we live in when we're angry. It would be comical if it weren't so destructive to our marriages and families and culture.  

Do you see how foolish this is? I'm living in an alternate reality. When I'm thinking like this, it's no wonder I invite conflict. Who wants to live with this person? My wife doesn't. My kids don't. If this is the way I am relating to my family, they're not going to stand for it for very long. They are right to rebel against a fool.

If this is you in your marriage and in your parenting and with your friends, what do you do? James 4 is devastating to our hearts, but it also brings tremendous encouragement. After a brutal exposition of anger in verses 1 through 5, James encourages us in verse 6, "But God gives more grace. Therefore, it says, 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

Can you believe there's still grace for idiots like us?! After living like we're the center of the universe, destroying everything in our path, God gives more grace. There is grace for you and me. The first step to restoration is to recognize our foolishness, humble ourselves, and submit to God who forgives, redeems, and repairs our broken relationships.

If you're interested in learning more, listen to Dave's sermon on conflict from 10/13/13. You can download or stream it from this link.