Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Sermon on the Mount: Radical Conflict Resolution

Last night, I finished watching a three-part documentary on PBS called The War of the World. (Yes, I am a bit of a history geek.) The question that drove the documentary, based on a book by Harvard historian Niall Ferguson, was this: "Why was the 20th Century the bloodiest in human history?" Ferguson's conclusion was that the violence of our times (including two World Wars, countless smaller conflicts, genocides, and terrorism) was not based on ideaologies like fascism and communism, but on ethnic and class differences. Germans sending Jews to the death camps. Stalin's Russia persecuting ethnic minorities. South American killing squads murdering Native American peasants. Serbs sniping at Bosnians. Hutus eliminating Tutsis in Rwanda.

We often look on such events with a detached sadness. After all, none of this is our fault; none of us has engaged in genocide or started a war. But we must admit that the same heart of darkness exists in us. It may not manifest itself in bloody ways, but it rears its ugly head at inopportune moments, destroying our relationships, dividing our churches, disqualifying our witness for Christ, and poisoning our lives. If you think I am being overly dramatic, ask yourself the question: Has anything good ever happened when you became angry?

What are we to do? Jesus has a high standard for His people in every area of life, including the way we are to respond to the attacks and insults of others. Believe it or not, Christ did not preach pacifism. Nor did He espouse a macho, "don't get mad, get even" mentality. His way is far more difficult, more courageous...and more effective. This Sunday, we'll explore Christlike conflict resolution in Matthew 5:21-26.

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