Sunday, September 14, 2014

James 4:1 ff - What Is the Source of Conflict?

The Messy and the Neat Freak  as a metaphor on a primary source of human conflict

The folks who love their space to be neat as a pin are often unhappy when their spouses, children or office mates fall into the "messy" category. To be sure, many of the "messy" people in their life may not be that messy. It often doesn't take much to make the neatnik squirm.

Messies fall into two categories. The true messy who has no interest in cleaning anything, and is perfectly content to live in swill. The other group is the frustrated perfectionists.  I know this group.  I am one. I would like everything in life to be perfect, but since it is impossible, I've long since given up. My goal in life is Good Enough.

The Bible give us the reason for conflicts, large and small:  James 4:1 NIV What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.

So, the person who desires a neat environment and covets a perfect room, home, or work space, is in conflict with the person who desires to have a more casual situation, and has no desire to learn a new approach in order to meet the desires of the other.

The conflict can stay at the difference-of-style level, and merely result in resentments, nagging, and such. Or it may rise to the level of judging the motives of each player, resulting in name calling, anger, bitterness, and lack of fellowship for a time. To be clear, there is no right or wrong individual in this situation. The messy is just as likely to be the one who becomes upset to the point of sin.

And all this can happen over the minor issue of how neat should a space is kept.

The reality is that the neat or messy inclination is probably deeply engrained into the nature of each person. Whether it is raw personality, upbringing, training, or experience, each has arrived at this point with plenty of resistance to change. What is the Christian solution?

I suppose that the answer "grace" will seem just too obvious and simple. But the reason I've suggested that this situation is a metaphor is this. Being clear that the other people in your life are programmed in certain ways that are highly resistant to change should give you more, not less, reason for grace. To the extent that you are unable to be graceful in your thinking, attitude, and actions regarding those who have conflicting needs, wants, or desires, the relationship will suffer. But the real loser in the situation will be you. The failure of grace in such situations goes right to stress, anxiety, and angst. All of these will push you towards other negative consequences like depression, stress related diseases, and distance from God.

If you are a messy, don't you want Grace from the neatnik in your life? Are you prepared to give them grace for their goals to keep things clean? Now apply this basic concept to almost any other conflict in life.

Last thought.  Grace does not imply acceptance of sinful behavior by others. It implies that you have an understanding of their difficulty in overcoming the sin, such that you are not going to be subject to negative consequences in your own life that come as a result of your attitude about their sin. 

No comments:

Post a Comment