When we are in a conflict it can feel like we are in a lonely desert sitting in the scorching heat of emotion. In the midst of this pain when we call out to the Lord He comes to give us wisdom from His desert temptations. Imagine ourselves sitting on a rock in the desert watching the sun go down feeling the cool wind of the evening. We can hear Jesus’ sandals crunch on the gravel and the wind rustle his robe around his ankles as He walks toward us. Let’s hear Jesus’ wisdom as He sits with us to analyze conflict from the desert of Matthew chapter 4.
What is relational conflict and what effect does it have on us? Relational conflict alienates us from our sense of strength and our connection to others. It disrupts and undermines the interactions between us as human beings. This crisis of deterioration in our relationship is what we find most affecting, significant, and disturbing about the experience of conflict.
Conflict along with whatever else it does, affects our experience of both self and others.
Conflict generates, for most anyone it touches, a sense of weakness and incapacity. We experience a sense of a loss of control over the situation, accompanied by confusion, doubt, uncertainty, and indecisiveness. This overall sense of weakening is a very natural human response to conflict; almost no one is immune to it, regardless of all their initial position of power.
Conflict generates a sense of self-absorption. Each person becomes focused on themselves, becoming more protective, suspicious, hostile, closed, and impervious to the perspective of the other person.
God’s design: In all of this mess of conflict the question becomes, “What is God’s design for human relationships?” God is one God but three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They function together as three persons in perfect unity. We are created in God’s image, (Genesis 1:27). Since we are created in God’s image, we are created for relationship; and we are created for relationships that function in unity.
The effects of conflict: When there is a conflict in a relationship we feel weak and out of control becoming self-absorbed. We hate this insecure feeling and will strive to get the relationship back to unity.
What we want: Generally when there is a conflict people want one of three things.
Needs met: They want to get their needs met because they feel weak.
Security: They want to feel secure again.
Power and Position: They believe their rights are being denied them and want to be vindicated and empowered.
How we respond: In a conflict we tend to respond in destructive ways that lead to interactional disintegration.
Our responses will be similar to what Ephesians 4:26, 31 tell us.
What is God doing in this mess?
He is sending us out into the desert.
In Matthew 4:1-11 after Jesus baptism the Holy Spirit sends Jesus into the desert to be tempted by Satan for 40 days and 40 nights.
The first temptation Jesus faced as he fasted was to become hungry. The devil tempted Him by saying, “If you are the Son of God tell these stones to become loaves of bread, (Matthew 4:1). It is the temptation to satisfy His physical appetites or to get His needs met.
His response was, “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” (Matthew 4:4).
Are we looking to God’s Word to hear His solution to meet our needs?
In the second temptation the devil took Jesus to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and told Him to jump off. The devil quotes Psalm 91:11-12 to Jesus saying, “He will order his angles to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone,” (Matthew 4:6). Jesus instant response was to say, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God,” (vs. 7).
Where are we putting God to the test when we feel insecure, disregarding our limitations and trying to secure our own survival? Are we trying to prove something to others and expecting God to come to our rescue time and time again? Do we know that we are not trusting God?
In the third temptation the devil takes Jesus to the peak of a mountain to show Him the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said he would give it all to Jesus if He would kneel down and worship him. Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him,’” (vs. 10)
The third temptation is all about the worship of power and position. Where are we most prone to seek the outward trappings of success rather than securing the inner authority that comes from worshipping God alone?
The lessons in the desert are an opportunity for us to ascertain our heart’s desires and discern how we fell into temptation. Isaiah 14:12-15 give us a picture of the desires of the enemy. His intent is always to get our attention from God and on to ourselves, just like him. We could say it is getting our focus and attention on ourselves instead of God. It makes us ask the question: Whose kingdom are we in? God’s or our kingdom of “I?”
God would want us to keep our focus on His kingdom. Philippians 2:1-8 gives us a picture of the focus of the kingdom of God. It is always on God and serving another. The kingdom of God is always “you before me.”
What is the pivot point of change in conflict? We always start with listening to the other person and putting ourselves in their shoes. We must know our own heart and how we are tempted by selfish desires. When we start to listen to the other person we get a sense of recognition for their situation we feel empowered to change enabling us to be strong and responsive.
We are able to see the person in a humanizing way by connecting to their pain, and being able to respond in a constructive and positive way. The pivot point of change for both people in a conflict is to be able to really hear the other person and have empathy for how they might feel.
Jesus’ call into the desert of conflict is a call to analyze our own hearts and find our way to strength in His Word, trusting Him every step of the journey, and worshipping Him with all of our responses making the enemy flee. May God transform our destructive conflict interactions into something more positive, loving, and constructive.
Take some time to think about the relationships in your life and ask yourself these three questions. In what ways are you trusting in something or someone more than God for getting your needs met? Where are you looking to find security in relationships more than in God? Where are you prone to seek power and control?