I avoid drama. Even as a child, stepping into the ring of conflict didn’t appeal to me. If pushed over and over, I’ll confront a issue, but I’m not one to go looking for a fight. But with all of the upheaval in our world, hearing so many conflicting reports, and watching many around me taking a side and fighting for various causes, if I’m not careful, I find myself engaging in ways I later regret.
More and more I’ve been seeking God about stepping into the ring. Should I get involved with cultural issues in ways I haven’t in the past? If so… what does that look like?
Jesus very directly sent us, as His disciples, into the world (John 17:18), but how do we interact with the people and the issues around us without becoming part of the problem? Without becoming the very things we don’t want to be — angry, frustrated, fearful, divided, and hopeless? One verse keeps rising to the surface:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 NIV)
There are really only a few options when it comes to dealing with conflict (within or around us):
- Avoid it altogether, staying outside the ring where you feel safer.
- Throw on the gloves and rush in to get the upper hand.
- An awkward dance between avoiding and engaging an issue.
- Or listening to and obeying our Father for His greater purpose.
Much of the world, and even the Church, currently falls within the first three categories. Many find their cups overflowing with fear, anger, frustration, and confusion, letting their emotions lead them into the ring with fists flying. We see division on nearly every level as almost everyone has an opinion to express and rights to protect.
While this type of confrontation only escalates the issue, avoidance is also not the answer. Pretending nothing is wrong only gives conflict room to grow and fester. Many times I’ve found an issue was much bigger in my mind than in reality, if I faced it. Avoiding a problem causes a lot of unnecessary stress and separation.
The Long View
As I study Jesus, I see a man who only did what His Father told Him to do. He didn’t avoid the awkward or painful. In fact, that’s often where we find Him. But when we see Jesus stepping into the ring, it’s a whole different kind of stepping forward. He faced evil and brought justice on levels far higher and deeper than what those around Him usually knew. He had already won the battle before stepping into the ring, and He wants you and I to walk in this same victory.
This fourth option isn’t an easy path. It requires living within a bigger picture and greater purpose. No matter what God — in perfect wisdom — leads you to do in any given moment, you’ll still be misunderstood by someone. Steadfastness, courage, focus, and humility are all needed, and are in abundant supply as we submit moment by moment to the Father. As we align with God, we set ourselves up to see the impossible become a reality.
Not What They Expected
In the the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wrestled internally with His enemy and His flesh while the disciples slept. When He had overcome, He stood and told them to come with Him. Jesus knew what was about to happen. He knew He would be betrayed and arrested. He knew He’d be brutally beaten, mocked, and crucified, and He stepped forward to meet it. (See John 18:4.)
Peter, still thinking Jesus would rise into a place of earthly power to defeat the Romans, also stepped forward. In his limited perspective, he cut off the ear of one of the guards. But just as calmly as if it was any other day, Jesus told Peter to put his sword away and healed the man’s ear.
Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?” He asked Peter.” (John 18:11, emphasis mine)
A Better Way
This is what keeps shouting to me through these few familiar verses:
- Jesus knew fully what was about to happen to Him because He was one with His Father. He wasn’t caught off-guard. He had already overcome His enemy before the others recognized the real battle.
If I am able to be one with the Father and Son (as Jesus prayed in John 17), do I consciously, wholly lean in to hear God’s voice so as to know what is about to happen to me at any given moment? Am I spending time in the secret place, alone with God, defeating my real enemy before others know there’s a battle?
- Jesus stepped forward to meet Judas, who had betrayed Him, and the guards who would arrest Him. He didn’t run away or avoid or take things into His own hands. His Father gave Him this cup, and Jesus drank it.
Am I stepping up to what God has asked of me, or am I procrastinating? Am I willing and obedient to drink the cup God has given to me, personally? Today? Or am I speaking over the Holy Spirit’s words with excuses or suggestions? Or as Peter, am I trying to take out the first, obvious enemy without thought of a bigger purpose and victory?
- Jesus’ love and mission were personal. Even as He faced His darkest hour, Jesus saw the guard as one the Father loved. He didn’t let the blindness of those around Him dim His vision or taint His love. He healed, He loved, He set others free, He revealed the Father until His last breath.
In the heat of the moment, do I only see issues that affect me, or am I looking at the one in front of me whom the Father loves? Am I motivated by selfishness or moved by the Holy Spirit? Am I loving in such a way that it leaves others healed and better than before we met? Do they see the Father through me?
A Life Laid Down
It’s important to note, although Jesus laid down His equality with God when He came to earth, the Father poured His power and authority through Jesus as He lived a life of obedience. When the soldiers said they were looking for Jesus the Nazarene, and Jesus answered, “I Am He,” the soldiers literally fell to the ground under the power of His voice. They didn’t overpower Jesus or detour God’s plans. Jesus chose to surrender to an eternal purpose and greater victory.
As you and I carry the Spirit of the Living God and an authority He has given us as His children, we must recognize He is very intentional and eternally minded. When He asks us to drink a cup of suffering, it is always for greater gain and glory.
The world shouts from every corner to step into the ring and defend your rights. No matter what side of any issue you’re on, there’s always a pull to give more information, set the record straight, and make more rules.
But what if the resolution you’re seeking for the conflict in your marriage, with your kids, your neighborhood, or the world around you isn’t found in self-protection? What if the most powerful position you can take is to lay down your rights, listen to your Father’s present-word, and step forward to drink the cup He has chosen for you?
Something to consider…
Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new person. All that is related to the old order has vanished.[f] Behold, everything is fresh and new.[g] And God has made all things new,[h] and reconciled[i] us to himself, and given us the ministry of reconciling others to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18 TPT)
Are we, like Peter, only swinging our swords at what’s directly in front of us? Or are we manifesting our Father’s wisdom? Jesus did not call us to separate from those we disagree with by taking sides, but to walk humbly before God, reconciling them to Him and to one another. Jesus called us to overcome evil with good.
There are no formulas in God’s Kingdom. Truth must be walked out in relational obedience to Love, Himself. Are you willing? Am I willing? I believe this is the only path to true healing and hope — one step, one heart, one life at a time.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to share your experiences and how you’ve seen God’s wisdom and grace pour out in this season.