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Move Inward

• Greg Boyd

Why is it so easy to blame others when we are in conflict? In this fifth sermon of our Next Level Relationships series, Greg looks at what our brains and bibles can tell us about blame and how to navigate conflict.

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Blame is a universal trait of fallen humanity. Most of us are so emotionally invested in being right and looking innocent that we can’t address conflict logically. Why is that? There is both a scientific and biblical explanation.

The scientific explanation:

In a study conducted to see how people handle getting their core beliefs challenged. Participants were put in MRIs that looked at activity in their brain while, experimenters challenged their beliefs. They found that the amygdala is stimulated in these types of situations. The amygdala is the same part of the brain responsible for the fight or flight response. Meaning that our brains experience someone challenging our beliefs in the same way our brains experiences someone threatening our lives. However, evidence is showing that will/choice plays a role, and people are not fated to overreact to challenging situations.

The Biblical explanation:

In Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve have eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil they hide. When God asks them what has happened Adam blames God and Eve, and Eve blames the serpent. When we fall under the influence of Satan (the accuser), we become mini-accusers and take on his image. This is one of the primary marks of the fall: we believe lies about God and therefore try to find our significance and worth from other things (often what we believe, say, or do).

The scientific study with the MRI shows a physical manifestation of what the bible says is happening in our souls. As a result of the fall, the way we were designed to operate has been broken and we are trying to find our life from the wrong things. When we get into conflict we experience it as someone challenging our source of life and our significance. No wonder we overreact! The good news is Jesus’ work on the Cross reverses this pattern and sets us free. We can now know God’s character and get our significant and worth from Jesus.

Greg often repeats a mantra of “My life is Christ nothing else really matters” as he goes about his day. This is to remind his brain where his source of life comes from.

Tips for negotiating conflict:

  1. Find your life in Christ. In any conflict situation if we forget where our source of life is we feel like we are negotiating or fighting for our worth and significance. Instead, in conflict we remember who we are in Christ, and step back and ask “what is true here?” Since, our worth is not at stake we can be honest about the ways we might be wrong and try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. Practically speaking, we can remember that we have an amygdala and if it does get over heated in conflict, walking away and taking a break for 20 minutes can help us come back more fully resourced.
  2. Practice spending time with God. Ask the Spirit to bring you Jesus and open up your imagination to see Jesus saying to you all the truths He tells you in scripture. Get grounded in the truth before conflict even starts.

So, in the midst of conflict and difficult situations remember to look inward and be willing to humbly confess what you may have done, while remembering your life and identity are safe in Christ.

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Topics: Conflict, Relationships

Sermon Series: Next Level Relationships

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Focus Scripture:

  • Hosea 4:4

    But don’t look for someone to blame. No finger pointing! You, priest, are the one in the dock.

  • Genesis 3:12-13

    The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate." Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent tricked me, and I ate."

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2 thoughts on “Move Inward

  1. Peter says:

    Listening to Greg’s message (and the other recent speakers), it’s interesting to note that while conflicts occur continually that affect us either directly or indirectly, this is in stark contrast when we look at the members/family of the Triune Godhead…there are no recorded conflicts here; only Love.

    As we are made in the Image of God, one would assume that prior to the Fall, Adam, Eve and God would have related perfectly without conflict…which will also be the case in the New Creation. However, for believers, we do have the opportunity to adopt this mode of living now; I will touch on this later.

    Greg briefly mentioned the Fall and it’s relationship consequences for Adam and Eve and humanity. The toxic nature of relationship dysfunction and conflict was evidenced in the next generation of Adam and Eve with their son, Cain murdering his brother, Abel.

    With Satan’s lie that Adam and Eve would be as God if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the couple found with their compliance, their relationship with God was gone; as was the relationship they had with each other. Their previous dependence on the only True source of Love in Creation (God), was gone. So instead of exhibiting other person centered love, this turned inward to self love. By themselves as individuals they were making their own decisions independent of God.

    The severance of their relationships and independence led to personal fear and shame. In one sense they were each in charge of their own kingdom which would invariably lead to conflict between themselves and others as each saw things being right in their own eyes as they cared less for the other (interesting of course was Cain’s later comment to God – Am I my brother’s keeper?).

    Another interesting aspect is Genesis 2:18, “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone…”. As we have indicated, man was created in the Image of God, however, not in a Triune sense but nonetheless is designed to relate to others of his own kind. Given that Fallen man now lives in conflict with his neighbor (as we described above) he is between a rock and a hard place…he is created not to be alone but when he relates with others, he will be in conflict.

    (Coincidently the recent January 2018 edition of Scientific American contains an article, “The Toxic Well of Loneliness”.)

    So where man lives the lie outside the Truth he is ‘living’ contrary to his True self and has died relationally to God and his neighbor. We can now see why Jesus said (Matt 22:36-40),

    “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

    Where Jesus says, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets”, He is indicating how important love of God and neighbor is…the Law is aimed at protecting these relationships. The Law, in a sense, only exists/became known because because of the Fall. Otherwise man would be living in a pre-Fall situation and would be fulfilling the Law.

    We note Paul in Romans 13:8-10,

    “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

    For those who live the lie outside the Truth are subject to the judgement of those Laws which Paul provides a description in Romans (chpts 1&2).

    Therefore Fallen man has pressing in on him daily his disassociation with God and neighbour conflicts with his neighbour and the judgements of God against his Law breaking. Naturally a lot of this pressure also comes through his conscience. Of himself, he has little to remediate his situation. In the past and the present the likes of some distracting activity (even work) and alcohol may have provided some short term relief. But now we also have drugs of ever increasing varieties.

    The bottom line to this over time may lead to mental illness which is becoming an increasing blight especially on Western society.

    So, as a believer, the pathway back to True normality is to live the Truth through the Cross.

    When we look at Jesus we are told (Jn 1:14), “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

    So Jesus is always presenting the Truth to those He comes in contact with (Jn 14:6), “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me”.

    One of the first examples of this is when Jesus was a boy going to the Passover feast with His parents at the Temple, and He became lost to His parents, and is covered in Luke 2:41-52 and more specifically versus 48-52,

    “And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously”. And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
    And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man.”

    The initial approach by (anxious) Mary is interesting and would have all the hallmarks of developing into a conflict with Jesus. However, Jesus’ response to his mother was the Truth although it was not something they were able to process, “And they did not understand the saying which he [Jesus] spoke to them.” which also echoes Jn 7:46, “No man ever spoke like this man!”. He is speaking the Truth which others cannot comprehend or, they wish to suppress.

    Later, when Jesus began His ministry, He was faced with the temptation in the wilderness after His baptism. Again in this situation He responded with the Truth…scripture.

    These and similar situations can be seen time and again in the gospels whether it be through His teaching, scripture or parables…the Truth is being revealed to humanity.

    Translating this to the current series of messages concerning conflict is how a believer deals with such situations and must reflect Jesus. In saying this we also understand that Jesus has set aside His divinity and is True man. However, we understand that Fallen man of himself is incapable of knowing, telling or living the Truth but through the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:16-17),

    “And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.”

    Jesus, as a man was filled with the Holy Spirit and, as we are aware, “the Spirit of truth” comes with certain fruit and gifts.

    In relation to the fruits of the Spirit we have Gal 5:16-26,

    “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
    If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.”

    The more we are led by the Spirit of Truth, the more fruit will be exhibited in our lives…noting well the final sentence of the above scriptures, “Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.” viz no conflict.

    Turning to the gifts of the Spirit we have 1 Cor 12:4-11,

    “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

    The matter of note here is that when we see in Jesus’ ministry in potential conflict situations, the use of knowledge and wisdom in bringing out the Truth of a situation…somewhat akin to what Osheta described in the previous week there can be ways of framing our response.

    If we think back to pre-Fall with man being the Image bearer, it would not be unreasonable to expect that the couple either had the Spirit or those attributes as part of their persona. Further to this, they were living in the Truth of Creation as is evident when Eve was tempted she recited the Truth (God said etc..Gen 3:2-3)…which to some degree echoes the response Jesus gave to His temptations in the wilderness.

    After the Fall the fruit and gifts that had been present departed or, were but a shadow of what they were before. The reasoning here is that their relationship and that with God had changed significantly. However, the interesting aspect we now find post resurrection, are believers being filled with the Spirit…effectively in one sense being returned to the pre-Fall situation or, that of Jesus in His incarnation ministry.

    Conflict in relationships in the world system/Babylon will continue until the Final Judgement.

    As believers, of ourselves, we are no better able to remediate conflict situations than a non-believer. But through the power of the Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, we can learn from the Counsellor and be guided through such events while exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit.

    While some may consider Greg’s example with his drums to be trivial, it does capture a lot of what we have been talking about. Greg was describing the signals he was receiving (words of knowledge?) ‘in real time’ while he was entering the kitchen, but the processing of his desire to play the drums should not have ‘trumped’ his love of neighbor (Shelly). Where the love of drums or whatever is placed ahead of love of God or neighbor it has to fall into the idolatry category. The position is further compounded if we seek to defend such situations (I need to relax etc) as we deceive both ourselves and our neighbor.

    So if we walk in the Spirit, we are walking in the Truth. Let us pray for knowledge and wisdom to remediate such conflicts with the Truth…or, as Paul says in Eph 4:15, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ”.

    Apologies for the length but some items have required further explanation.

  2. Lyndsey says:

    I really want to know what kind of popcorn Shelly gets from Whole Foods. I’m a popcorn lover too.

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"Thank you all the way from Oregon. I deeply appreciate being shepherded by Pastor Greg and everyone else on the panels. You are a rare find in the church nowadays. Tackling tough questions with humility and a kingdom perspective. It has been life changing for me in such tumultuous times."

– Heather, from Oregon