Study Guide: War and Peace
Sunday May 22, 2016 | Greg Boyd
- John 17:20-23
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.
In this first message of the Flesh and Blood series, Greg dives in to relational conflict by properly defining kingdom peace and kingdom war. We live in a fallen creation whose inhabitants too often reflect the ideals of the enemy rather than participating in the triune God’s invitation to reflect His perfect love to each other. The principalities and powers play us off one another creating human enemies, but in reality the battle is not against flesh and blood. We were created to fight and protect, just not against each other.
This series is not about how to avoid conflict, but rather how to engage in conflict in kingdom centered Christ like way. God created humanity with the goal of us participating in and reflecting His perfect love. In John 17 Jesus prays that “they may be one just as you and I are one.” His prayer continues that His disciples would reflect the loving unity of the triune God. We were created for love, but also a certain kind of war. We can’t love the way we’re supposed to love unless we also learn to fight the way we’re supposed to fight.
In Genesis Adam and Eve were instructed to subdue, watch over, and guard the garden. This pre-supposed there was something to guard against. Our willingness to guard against Satan and the principalities and powers is central to our call as kingdom people. The fighter instinct we all experience isn’t a bad thing, as long as we keep it pointed in the right direction. In Ephesians 6:12 we read that “our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers…” If it has flesh and blood, it’s not to be fought against, but fought for. One of the main ways we fight back against the powers is refusing to fight flesh and blood. Instead we aggressively fight back at the systems and powers of racism, nationalism, sexism, bigotry, classism, and all other forms of injustice. Our capacity to love the way we’re supposed to love is dependent upon our perspective on who we’re fighting against.
Greg proposed 3 principles to help us keep our fighting and loving pointed in the right direction as it relates to conflict:
- First, embrace the conflict. Biblical peace is not the absence of conflict. Avoiding it actually just denies its reality and thus keeps us perpetually in conflict we’re not dealing with. In Ephesians 4:25 it say to “put off falsehood,” and “in your anger do not sin.” This means there is no pretending, no covering up of what the truth actually is. Address your anger quickly and don’t conceal it. We get angry when something we value gets de-valued. That’s okay and appropriate as long as we’re addressing it in a healthy way, but if we “let the sun go down on our anger” it can get submerged and transform in to bitterness and resentment. We’re not meant to carry it around. Submerged anger creates darkness and bitterness. We can actually strengthen a relationship if we embrace conflict and handle it in a way that honors the others’ humanity as well as our own. This brings true peace (shalom), the completeness and wholeness the bible speaks of.
- Second, it’s important to acknowledge there are factors at work that are trying to divide us. This idea is nearly impossible to remember in the middle of a conflict when our rational brain shuts down, so it’s important to stay aware and prepare ahead of time. If possible, it’s even best to pray ahead of time with the other person for a spirit of remembrance in the conversation that we are not enemies with each other, no matter what our disagreement or conflict is. It’s important to acknowledge there is a system of deception and powers that seek to kill, steal, and destroy the unity of believers.
- Lastly, it is vitally important to stay connected to the true source of life, Jesus. All of our sense of worth, security, significance, and value needs to come from Jesus and what He has spoken over us on the cross. The cross should be our primary definition of who God is and what He thinks about us. Our ability to love the person we’re in conflict with will always get trumped if our identity is wrapped up in being right, being respected, getting our way, being affirmed, or any number of other idols. If our identity is at stake, then loving takes a backseat. Talking about issues is never just about talking about issues; there is always so much more baggage we bring to every interaction when we’re carrying all these idols around. The enemy uses them to get a foothold to create division. Whatever else our conflict is about, we must remember at all costs that it’s not about our identity. That has been sealed with Christ.
- Were there any sections of scripture discussed that need more clarification? What parts did you not understand?
- What parts of Greg’s stories on conflict did you most identify with?
- Which of the 3 principles or reminders spoke to you most? Why?
- Are you more of a conflict avoider? Or do you have trouble keeping conflicts looking like the Kingdom? What relationships do you have the most trouble having healthy conflict in?
- Spend some time thinking through the list of idols Greg shared (being right, being respected, getting our way, being affirmed, looking smart, protecting our ego or reputation, etc). Do any of these stand out to you? If so, give the Spirit some time to bring conviction and help surrendering these over to Jesus and asking him to replace that portion of your identity with His love and security.