Study Guide: When Conflict Burns

Sunday May 29, 2016 | Seth McCoy

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In this second message of the Flesh and Blood series, Seth describes the unceasing realities of conflict not only in the world in which we live, but also in our own lives; our own relationships, and our own hearts. Walls of conflict exist all around us, and those walls are torn down because one man chose to die. Through Christ’s death, the walls of conflict and separation are torn down. As the head of the church (that is Christ) leads the body (that is the church), the conflicts that divide the world are torn down and truth, justice, mercy and peace become embodied.

Extended Summary:

We live in a world that is filled with walls of separation. Walls that divide people of different races, socio-economic classes, theological convictions; walls that divide marriages, families, church communities. In this message, Seth invites us to uncover these walls and explore the ways in which we can partner with the One who can tear down these walls and make a way toward reconciliation.

We often think that the problems of our contemporary world are wildly different and exponentially more complex than the problems we read of in Scripture. But in fact, the problems we face are not entirely unlike the problems of the 1-century world. Paul, for example, wrote much of his work from a context of giant military power, oppressive taxing conditions, serious religious divides which boiled over in violence. There were walls all around Paul, just as there are walls of division all around us.

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul describes for us the kind of world that is possible because of the life and death of the man Jesus. In this letter, Paul writes; “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” The impenetrable walls of religious hostility, sexism, power and money are broken down. Because of Jesus, reconciliation, and unity are actualized. Indeed an entirely new unified humanity is formed. We are all ONE, because of Christ. Paul goes on to articulate this vision of the Kingdom breaking in and tearing down walls when he writes, “He [Christ] is the embodiment of our peace, sent once and for all to take down the great barrier of hatred and hostility that has divided us so that we can be one.

In order for love to be lived, it must be embodied. How is it that the walls of our world that cause so much division could ever come down? Because God, who is love, became embodied in the man Jesus. With his body, Jesus loved those around him. With his body, he took on the relentless flogging, with his body, he was pierced and nailed to a cross until his body was dead. And Jesus’ body is STILL tearing down walls.

God’s plan for tearing down the walls of division is embodied in us, the church. As the church, we are the body of Christ and Christ is the head of the body. All human movement is designed to start with the head. When the head [that is Christ] moves, we the body [the church] are to follow, moving and working together in unity and love.

So how can we begin joining the Kingdom movement of tearing down walls? Our participation begins with three small yet significant commitments. First, grow in self-awareness. What are the walls around you? What are the walls you create? Second, live into vulnerability. We cannot tear down walls alone. We need one another. The foot is as much of the body as the hand. We need one another to work together as the body. Acknowledge your need for others. Third and finally, listen with hope. With the many, many walls of division and vast amounts of conflict and violence it is easy to lose hope. But chose instead to listen, to move forward toward reconciliation with hope.

The conflict transformation that our world needs is the same transformation that our hearts need. By growing in self-awareness, leaning into vulnerability, and listening with hope, transformation will begin in our own lives and inevitably move out into the world around us. Christ is the means and the method to tearing down walls. Christ is the embodiment of our peace, sent once and for all to take down the great barrier of hatred and hostility that has divided us so that we can be one.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Take a moment to reflect on your life and with the leadership of the Holy Spirit, ask God to help you identify the walls around you. Can you name one or two of the walls the divide you from God? Can you name one or two of the walls that divide you from another person in your life.
  2. With these walls fresh in your mind and clearly named, imagine yourself giving them to Jesus. What does Jesus want to say to you about these walls?
  3. Moving out a little further, what are some of the walls in your own community? How might you partner with Christ, who is the embodiment of peace, to help tear down those walls?