The Art of Conflict

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Question: “You brought up personal conflict with others. Do you have a solution to offer that accommodates distance and difference?”

On one occasion, a lawyer approached Jesus and, as a test, asked him to name the greatest commandment. According to Matthew, Jesus responded in this way: “And he said to him, ‘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 neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22:37-39).

In light of our treatment of love in this series, this is a brilliant response. To love the “Lord your God” is to embrace the truth that love is drawing to you that which is for your highest good and dissolving that which is not. To “love your neighbor as yourself” is to acknowledge this same truth for others.

The Gospels depict Jesus in perpetual conflict with the religious professionals of his day. Because he threatened their ideological narrative, the lawyers of spiritual law were doing everything in their power to destroy his credibility. Jesus had enemies. It’s also pretty obvious that he held them accountable for using their scriptural skills to keep people in spiritual darkness.

The lesson here is that we do not have to like a person to love them. If you hold resentment toward another, then that resentment binds you. The answer is to release them in love. As you think of this person, you see love drawing to them that which is for their highest good and dissolving that which is not. It’s not your job to determine what needs to happen to them. Your highest good involves pulling your negative emotion out of the situation and letting love do its perfect work. The more you want to see them pay for what they did, the more of an emotional burden you heap upon yourself. They may indeed deserve all the payback you envision. The question is, do you deserve it?  Knowing that love is doing its perfect work offers a way out from beneath this stifling burden.

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