Solving Our Conflict with God
It is a false concept to believe that God accepts us just the way we are and that we can then stay just the way we are. This belief doesn’t deal with the reality that we are by nature the children of wrath and the enemies of our Creator. To deal with the dysfunctional conflict in your life, you must first come to recognize your natural hostility toward God’s sovereignty and your innate inability to submit to the Creator’s way of life—the only way that produces real inner peace.
A word often used in the Old Testament to describe hostile human behavior is translated in English as abomination. Abomination expresses God’s reaction to something that is detestable and offensive to him. A host of human behaviors and attitudes are declared abominations to God, including idolatry (Deuteronomy 7:25); homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22); witchcraft (Deuteronomy 18:10-12); and pride (Proverbs 16:5). Even a person’s thoughts can be detestable to Him (Proverbs 15:26). If a person refuses to heed God’s instructions, then even his prayers can be an abomination to Him (Proverbs 28:9).
Proverbs 6:16-19 lists: “…six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.”
Notice—problems of dysfunctional conflicts are listed among the human behaviors God hates. Our corrupt human nature is the source of the pride, anger, selfishness and abuse that destroy relationships. To heal your broken relationships with others, you first need to be reconciled to God and to experience a change in your hostile human nature.
In Genesis, we’re told that humans are made in the image of God. It records how human beings choose to live by the self-determined knowledge of good and evil, becoming their own gods instead of trusting their Creator. It tells us that the result of this choice is that human nature was corrupted, and all people will suffer and eventually die. What it doesn’t tell us is why God created us in the first place.
In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, we find the answer. The apostle John received a vision of a future time when God renews the heavens and the earth. He records God’s description of the purpose for humans: “…I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:1-7).
God created human beings in his own image because he wants children!
Humanity is a mass of wayward children who have rebelled against their Father. Kicked out of Eden, we’ve spent millennia destroying each other with hatred, prejudice, war, and violence. All because you and I are at war with our Creator.
This seems to present us with an unsolvable problem. How can any of us, as enemies of God, negotiate peace? We can’t bridge the chasm existing between us and God. Imagine yourself standing before the Grand Canyon. It is a mile deep and many miles to the other rim. God is on one side, and you are on the other. What kind of running start would you need to jump the gulf between you and him?
God has to reach across the chasm to His wayward children in order for us to be reconciled to him. This truth is central to authentic Christianity. God isn’t calling people simply to accept “Jesus into their hearts.” His is not a gospel of “health and wealth.” He is not interested in us intellectually believing a set of religious doctrines while refusing a change of nature. God’s desire is to restore peace with his children who are in conflict with him.
Paul told the Romans, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15).
The gospel of peace is more than a message about the absence of violent conflict. The gospel of peace is how God restores peace between himself and the “children of wrath” by restoring them as His children. It is exhibited in how His restored children then practice peacemaking among themselves.
What does it mean to be “children of wrath”? Let’s look at the context where Paul uses this phrase: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) …” (Ephesians 2:1-5).
Because of corrupt human nature, we spend our lives trying to satisfy the selfish desires of our bodies and minds at all costs. This selfishness is counterproductive to the happiness and fulfillment we crave and actually produces suffering and conflict. God’s mercy is demonstrated in His willingness to reach across the chasm that exists between Him and us to reconcile His hostile children by offering them forgiveness and then giving them the ability to change their nature.
This doesn’t mean that God’s grace nullifies His law or justice. God’s law defines sin (Romans 7:7). The law also pronounces the death penalty on those who break it (Romans 6:23). God didn’t abolish His law, since that would require a change in His definition of good and evil. He also didn’t declare universal, unconditional amnesty without personal repentance, since that would absolve human beings from accountability and diminish His justice.
Instead, the Father chose to send His Son to become human, to live a perfect life, and to die as the substitute for us, thereby paying our required penalty. God’s justice pronounced the death penalty on rebellious humanity. His love satisfied His justice through the surrogate sacrifice of Jesus, who was then resurrected to return to the throne of God, where He would act as intercessor between God and humankind. It is in the life, death, resurrection, and work of Christ that God is resolving the conflict between him and corrupt humanity.
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:14-18).
God reaches across the chasm to His enemies, offering them forgiveness and relationship. In God’s plan to bridge this enormous gap, Jesus Christ “…had to be made like his brethren….”
Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:6-10).
God reached out to reconcile His wayward children before we knew Him or repented of our sins. Christ submitted to being a substitute sacrifice for us while we were still enemies (Colossians 1:19-22). In these actions, we get a glimpse of God’s awe-inspiring love toward us even though we are acting as abominations toward Him.
Let’s put Paul’s words about someone dying for a righteous man in a modern context. There are numerous accounts of a soldier in combat jumping on a grenade to save his buddies. In a modern analogy, Jesus jumped on the grenade to save those who hated Him, tortured Him, and deserved His distain.
When the Son of God crossed the chasm between God and humankind, He supplied the way for healing the core issues that cause dysfunctional conflict. This was pleasing to God.
Only by responding to God’s love and forgiveness can we have any hope of escaping the eternal penalty of sin, being restored into a peaceful relationship with God and having the ability to deal with the spiritual aspects of conflict.
From The Mercy Effect, copyright © 2018 by Gary Petty
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