Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Confrontation

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Valuing Conflict

I have just finished reading the latest edition of the Missio Nexus Anthology, an issue solely devoted to talking about conflict in the Christian community. It includes a few articles particularly focused on resolving cross-cultural conflict, and a couple of articles about dealing with differences between mission agencies. But the idea that most struck me was that conflict is important, even necessary for our development in our Christian life.

Ted Esler, in his closing article in the Anthology, talks about “Loving Conflict.”  Conflict, he says, deepens relationships, is necessary for good decisions and shapes our character.  He concludes,

Do you want to have strong relationships, good decisions, and a deeper character? Then learn to embrace and love conflict.

Choose to believe the voice of truth

I am finishing my read-through-the-Bible-in-2-years plan at the end of this month, and so these days, I am reading through the book of Revelation in the New Testament and the last of the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament.

Yesterday in reading Revelation 20, I noted in my journal that a single angel from heaven can seize (arrest) Satan and throw him into the bottomless pit and keep him there (Rev 20:1-3).  It seems so simple and matter of fact.   God simply sends one of his angels who immediately finds Satan and arrests him without any extended battle or resistance.  Satan is prevented from deceiving the nations any longer until his prison term is over.    In Daniel 10, we read that of a battle between the angels and the demonic forces, and the prince of the kingdom of Persia is able to withstand the angels of God for 21 days (Dan 10:13).  But this is not due to the difficulty that God has in controlling Satan.  When Satan’s time is done, and God’s purposes through him are accomplished, it is a simple matter of just arresting him and throwing him into the bottomless pit.   In the previous chapter, the beast and the false prophet have also been captured and thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 19:20).   Once the deceivers have been arrested and imprisoned, the deception stops.

That arrest and long-term imprisonment of the deceiver (and his partners in deception) has not yet happened, at least not according to my understanding of eschatology.  We are currently still in the battle, and the battle is all about deception and truth. Satan can only exercise influence and create trouble by deceiving people.   In Rev. 20, he is called the dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil and Satan.  In Rev. 12:9, the same 4 titles are used, but he is also called “the deceiver of the whole world.”   Deception is his primary strategy.  He has no legitimate authority, no absolute truth on which to make his claim.   Everything he does is based on deception.   He is by necessity, very good at deception, since he has few other tools in his toolbox.

So if Satan is such a great deceiver, it would be naive to believe that he has not used this method with me. What lies have I been believing, and so coming under the influence of the enemy of God?   I am convinced that much of the conflict we experience within ourselves and with others is because we are listening to lies that are constantly seeking to invade our thinking.   These thoughts are obviously not labelled as lies, and in fact, we generally don’t even recognize them as foreign ideas that our adversary has introduced into our thought stream.  We have observed an event or heard a comment or read an email – and we interpret it, we tell ourselves a story – a story that is laced with lies about what was the true intent of that act or those words and what really matters from a kingdom perspective.   What we didn’t realize that just happened in the telling of that story to ourselves is that our interpretation was given to us by a very skilled deceiver.

Declare your intent

I have just finished reading The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, a book  Warren Janzen (our International Director) has been talking about.   One of the points that Stephen M. R. Covey makes is that one’s intent (motives) and how that intent is perceived by others have a huge impact on how much people trust us.     While we generally judge ourselves by the motives behind our actions, we judge others by their actions, and by our assumptions about their motives.     And those assumptions are often wrong.   But nevertheless, trust is damaged if our fellow workers or teammates believe that your motive in saying what you did or doing what you did was not to help or build them up but either to promote your personal agenda or tear them down.   So Covey says,  “People often distrust us because of the conclusions they draw about what we do.  It is important for us to actively influence the conclusions others draw by ‘declaring our intent.'”

Our teammates cannot read our minds.   Particularly if they come from another culture or sub-culture, there are a myriad of reasons why they might interpret the intent of our words and actions in different ways that what we had intended.   As a team leader, you want to encourage your team to work together to accomplish something great for God’s glory, but your words of “challenge” are heard as rejection and negating of their efforts to this point.    So we must “declare our intent“; we must explain our motives rather than just expecting our teammates to understand why we said what we did.

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