I am currently working on finishing an audio-lecture distance course called ICE 502E: Interpersonal Communication & Conflict Management. As part of the coursework, I am required to post a number of reflections onto a forum site where other students can read and comment.
I am going to put a couple of these here on The Long War. Here is the first one:
“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it the whole army of evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them.” (James 4:1-2)
So much of this ICE 502E course is focused on the subject of interpersonal conflict. A full ten of the twenty-four lectures actually have the word “conflict” in their titles. There is a little about the nature of conflict and much about the handling (buzz term: “management”) of conflict. There are many biblical examples of conflict given. But there is, in my estimation, a lacuna of discussion of the deep theological and spiritual origin and meaning of conflict.
In the early pages of The Divine Conspiracy, a book that is not directly dealing with interpersonal communication or interpersonal conflict, Dallas Willard nails both the problem and the solution. He describes what a kingdom is, explains that each of us has one by God’s design and observes that we have twisted our rulership into oppression of the other. Willard writes,
In the biblical account of our fall from God, we were assigned to earn our bread by the sweat of our face. The sweat comes from our own energies, which is all we have left after losing our roots in God’s own life. But we relentlessly try to earn our bread by the sweat of someone else’s face, even when it might be easier to use our own strength.
What does the solution look like? He puts it this way:
Only as we find [God’s] kingdom and settle into it can we human beings all reign, or rule, together with God. We will then enjoy individualized “reigns” with neither isolation nor conflict. This is the ideal of human existence for which secular idealism vainly strives.