FINDING PEACE THROUGH A PROMPT “YOU TURN”
“No U Turn” vs. “No! You Turn.”
Abbreviations can be confusing. Just think of the people who come to our country and are not familiar with our cryptic traffic signs. Imagine that one of these people is driving down the street and sees a sign forbidding U-turns.
You and I would read such a sign as saying, “No U Turn!” and understand that it is telling us not to turn our vehicle around and drive in the opposite direction. But if someone had never seen that sign before, he might conclude that the letter “U” stands for the word “You.”
This could lead him to read the sign as saying, “No! You turn!” and conclude that he is being ordered to make an immediate turn.
A change in meaning and emphasis can move people in very different directions.
What is our natural reaction to conflict? It is to blame others and focus on their wrongs?
Let me take you back to an early August morning almost 150 years ago.
The Lawrence Massacre, also known as Quantrill's Raid, was a rebel guerrilla attack during the U.S. Civil War by Quantrill's Raiders, led by William Clarke Quantrill, on the pro-Union town of Lawrence, Kansas.
The attack on August 21, 1863, targeted Lawrence due to the town's long support of abolition and its reputation as a center for Redlegs and Jayhawkers, which were free-state militia and vigilante groups known for attacking and destroying farms and plantations in Missouri's pro-slavery western counties.
Arriving at the summit of Mount Oread and leading between three and four hundred riders, Quantrill descended on Lawrence in a fury. Over four hours, they pillaged and set fire to the town and murdered most of its male population. Quantrill's men burned to the ground one in four buildings in Lawrence, including all but two businesses. They looted most of the banks and stores, as well. Finally, they killed between 185 and 200 men and boys.
By 9 a.m., the raiders were on their way out of town, evading the few units that came in pursuit, and splitting up so as to avoid Union pursuit of a unified column.
Order No. 11 was issued four days after the August 21 Lawrence Massacre, a retaliatory effort led by the notorious bushwhacker leader William Quantrill. The Union Army believed the guerrillas drew their support from the rural population of four Missouri counties on the Kansas border south of the Missouri River. These were Bates, Cass, Jackson, and Vernon. Federal forces intended to end this by any means necessary, no matter what the cost to innocent civilians.
Ewing's decree ordered the expulsion of all non-Unionist residents from these counties, and commanded that their homes be burned. Exceptions were made for those living within one mile of the town limits of Independence, Hickman Mills, Pleasant Hill, and Harrisonville. The area of Kansas City, Missouri north of Brush Creek and west of the Blue River, referred to as "Big Blue" in the order, was also spared. President Abraham Lincoln approved Ewing's order, but he cautioned that the military must take care not to permit vigilante enforcement. This warning was almost invariably ignored.
Jesus was confronted with a situation in Luke 12:13-15. Listen carefully to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:
13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”14Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:13-15).
Here was a man demanding that Jesus talk to his brother. I can just imagine how he sounded to Jesus: “Teacher, tell MY BROTHER to divide the inheritance with me” He's ripping me off. He's keeping all the money! He is being so unfair! He's not being a good Christian!
What was this man focused on? What was he Where were his thoughts focused? Where did he place the emphasis in his demand for justice? He was totally focued on his brother and how greedy he was being.
It is our sinful nature to judge others harshly rather than graciously.
1. Our natural reaction is to blame others and focus on their wrongs.
That immortal philosopher Snoopy once remarked, "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you place the blame!"
ADAM DID IT
This tendency is as old as the world. When God confronts Adam in Genesis 3, Adam is quick to shift the focus to Eve’s conduct. Eve is equally swift to blame Satan for tricking her to eat the forbidden fruit.
In Genesis 37, we see how Joseph’s brothers fanned sibling jealousy into a murderous plot by focusing endlessly on the ways their younger brother offended them.
The account in 1 Samuel 18 and 19 shows how King Saul was obsessed with David’s conduct and repeatedly blamed him for their estrangement.
BLAMING OTHERS ISN'T TAUGHT-CHILDREN
This persistent tendency to blame others for conflict is so natural that we do not need to teach it to our children. As soon as they can mouth the simplest words, they begin to use their tongues to shift the focus from their own wrongs to the actions of others: “He took my toy!” “She hit me first!” “He does it, too!”
One saturday when Ryan was out with his dad (doing the shopping for me!) I heard a crash as I prepared lunch. I rushed into the living room and found the Mr Potatohead bucket on the floor with all the bits sprawled accross the floor. Very relieved that it was nothing of concern I asked Kyle what had happened. I wasnt even telling him off but he pulled a guilty face, started looking around looking for his brother and when he remembered he was out, paused, pointed and said, "Sam."
He was blaming the dog!
As we get older, we try not to be quite so obvious when we blame others for our problems, but the natural tendency is still there. If we are in a conflict, we ignore or pass quickly over our own failings while developing detailed lists of what others have done wrong.
[Look at the BP Oil Mess and How everyone was blaming each other]
The inclination to blame others for a problem and focus on their behavior is deeply engrained in our culture. Soap operas and political campaigns gain their biggest audiences when the players are lobbing passionate accusations at one another. And when we engage in courtroom battles, we are willing to pay large fees to have our attorneys minimize our wrongs and focus the jury’s attention on our opponent’s shortcomings.
2. The blame game always makes conflict worse
Elmer G. Letterman
A man may fall many times but he won't be a failure until he says someone pushed him.
Blaming others for a conflict can do something far worse than generating a big legal bill. Look back at our text and notice how Jesus responds to the man’s focus on his brother’s behavior. Jesus says, “Watch out!” Our Lord gives an emphatic warning that there is great danger ahead when we focus on other’s wrongs and ignore our own contribution to a conflict.
Jesus knew that the blame game always makes conflict worse. It takes our eyes off our own contribution to a conflict and blinds us to the steps we can take to promote reconciliation. Worse yet, dwelling on an opponent’s behavior can escalate and expand a conflict by attracting the attention of other people and tempting them to take up sides. This dynamic divides countless families, churches, ministries, companies, and communities every year.
Blaming others also causes us to look for and exaggerate others’ wrongs, while ignoring their virtues. This critical perspective inevitably aggravates resentment, judgmental attitudes, and anger. As these feelings grow in our hearts, we can become consumed and controlled by bitterness toward others.
As Psalm 73:21-22 warns, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” No wonder Jesus says, “Watch out!”
3. You can change the course of a conflict with a prompt “You-turn”
Greg Anderson: When we blame, we give away our power.
Dr. Robert Anthony: When you blame others, you give up your power to change.
But thank God that Jesus’ warning does not end with the words, “Watch out.” He graciously goes on to say, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
With this brief warning, Jesus is teaching us that we can usually change the course of a conflict with a prompt “you-turn.”
That’s spelled, y-o-u … t-u-r-n.
Our Lord knows that driving straight ahead and emphasizing others’ wrongs always makes conflict worse. Therefore, he commands us to turn around and look at ourselves. He essentially says, “No! Stop blaming others for this conflict. YOU should be the first one to TURN around and look for the ways that YOU have contributed to this problem. TURN aside from blaming and take the road of repentance and confession. That is the way to peace and reconciliation!”
Jesus gives a similar exhortation in a passage we looked at last week. In Matthew 7:3-5, he says:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”
In his great love for us, Jesus is showing us the way that we can turn conflicts around.
Instead of indulging our habit of putting the emphasis on others’ wrongs (and sticking them in the eye with our sharp accusations!), he teaches us that the shortest route to peace and reconciliation is to take a careful look in the mirror so we can identify and confess the “planks” in our own eyes.
Then and only then will we be in a position to graciously and effectively help others to see how they too have contributed to a conflict and can help to resolve it.
Confessing wrong words and behavior will usually change the course of a conflict. A simple confession will often break the cycle of blaming and subdue intense emotions. Sometimes it will also encourage others to reflect on their own conduct, which may eventually lead them to admit their wrongs.
If we want real peace, however, we must go beyond confessing sinful behavior.
4. Genuine reconciliation and lasting change require a transformed heart.
Look again at Luke 12:15: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”.
Jesus is teaching us to go beyond surface behaviors and get to the root cause of our problems, which is usually a worldly desire that has taken control of our hearts and is compelling us to say and do sinful things.
Jesus offers a similar warning in Matthew 15:18-19, where he said,
“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
This truth is echoed and applied specifically to conflict in James 4:1-3, which says:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Through these passages, God is teaching us that the key to experiencing genuine peace and reconciliation is to recognize, confess, and get rid of the sinful desires that rule our hearts.
We cannot do this on our own. No matter how much we hate our pride, self-righteousness, envy, jealousy, and unforgiveness, we cannot sweep these things from our hearts through our own efforts.
But God can. He sent his own precious Son to the cross to pay the full penalty for the many sins that we have committed against him and one another. Through faith in Christ, we can experience complete forgiveness and reconciliation with God. As we read in Colossians 1:19-20 a few weeks ago, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
When God forgives and redeems us, he also gives us a new heart. In Ezekiel 36:25-27, he makes this wonderful promise:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
PS: God uses conflict to expose our idols.
The transformation of our hearts is both an event and a process. When God saves us, he gives us a new heart that enables us to repent from our sins and trust in Jesus as our Savior. That event triggers a life-long process in which the Holy Spirit slowly and steadily transforms our hearts and minds so that we progressively put off our old desires and behaviors, and replace them with desires and behaviors that are pleasing to God (see Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:22-24).
As the passages above indicate, God often uses conflict to move us along in this transforma¬tion process. Every time we are in a conflict, we have the opportunity to identify worldly desires that have taken control of our hearts, turned our eyes away from God, and caused us to do and say things that offend other people.
• Do you love money more than God? Do you trust in it more than God? Do you love possessions more than God.
• What are you putting before God? To find out, what has caused the greatest conflict in your life. Look at the root "idol" you are holding on to or putting before God.
As these idols and sinful desires are exposed, we can confess them to God, seek his forgiveness, and ask him to help us find contentment and security in him alone.
As God purifies and liberates our hearts, we can also confess our sinful desires to one another. Instead of staying on the surface and talking only about our behavior, we can demonstrate the reality of God’s transforming work in our hearts by admitting to the desires that have been ruling our hearts, such as greed, control, envy, and selfishness.
These humble and transparent confessions are far more likely to touch the heart of someone we’ve offended and move them to forgive us and also take a deeper look at themselves. When both sides in a conflict dig deep into their own hearts and confess both the attitudes and the actions that have offended others, peace and reconciliation are just around the corner.
The natural human response to conflict is either to run away from the situation or drive straight ahead and blame others for the problem. Jesus has opened the way for us to take a different and far better path. By his grace, we can make a humble “you-turn” by facing up to the sinful desires in our hearts and confessing the logs in our eyes. This radically different approach to conflict will bring honor to our Lord, set us free from the blame game, and place our feet on the path to peace, reconciliation, and lasting change.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Former Miami Dolphins linebacker Steve Towle was charged with felony first-degree assault in what prosecutors said was a road rage incident that left a man hospitalized with bleeding from the brain.
Towle, 51, was arrested after the incident Wednesday night in the Kansas City suburb of Independence and charged Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court. A police statement said the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Towle admitted either punching or pushing the other man, Rudolph Babbitt, and said Babbitt hit his head on the ground when he fell.
Babbitt was placed on a ventilator and remained hospitalized Friday morning, Independence police spokesman Tom Gentry said. Towle was released on $10,000 bond, and no court date had been announced by prosecutors.
According to a court document, witnesses -- including Babbitt's 15-year-old son, who was riding with his father -- told police that Towle and Babbitt got into an argument in traffic after Towle's van allegedly cut off Babbitt's vehicle. The two then scuffled.
The document also said Towle told one officer he punched Babbitt but later told a detective that he pushed Babbitt after the two exchanged shoves and Babbitt tried to kick him.
Towle, a former star at Kansas who played for the Dolphins from 1975-80 and still holds the team's single-season tackles record, now lives in the suburb of Lee's Summit. He does not have a listed telephone number.
Perhaps it could have been this way:
One day on a four-lane highway a senior executive failed to notice a driver behind him trying to pass. The frustrated driver finally passed on the right, blared his horn, and made an insulting gesture. The executive became enraged, sped up, and began to overtake the other car on the right. As he was passing it, he rolled open his window to shout a response; the other driver did the same. As the executive looked at the other driver, suddenly the words popped out, "I'm sorry!" The other driver was speechless, then he too replied, "I'm sorry!" Each ended up motioning the other to go ahead: "You first!" "No, you first!"
When a friend asked him, "What happened to your anger?", he replied "I don't know, I guess I just suddenly saw how ridiculous the conflict was."
Challenge: Making a “you-turn” means that you are going to go in another direction. Lay out a practical plan for the route that you will take, with God’s help, as you go in this new direction.
Would You Commit to doing a YOU TURN when it comes to Conflict?
A BLIND MAN CATCHES A BIRD
(A Ndebele Tale from Zimbabwe)
A young man married a woman whose brother was blind. The young man was eager to get to know his new brother-in-law and so he asked him if he would like to go hunting with him. “I cannot see,” the blind man said. “But you can help me see when we are out hunting together. We can go.” The young man led the blind man off into the bush. At first they followed a path that he knew and it was easy for the blind man to tag on behind the other.
After a while, though, they went off into thicker bush, where the trees grew closely together and there were many places for animals to hide. The blind man now held on to the arm of his sighted brother-in-law and told him many things about the sounds that they had heard around them. Because he had no sight, he had a great ability to interpret the noises made by animals in the bush. “There are warthogs around,” he would say. “I can hear their noises over there.” Or, “That bird is preparing to fly. Listen to the sound of its wings unfolding.” To the brother-in-law, these sounds were meaningless, and he was most impressed at the blind man’s ability to understand the bush although it must have been for him one great darkness.
They walked on for several hours, until they reached a place where they could set their traps. The blind man followed the other’s advice, and put his trap in a place where birds might come for water. The other man put his trap a short distance away, taking care to disguise it so that no bird would know that it was there. He did not bother to disguise the blind man’s trap, as it was hot and he was eager to get home to his new wife. The blind man thought that he dad disguised his trap, but he did not see that he had failed to do so and any bird could tell that there was a trap there.
They returned to their hunting place the next day. The blind man was excited at the prospect of having caught something, and the young man had to tell him to keep quiet, or he would scare all the animals away. Even before they had reached the traps, the blind man was able to tell that they had caught something. “I can hear birds,” he said. “There are birds in the traps.” When he reached his trap, the young man saw that he had caught a small bird. He took it out of the trap and put it in a pouch that he had brought with him.
Then the two of them walked towards the blind man’s trap. “There’s a bird in it,” he said to the blind man. “You have caught a bird too.” As he spoke, he felt himself filling with jealousy. The blind man’s bird was marvelously colored, as if it had flown through a rainbow and been stained by the colors. The feathers from a bird such as that would make a fine present for his new wife, but the blind man had a wife too, and she would also want the feathers. The young man bent down and took the blind man’s bird from the trap. Then, quickly substituting his own bird, he passed it to the blind man and put the colored bird in his own pouch. “Here is your bird,” he said to the blind man. “You may put it in your pouch.” The young man reached out for the bird and took it. He felt it for a moment, his fingers passing over the wings and the breast. Then, without saying anything, he put the bird into his pouch and they began the trip home.
On their way home, the two men stopped to rest under a broad tree. As they sat there, they talked about many things. The young man was impressed with the wisdom of the blind man, who know a great deal, although he could see nothing at all. “Why do people fight with one another?” he asked the blind man.
It was a question which had always troubled him and he wondered if the blind man could give him an answer. The blind man said nothing for a few moments, but it was clear to the young man that he was thinking. Then the blind man raised his head, and it seemed to the young man as if the unseeing eyes were staring right into his soul. Quietly he gave his answer. “Men fight because they do to each other what you have just done to me.”
The words shocked the young man and made him ashamed. He tried to think of a response, but none came. Rising to his feet, he fetched his pouch, took out the brightly-colored bird and gave it back to the blind man. The blind man took the bird, felt it over with his fingers, and smiled. “Do you have any other questions for me?” he asked. “Yes,” said the young man. “How do men become friends after they have fought?” The blind man smiled again. “They do what you have just done,” he said. “That’s how they become friends again.”
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