Chapter Three: Disarm (continued)

It’s impossible to read the historical books of the Old Testament and not notice that the accounts of the Jewish kings are almost always about conflict and war.  There are periods of peace but invariably they’re followed by war and rumors of war. This has been the way of the world since the first couple took a bite out of the forbidden fruit. In fact, Adam and Eve’s first two children, Cain and Abel, gave us the first example of fratricide.  We aren’t told what the weapon was that Cain used to kill his brother, but whatever it was, it was effective.  The weapons of war are ever present today, just as they have been since the beginning of time.  Also, in any conflict, even if it’s not a physical confrontation, both parties chose their weapons based on their ability to inflict maximum damage.  In the conflicts of everyday life we always pick our weapons to gain maximum advantage to insure our ultimate victory.

Since conflict in life is inevitable, it doesn’t make much sense to disarm.  In fact, God doesn’t expect us to disarm, only to choose our weapons more wisely. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, describes the desired weaponry as suiting up in the “full armor of God.”  Paul reminds us that most of the battles we fight in everyday life are not physical, “of flesh and blood”, instead they are waged against the “spiritual forces evil” that are always present and trying to gain control of our lives; he calls them the “devil’s schemes.”  When we find ourselves estranged from our spouse, child, or anyone for that matter, its Satan’s work and to fight a spiritual enemy we need the appropriate weapons to defend ourselves if we hope to gain victory.  When we are seeking to resolve our differences, through forgiveness and reconciliation, it is helpful to remember that it’s not the person sitting across from us who’s the enemy, it’s Satan.

The first piece of the “armor of God” we are to put on, says Paul, is the “belt of truth.”  This brings us to our first problem, which is determining and then mutually agreeing on what the truth is. It’s a well-known fact that in a court of law, eye witness testimony is notoriously unreliable.  The problem is that no two people see things in exactly the same way and will invariably interpret events from their own perspective.  If you add to this the desire to view things from a vantage point of self-interest, then any hope of agreement is soon lost.   Now we all know there are times when the truth is obvious and to deny it is foolish; but there other times when it’s not so obvious.  Let me give you an example.

Mary is a stay at home mom, the result her and her husband Tom’s mutual decision that she would stay home with the kids instead of working and paying for day care.  Their decision requires Tom to work two jobs, just to make ends meet.  He works 12 to 16 hour days, five and six days a week, and when he does get time off, likes to spend it doing things that help him relax, like fishing with his buddies.  This seems reasonable, I think most would agree.  Since Mary and Tom have three children, the oldest only six years of age, Mary also works from dawn to dusk, every day of the week.  The rub is that when Tom gets time off, Mary wants him to spend it with her and the kids; helping her out around the house.  After all, her job is every day, 365 days per year. Both are exhausted by week’s end which creates a perfect environment for tension to grow and animosity to blossom. In fact, it has become an open wound in their relationship, painful to both.  So who’s right, who has the truth on their side?

Many of life’s dilemmas are not black and white, or a simple matter of right and wrong.  The real issue then is not about who’s right and who’s wrong, rather the decisions we make in trying to resolve our differences.  In the example of Tom and Mary, I would contend that they both have valid arguments, so the root of their sin is not in what they do, but in what they think, which eventually effects or infects their heart for each other.  I contend that they are both suffering from “woe is me” syndrome which eventually brings a “woe” upon their relationship.  This is a perfect opportunity to apply Christ’s “golden rule.”  Mary should do for Tom, what she would have Tom do for her and Tom should do the same for Mary.  Mary should encourage Tom to take the time he needs to recharge his battery and Tom should look for every opportunity to help Mary out, when and where she needs it.  One of biggest lies told about relationships is that they are a 50/50 proposition.  The truth is that 50/50 only brings us to the middle, only half way to where we need to be.  Our goal should be to give 100% and expect nothing in return for our efforts. Try it; you’ll be amazed at what you receive in return.

Unlike an opinion or a viewpoint, truth is fixed, not subject to interpretation and doesn’t change based on circumstances.  We live in a world that wants to take the sharp edges off the truth when it doesn’t fit what we believe to be fair or just.  We also seek to blur the message of the truth when it’s inconvenient, doesn’t accommodate, or is inconsistent with our lifestyle.  Now most everyone has little or no problem accepting the laws of nature but when it comes to the law of God, some are quick to doubt both its existence and universal applicability.  This is curious since the laws of nature were created by God, but that’s a discussion for another time.        By contrast, a lie by its very nature is a contrivance, subject to change based on its creator’s self-interest and objective.  Lies come and go, but the truth is fixed and everlasting.  Paul uses a metaphor to contrast the truth from a lie, by describing the truth as a quality that those who are mature possess.  Those who do not possess or value the truth are like “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”

Most of us are familiar with the quote, “The truth will set you free.”  It’s a statement made by Jesus to his followers to convince them that he is the truth in human form, the Son of God; that what he says is the truth, because he is God.  What is not often repeated is what precedes Jesus’ statement, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  If we are to arm ourselves with the truth, to face the battles which are endemic in this world, then it goes without saying, knowing the truth is essential.  It’s like taking a test in school without going to lectures or studying the material, yet expecting to do well.  Silly as this may seem, it’s the approach many take in life and love; and then are surprised when they fail.  Knowing the truth isn’t only about knowing right from wrong, but also about seeking out what God’s will is, in any given situation.  The conflict that Tom and Mary were facing is a good example.  Did they go to God before they both submitted to their working arrangement; did they ask God if this is what he wanted them to do?  Some may say, well that’s silly.  Do you really expect God to answer you with any degree of specificity?  The answer is yes!  In the case of Mary and Tom, the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” could certainly be applied.

When you are faced with making a decision or are responding to a crisis in your life, do you seek God’s counsel first?  Do you dig into God’s word and look for answers or application?  Do you get on your knees and ask God directly, “what should I do?”  And if you do, do really expect an answer?  Jesus tells us, without ambiguity, “Your heavenly Father knows your needs; seek him first and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you.  Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Do you seek the truth that only comes from God, or do you seek the truth from a world controlled by the prince of lies, Satan.  If you get advice from the world, do you hold it up to the light and truth of Scripture and the words of Christ?  Do you just settle for what you want to hear, instead of searching for what you need to hear?  It is how you answer these simple questions that will determine whether you find the truth that will set you free from the anxiety and conflicts of everyday life; then rearm you every day to face the challenges that will surely come your way.

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