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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Over a Barrel”

Reflecting on this episode, it brings up a problem that’s been prevalent throughout human history right up until today and, unfortunately, doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon: how do you support (or should you even support) a side of a conflict in which the opposing side has an equally valid point and both sides have essentially engaged in “wrongdoing”?

This is an especially big problem in foreign affairs and essentially makes them one big mess. Just look at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Regardless of which side has a claim to which, both sides at this point have killed innocent civilians both wittingly and unwittingly. And history has shown time and again that even if their leaders reach an agreement, there will always be “sects” that will be satisfied with nothing less than the other side’s annihilation, as well as sympathizers who will shelter them in “their own territory”. How do you get around that? Is there even a way around it? Odds are, whoever comes out on top, an extremist will eventually come to power and then overstep their bounds. People can argue that we should stay out of it all together, but in the modern world that’s rather naive. Everything is connected now, and everything “ripples”. Even if you do choose a side in a political conflict, when is it time to “back down” and go with the other side? When do you give support and when don’t you?

But on the more personal level, these things can happen at a much smaller scale…such as a family conflict. Especially when both parties involved get rather bitter and spiteful, and start reaching the point where they want people to “take sides”. I always hate it when a family member in the middle of an argument with another one comes up to me and says: “Well don’t you think I was right in what I said/did?” Especially if the other party is right in front of me. What do I do in that situation? Usually I tactfully say I won’t get involved, which is probably for the best…but even that doesn’t always work. Sometimes I’ll be accused of taking a side with my “silence”. Other times, people have accused me of being “cowardly” for not supporting one person or the other.

Ugh, to say the least.

The worst part is often in these conflicts I can see that one person is right or wrong, but I also love and care about the opposite party, and I know that if I side against them, they’ll be angry at me. They’ll accuse me of “ganging up” on them and not want to speak to me either. To this day I still have a fear of getting into family conflict.

So what’s the solution? Do we take sides? Do we not take a side? What if what someone is doing is genuinely wrong and we’re in a situation where we’re forced to support or disavow support?

For me personally, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to realize the wisdom in doing things seeking the pleasure and satisfaction of God rather than other people. The truth of the matter is the Bible warns us we are not guaranteed “human approval” for doing the right thing. If that was the case, following God would be easy. But on the contrary, following God likely means we will be disapproved by the world. That was certainly the case for the prophets and Jesus’ disciples as well as the early Church, and it’s definitely the case in many countries in the world today.

But keeping that in mind, I think of passages such as the following. 1 Timothy 1:5 reads: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” and Galatians 1:10: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” It’s not about “us and them” or what they think of me or how they respond to me. That’s all on them. The only thing I have control over is seeking to please God and doing something out of pure motives and a clean conscience. I owe it to myself to make the best decision and to try and do as Jesus would do, but once I reach the point where I do what God would approve of…I need to let it go.

Being too worried about backlash or human response is a good reason Christians never “do anything”. Sometimes it’s out of fear to our physical bodies, but sometimes it’s because we simply don’t want to “say what other people don’t want to hear” or have people accuse us of backstabbing them or the like. And in some cases, perhaps more than not, silence may in fact be best. But if we seek to “please God rather than man” and conform ourselves gradually more into seeking his approval and doing his will (and not our interpretation of his will), then we will have the assurance that what we’re saying or doing is the “right thing” as opposed to something that shows favoritism or bias…regardless of what the world claims it does.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, whenever I find myself in a situation in which I must make a difficult decision between two parties or find myself being pushed to side with one person over another, I ask that you guide me to make the best choice that Jesus would make. And please keep my heart free of all bias, self-interest, and fear so that my motives will always be pure in everything I do, and everything I do be ‘for the Glory of God’. May my confidence always rest when making difficult choices in knowing that I made the ‘right’ decision in spite of the reactions of others or whatever it may entail, and that I have gained your approval. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”