“Why did God make Satan?” Recently, a young Turkish mother posed this question to my husband, the pastor of The Protestant Church of Smyrna. She pointed out that Chaos was in the waters of Genesis 1, and asked, “ Where did that Chaos come from?”
These are chaotic times. As I write this, California and Washington states are on fire, Black Lives Matter is fighting for their voice to be heard about injustice, everyone in the world has to wear a face mask, and thousands of people are dying of cancer. Just now, there was a car wreck, somewhere, and someone’s beloved mother died. Just now, there was a murder startling a family and community. Conflict comes in many forms, but these days we seem to have more than our historical share of it. Maybe.
God’s purpose for Satan, God’s purpose for “Chaos,” God’s purpose for Covid-19 and cancer and raging mobs and crooked cops—is the glory of God.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Ultimately, pain is a sign pointing to the presence of sin, signaling the corruption that is in the world, and highlighting the brokenness of this world. Pain points to the need for Christ.
Why do we have conflict? The Bible sets it out this way: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight” (James 4:1-2).
Conflict presents us with a choice. What will we do? We can let them walk all over us, we can run, or we can fight. Conflict proves the content of our heart—it shows who we love most. We may say we love Christ, but conflict proves who we really love.
Christ has shown us what he expects of his people. If we love him, we will be a certain way. But not only does he show the standard, he provides the power to obey—the Holy Spirit fuels our obedience. Proof of the Spirit’s work in our life is called the Fruit of the Spirit. Obedience is that fruit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control. Each of these is fostered in the heat of conflict, in the pangs of this suffering world. Conflict is here to prove our faith, like furnace fire that purifies gold, conflict separates gold from dross. Our actions in tension prove who we belong to. And our compassion in a distress-filled world fulfills God’s purpose for us, to shine His light into darkness.
At the Resurrection, the books will be opened. All we lived through will be displayed for the world to take note. What will be written about you in your face-off with enemies?
WORKING OUT YOUR SALVATION:
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).
A person’s response to conflict speaks about their inner life: their loves, their priorities, and their character. You are reading this today because you are concerned for the eternal future of your soul. “Make every effort to supplement your faith…” and “work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” are phrases that matter to you (2 Pet 1:5+, Phil 2:12+). You want to live in a way that honors and glorifies Christ, and you spend your time securing the promises of God regarding your salvation.
God has made us to be passionate people who direct that passion toward the growth of His Kingdom. We do this by being Christ-like.
Conflict is instructive to believers. We see the hurts and needs of others through points of tension. As difficult as it can be, conflict teaches us how to love our neighbor more. We must learn how to show love at their weakest point, at the cost of our pride and self-interest. Seeing their trigger, we use it not for attack but as a point of compassion, doing good to those who persecute us and mistreat us, bearing one another’s burdens and so fulfilling the law of Christ (Matt 5:44, Gal 6:2).
KEEPING EFFECTIVE FAITH
”For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:8-9).
Life is a battlefield. Political and social upheaval brings tension to the heart of every believer. Add to that family and interpersonal struggles, this life is not an easy road for 99% of people reading this. God allowed this “Chaos” into your world for his greater purposes.
When we give into the world’s conflict-management techniques (ie: self-serving aggression), we fail to see our own sin, forgetting the “log” in our own eyes.
Christ said, what is inside a man makes him unclean: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person” (Matt 15:19-20). Felt inequity results in internal or external tensions leading to murder or adultery or theft or slander.
Aside from self-defense to protect lives, fighting back to protect our pride or to defend our sin and “rights” displeases God. Recall Christ was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” and did not “grasp” for his rights (Is 53:3, Phil 2:6). How one responds to difficulty categorizes a person, proving who we belong to and who we serve and then written “in the books.”
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Rev 20:12). Sometimes as Christians we assume our deeds are not going to be brought up on that Day. But the parable of the sheep and the goats, as well as commands of Christ and the Apostles make it clear that deeds of believers are noted at the Day of Judgment (Matt 25:31-46, John 14:15, 21-23; 15:10; 1 Cor 3:13-15; 1 John 2:3, 5:3; 2 John 1:6, etc). God longs for his people to treasure, love, and know Christ, and the brokenness of this world facilitates that end.
Our response to conflict also enlightens our opponent. When we choose to “turn the other cheek” in a fight, we are throwing the world’s method on its head. On a deep spiritual level, we are instructing our opponent and any observer, declaring the power of Christ for salvation, peace, and strength in this dark, broken world.
TREASURING OUR LORD AND SAVIOR
”Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11).
You are concerned for your eternal soul. As you see a chaotic world, you likewise see in Scripture the image of the Spirit hovering over chaotic waters. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Believers cannot but trust in that peace-that-passes-understanding. We lean on God’s promises in Scripture, we hide under the wings of God’s loving protection.
God intends for everything we face to result in our treasuring, loving, and knowing Christ. Conflict forces a choice. NonChristians will respond to conflict with base instinct: self-preservation, self-awareness, self-promotion. Survival of the fittest—retaliation and attack. For Christians, conflict is the darkness impeding upon the light. How will we respond? Will we do as the world does? Or will we put off worldly-wisdom and use conflict to trust Christ more? “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:3-5).
Consider the passion of Christ: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt…. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Is 53:10-11).
Just as it was the will of the LORD for Christ to face the cross, it is God’s will for us to face trials and tribulations in this world. Both are for the same end, both are for the glory of God through the salvation of mankind.
Our response to conflict shows the forgiving heart of God to an unsaved, “harassed and helpless” humanity (Matt 9:36). It is probably the hardest thing in the world, but choosing to give in and live meekly in the midst of conflict reflects the forgiving, gracious, compassionate heart of Christ.
THE GOOD NEWS
Conflict proves who we really love. The good news is: Christ knows his own. When we blow it under pressure, we have a Savior who has been interceding for us. Conflict, for Christians, results in one of two things. We may triumph by the strength of God’s sanctifying Spirit, who “enables us more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness” (WSC #35) or we express our utter dependence on the blood of Christ, remembering “he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone” (WSC #33).
On the Final Day, when the books are opened, only one of those two will have been written down for believers. It will say either we triumphed against sin, or we fell to our knees penitently, in trust of our merciful Savior. Our conflict always results in the glory of God. Conflict leads us to cherish Christ more.
In a real way, our confidence and eternal security should empower us to set aside our “rights” in this temporary, broken world. Why fight over things that are breakable? Nothing we gain is worth it. As Eusebius said: “He need not fear confiscation, who has nothing to lose; nor banishment, to whom heaven is his country; nor torments, when his body can be destroyed at one blow; nor death, which is the only way to set him at liberty from sin and sorrow.”
Peter reminds us of Christ’s response to antagonism: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Scripture continues: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children” (Heb 12:7) and “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Rev 2:3).
Let us, therefore, make every effort to endure hardship and by so doing, glorify and proclaim our precious Lord Jesus Christ to a lost and hurting world.