I’m not asking what we fight about, but rather why humanity fights.
Fighting comes in all sorts of forms and it seems to be a constant throughout human history. We fight over politics and have since, well, forever. Maybe it’s because politics deals with power — who’s got it, who wants it, and what those in power do with it. In the grand scheme of things, I wonder why we fight though? Why this way to resolve things?
By fighting, I don’t mean physical fighting. There’s been plenty of that over the years too. No, I’m talking about verbal fights — fights done through rhetorical means that range from debate to dehumanizing.
Here in the US we have two dominant political ideologies (with many sub-ideologies) that are in a constant state of fighting over any given issue. You can almost guarantee that regardless of the issue, the two sides will take opposing stances and have the rhetoric to back up the argument. Yet, generally, both sides will make the claim of being Christian. All too often though, it seems as though being Christian is just another label and tool to be used.
Given the label of Christian, one would rightly expect there be a certain way of communicating with others. Yet, often, these same “Christians” are locked in continual fighting, name calling, and disrespect of either the person or ideas they hold. And this seems true no matter the side that uses the “Christian” label.
It makes me think so often that the only way this makes sense is by focusing on the issue at hand, rather than the individuals involved. When we focus on stuff, or ideas, or materials, or issues, they are abstract and impersonal. So often we fight in ways that we would never do if we attached people’s names and faces to the argument. Somehow it becomes acceptable when we are talking about issues and abstract ideas or policies.
So why do we fight? In politics there is a rule that you can count on — might makes right. Too often in politics, we fight because we believe a few things. We believe that the issue matters. We fight for our ideas because we believe we are right. We fight because we believe that others need to be corrected. We fight because losing will mean significant changes. These all seem to be valid reasons in many instances.
Yet I can’t help but wonder about the way we fight for what we believe in. Are there other ways to fight for what we believe in, but do it in a “Christian” way? Does being a Christian and actually following what Christianity teaches about conflict mean that we fight differently? Would it mean we stop fighting? I don’t think so, but I do think it changes the way to fight.
I wonder if there are misperceptions about what Christianity teaches about fighting. I wonder if we say we are following Christianity it is seen by the world as being weak. Would those who don’t care about Christian beliefs crush those who do follow Christian teachings?
Are Christians willing to take the risk? Maybe there are misperceptions among Christians too. Do Christians think that their faith teaches them to let down their guard and be a punching bag?
Or does fighting in a Christian way mean something different? Does it mean that there is a focus on the relationship rather than the ideas presented? There is an idea that we talk about here at the seminary that sin is not about the actions so much as it is about the broken relationship we have with God, with others, with ourselves, and with rest of creation.
Important Christian ideas that pop up from this are forgiveness, mercy, grace, and peace. These all relate to a reconciled relationship with God, others, ourselves, and the rest of creation.
So what does this look like, especially when it comes to the things we fight for and about? Will we be the first to take the step towards the one we are fighting with instead of waiting for them to do it? Will we offer forgiveness and ask for forgiveness? Will we be a peacemaker? Will we stop determining what we are to say next and start to listen — really listen to what the other person is saying and what their real need is.
In all of this, the point is not about coming to an agreement on any issue. It’s not about focusing on who is right and who is wrong. It’s about forging a path forward for both people — and that might be divergent paths too, but paths developed in respect, even if there is disagreement.
Too often we think there is too much at stake to be the first to step toward someone, to listen, to understand, to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Yet, if we claim the banner of Christianity without following Christ’s call to take up our cross and follow him, to love our neighbor, to be reconciled — are we really Christians at all? Or are we just too comfortable with the label to realize that it’s more than just a label?
Why do we fight? Why do we fight the way we fight?
There are other ways than fighting the way the world thinks is acceptable. It’s risky to actually live out Christianity. Yet, even here, maybe especially when it comes to fighting, Christ’s way offers us something different than the world. Where the world offers us the spoils of victory if we are the strongest or win the fight, Christianity offers us reconciliation, a future, hope, forgiveness — in a word, life.