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Rick Warren - A Faith That De-Escalates Conflict

Rick Warren - A Faith That De-Escalates Conflict
TOPICS: A Faith That Works When Life Doesn’t, Faith, Peacemakers, Conflicts

Hello, everybody. I'm Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life, pastor of Saddleback Church, and speaker on the Daily Hope Broadcast. And have I told you lately that I love you? Welcome to part 14 in our series on the Book of James where we're looking at a faith that works when life doesn't. And today, as we continue in our study of the Book of James, we're camping out on a verse that we looked at last week, James chapter 3, verse 18. It says this. Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and they will reap a harvest of goodness. Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness. James 3:18. Now in our last session I explained the six seeds of peace that James tells us in the verses right before that, that we're to plant. And he says if you plant these things in your relationships, you're gonna have happy, good, strong relationships.

Today I want us to continue looking at how to be peacemakers in a world full of conflict. Three of the most important life skills that you have to learn in life are how to deescalate a conflict, how to resolve a conflict, and how to reconcile after a conflict, a strained or a broken relationship. If you don't learn these three skills, you're gonna spend a lot of your life miserable. You know why? Because we're all different. God made us all different, and that means we're bound to have conflict almost every day of our lives. These are important skills that you need to learn and use literally everywhere. You're gonna use them at work. You're gonna use them at home, at school, you gotta use them at church, in your community, in your small group, literally everywhere.

Now here's the problem. Nobody taught you these skills. Nobody. You didn't learn how to diffuse a conflict or deescalate one. You didn't learn how to resolve a conflict. You didn't learn how to reconcile a relationship. You certainly didn't learn it from your parents. In fact, they might have been a terrible model of conflict resolution, because nobody taught them. See, they don't have classes of conflict in schools. You never had a class on how to deescalate a conflict, and yet it's one of the most important skills for you to be happy in life. This week, America is in its fourth week of protest, where protestors in over 2,000 cities have been protesting over some incidents where people did the opposite of diffusing and deescalating a conflict. In fact, it went the opposite direction. And because it got escalated, instead of deescalated, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks all ended up dead. That's a tragedy.

I think our entire nation needs the message that I wanna share with you right now. So I wanna encourage you to take notes. U can download this outline and not only take notes on this, but teach it to your children too. Again, let's go back to our theme verse, James 3:18. Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and they will reap a harvest of goodness. He's talking about peacemakers. Now you know Jesus said in the sermon on the mountain, blessed are the peacemakers. They will be called the children of God. So the proof that you're really a child of God, the proof that you're really born again, that you're on your way to heaven, that you're in the family of God, the proof is that you are a peacemaker in the world, not a troublemaker, not a conflict maker, but a peacemaker.

Now, before we look at how do you diffuse a conflict from God's word, let me tell you a couple things that peacemaking is not. Okay, and you might write this down. First, peacemaking is not avoiding. And number two, peacemaking is not appeasing. It's not avoiding and it's not appeasing. Avoiding, some people think, "I keep the peace in my marriage by just avoiding everything. I don't rock the boat. I sweep everything under the rug. I swallow it. I grin and I bear it. I just avoid the areas that cause us conflict". That's not peacemaking, that's cowardice. That doesn't help at all. It doesn't grow your relationship in Christ, it doesn't build your marriage, or any friendship or anything else. So peacemaking is not running away from the problem, or avoiding the problem, or heading the opposite direction of the problem. It's not avoiding. It's also not appeasing.

Now appeasing means I always give in. Whoever I have conflict with, they always get their way. Peace at an price, it's appeasement. Appeasement is not peacemaking. In fact, that's called codependency. When you're always giving in all the time. Jesus Christ never ran from a legitimate conflict. He knew how to diffuse conflict. He knew how to deal with it face on. He knew how to resolve it, and he knew how to restore a relationship. So what I wanna do this weekend is teach you what you've never been taught before in school or probably anywhere else, and that is the 10 biblical steps for diffusing a tense situation. And boy does our nation and our world need this right now. All right, get out your pencil, here they are. The biblical steps for diffusing a conflict.

Number one. Lower my voice. Lower my voice. Proverbs 15, verse 1 says, a gentle response, that's lowering your voice will calm a person's anger, but harsh words stir up intense fury. Now you know this is true, that the louder you get, the louder the other person gets in an argument. When you start yelling or they start yelling, then you're both gonna do the same thing. The reason why the first thing you need to do in any conflict is to lower your voice, there's a couple reasons for it. In the first place, your brain doesn't operate at the same level all the time. You have lower levels, which are kinda more emotional and instinctual, and you're not even thinking about it. And then you have the higher levels where you're thinking pretty sharp and pretty smart. At your highest level is your cortex in your brain. And in your cortex, that's where you have the capacity for speech.

That's where you have the capacity for strategizing, for planning, for thinking, for reasoning. When you're using your cortex, you're thinking smart. You're much more able to work on a problem and solve it creatively when you're using your cortex. But when you get fearful, or when you get afraid, or when you get angry, you drop out of your cortex and you move down into the limbic part of your brain, which is just instinctual. At that point, you don't think straight. In fact, you think dumb, and you call names, and you get mad, and you yell, and you say things you would later regret, because you're down in the limbic part of your brain. Anytime you're in a conflict and you stat to get fearful or you start to get more angry, you drop out of your cortex and you're just not smart anymore and you do dumb things.

The more angry you get, the more dumb you become. You might write this down. The more I raise my voice, the more I lower my intelligence. The more I raise my voice, the more I lower my intelligence. When you're yelling, you're not in the cortex part of your brain, you're not in the smart thinking, rational human part. You're down in the instinctual gut part. Now not only is that one of the reasons why you need to speak quieter, lower, softer, but you also have in your brain the thing that's called mirror neuron. You see, years ago, thousands of years ago, the Bible says lower your voice, be quiet when you speak. The gentle answer turns away wrath. We didn't know the neuro science behind it.

Today we know that in your brain, you have what are called mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are the ability to feel what you see. The only reason you'd like to go to the movies is because God gave your mirror neurons. And when you see somebody being kissed on the screen, you feel that kiss. And when you see somebody getting angry on a screen, you get angry. And when you see somebody wanting to get revenge in a movie, it's not even a real story, but you feel the need for revenge, and you feel the need for justice. And so, when they're happy, you get happy. And when they're said, tears come to your eyes. It's not even a real story when you're watching a motion picture, but it's called mirror neurons. And because we have mirror neurons, the same is true in an argument. Whatever you give out, you're gonna get back, because they're mirror neurons are gonna back it back to you.

So if you get angry, they're gonna get angrier. If you start yelling, they're gonna start yelling. If you get sarcastic, they're gonna get sarcastic. Those mirror neurons in your brain actually simply reflect what you sow, you're gonna reap in any argument. Ecclesiastes 9, verse 17 says this. The quiet words of a wise person are more effective than the shouting of a leader of fools. The quiet words of a wise person are more effective than the shouting of the leader of fools. Shouting means you've already moved out of the higher level of thinking. So the starting point in deescalating any conflict is to lower your voice. Just lower your voice. Don't get loud, go soft if you want to get progress.

Number two, real practical here, breathe and slow down the pace of your speaking. Just take a deep breath and slow down the pace of your speaking. The more angry you get, the faster you talk. And the faster you talk, it creates anger in other people. Not just the loudness of what you say, but how fast you say it. And when you're rattling it off like you're a machine gun, people are gonna feel offended, they're gonna feel defensive. And the Bible says this in Proverbs 29, verse 11. I love this New American Bible. A fool gives full vent to his anger. A fool gives full vent. In other words, he just lets it go. He just vomits on people with all of his anger and his arrogance or whatever. A fool gives full vent to his anger. But by biding his time, the wise man calms it down.

How do you calm down your anger when the situation is escalating at home, or at work, or on a protest line, or anywhere else. How do you bring it down? He says by biding your time, the wise man calms it down. You know the first guy who said this was Thomas Jefferson. He said, when you're angry, count to 10, and if you're very angry, count to 100. He's the guy who came up with that idea on dealing with angry management. It's actually true. By biding your time, you will calm down. So you wanna lower your voice and you wanna slow your speech when you're starting to get upset.

Proverbs 15 verse 18, I love this and the message in the New Century Version. People with hot tempers start fights and they cause trouble, but a calm, cool, spirit keeps the peace. How do you keep the peace? With a calm, cool, spirit. Another verse says something similar. Ecclesiastes chapter 10, verse 4. The message, it says this. If a ruler, or anybody else for that matter, if a ruler or anybody else for that matter loses his temper against you, don't panic. A calm disposition quiets intemperate rage. A calm disposition quiets intemperate rage. If somebody comes at you with a full force of anger, he says don't panic, don't let your mirror neurons respond that way, but slow down, lower your voice, take a breath, and slow your speech. And he says that's what wise people do.

Number three, third step in deescalating a conflict. Listen more than I talk. Listen more than I talk. We keep coming back to this verse in James chapter 1, verse 19 because it has so many applications. James 1:19 says be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. If you do the first two, the third is automatic. If you're quick to listen and you're slow to speak, you will be slow to get angry. On the other hand, we do the exact opposite. We're quick to speak. We're slow to listen. And as a result, we're fast to get angry. No, the Bible says you need to listen.

Okay, just slow down and listen. Proverbs 13, verse 10. You know, I'm laughing about this because this weekend is our 45th anniversary, Kay and I, and 45 years ago this weekend, we were off in our honeymoon. And on our honeymoon we started arguing, and the first Bible verse we had to learn together in our marriage, we hadn't got off our honeymoon before we memorized Proverbs 13:10. And I'll tell you, the King James version, it says only by pride cometh contention. But in the message, here's what it says. Arrogant know-it-alls stir discord. Arrogant know-it-alls stir discord.

Okay, when you think you already know what your wife or husband or somebody else is gonna say, or you think you understand them, and you don't, you're just gonna stir up discord. That's pride, that's arrogance. And there rest of that verse says, arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord. In other words, they create conflict. Pride is the source of all conflict. But, he says, wise men and women listen to each other's counsel. Oh my goodness. On Father's Day, dads, are you listening to your wife's counsel? And vice versa. Wise men and wise women listen to each other's counsel. Why is it so hard to hear advice from the person that you love the most? I don't know. But the Bible tells us that we need to put our pride aside and we need to listen, but we need to listen for something very specific, and that's number four.

In this fourth step of diffusing conflict, listen for the hurt behind the words. Well, if you get this, you're gonna really make progress in your relationships. Stop listening to the words and start listening for the emotions behind the words. What they're saying is not nearly as important as the emotion they're communicating. Are they afraid? They may not be saying I'm afraid, but they may be afraid. They may be depressed. They may be jealous. They may be anxious. Look for the hurt behind the words. So many times we argue with somebody in an argument over words when that's not really the real issue. The real issue is the emotion behind the words. You need to look for the hurt, hear the hurt behind the words. Sometimes I give you permission to just ignore the words and instead focus on the mood.

What are they emoting? What are they saying in this? When you do that, you'll be a lot less defensive. If you come at me with anger, then I'm gonna tend to get defensive. Then if all of a sudden I realize that what you have is not anger, it's frustration, I'm a little bit more likely to cut you some slack, or if you're fearful, I'm a little bit more likely to cut you some slack, because I can understand fear and frustration better than I can understand anger. Proverbs 14, verse 10 says each heart knows its own bitterness. What is that verse saying? God is saying everybody has a hidden hurt. Everybody has a hidden pain. Everybody has a hidden wound. Do you know?

There's a famous old story about two men and he said, "Are you my friend"? He said, "Yes, I'm your friend". "Are you my friend for life"? "Yes, I'm your friend for your life". "Then tell me where do I hurt. Because if you're really my friend, you're gonna know where I hurt. And if you don't know where I hurt, you're just kind of a casual friend". Each heart knows its own bitterness. You need to stop paying so much attention to the words that people say and listen to their mood, listen to their emotion, listen to the pain behind the statements. All right. Now here's what you do while you're doing that.

Number five in how to diffuse a conflict. Pray while I'm listening. Yeah, while you're pausing, and being quiet, and you're just listening, and you listen for the hurt, you pray while you are listening. I ran across a verse the other day I loved in Judges chapter 6, verse 24. It says this. Gideon built an altar for worshiping the Lord and he called it The Lord Calms Our Fears. What a great name for an alter, The Lord Calms Our Fears. Okay, now, when you're in a conflict with a parent, with a child, with a spouse, in a protest, with an officer, with a teacher, with a boss, with a store clerk, any time you get in a conflict, okay, then you need to stop and pray. And while you're praying, say, "The Lord calms me. The Lord calms my fears".

And when the Lord calms your fears, then you're gonna be able to do those other things, like lower your voice, take a pause, slower your pace, start to listen. When you pray, what are you praying for? You're saying, "God, calm me down. Calm me down". You know He is the God who calms our fears. Psalms 65, verse 7 says this. God stills the raging ocean, He quiets the noise of roaring waves, and He calms the uproar of the peoples. Look at the phrase. He calms the uproar of the people. That's an interesting phrase. I looked it up. In The Living Bible, it's translated He quiets all the world's clamor. Don't you need that done in your life sometimes, to have all the world's clamor just quieted in your life?

New Living translates it, He calms the shouting of the nations, the shouting of the nations. The noise pollution we have in our modern world. The message paraphrase, translates it he calms the mobs in noisy riot. That's the kind of verse we need today in all the things we're seeing and facing. So you pray and you says, "God, calm me down, calm my fears, calm my anxieties, calm my worries, calm my frustrations, calm me down". He is the King of kings and Lord of lords who can calm the sees. And if He can calm a stormy sea, He can calm the storm in your heart.

All right, number six, the sixth step on lowering the conflict and diffusing a tense situation, seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Try to figure out what they're thinking and they're saying, before you start trying to convince them about what you wanna say. Don't worry about them understanding you until you fully understand them. That's the loving way. That's the Christ-like way. That's the Christian way. Proverbs 18, verse 13. ICB says, a person who answers without listening first is foolish and disgraceful. A person who answers without listening first is foolish and disgraceful.

So often we are so busy, disgraceful, we're so busy trying to get other people to see what we want them to see, to see it our way, that we don't even stop. We don't even stop to even listen to what they say. Make sure you understand them first. And you might even say, "You go first". And then when they've shared what they've shared, then say you say, "Now let me understand it. Did I get this right"? and you can say back to them what you think they said. If you didn't say it right, let them correct it.

Right along with that is number seven. And number seven is try to see their perspective. Okay. Listen to them, seek to understand before seeking to be understood. But then while you're doing that, try to see their perspective. Philippians chapter 2, verse 4 and 5 says this. Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also the interest of others. You should look not only to your own interest, but to the interest of others. Try to understand their perspective. Right now we've got people on different sides of different arguments, and all they can see is their said. And this has happened in all over America and all around the world. All they can see is their side. They can't see the fears of other people. They can't see the hurts of other people. They can't see the injustice of other people. They can't see the criticism of other people. They can't see the pain of other. All they can see is themselves. He said, "Don't just look at your own interest, but be interested in the interest of others".

And then he says it like this. Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ. Now I'll tell you, friends, that's not easy. It certainly isn't natural. I am by nature a self-centered person, and so are you. I am by nature more interested in me than I am interested in anybody else. Only Jesus can change my want to. Only Jesus can change my perspective. Only Jesus can make me as interested in what you have been through, as interested in your background as I am in my own, and protecting my kind of people in my background, in my religion, and all these other things, my family.

Only God can make that change in you, and that's why the eighth step, number eight, is ask God. Ask God to give me a clear picture of myself. That's one of the scariest things to do. God, I want you to give me a clear perspective, a clear photograph, a clear portrait of me. One of the verses I memorized in college and I've used it literally tens of thousands of time in my life as a prayer is Psalm 139:24 and 24. And it goes like this. Search me, O God, and examine my heart. Test me and know my nervous thoughts. You know, when you get in a conflict, you get nervous. Know my nervous thoughts. Point out in me, not in somebody else, not in my wife, my kids, my staff, my friends, my neighbors. Point out in me, anything in me that is wrong, and then lead me on the path that is always right.

Psalm 139:23,24. Memorize that verse. It's a good verse to help you to pray to God when you're in the middle of a conflict. All right. And if you genuinely pray that, "Search me, o God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there'd be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way ever lasting," you know what, God will show you. He's not gonna play any games with you, and He'll show you. How many times has God said, "Rick, here's the problem, you're the problem in this conflict. You are the problem. Or even if I'm just part of the problem, here's your part of the problem. "

And when you do that, you come to step number nine. Step number nine is admit any part of the conflict that I caused. I'm responsible for my part. You're responsible for your part. Whether you own up to your part or not is none of my business. That's your business between you and God, but my business is to admit any part of the conflict that I caused because of my bias, because of my background, because of my prejudice, because of my insensitivity, because of my immaturity, because of my business and I didn't pay attention, or a thousand other reasons that could've caused the conflict. I need to admit, any part of the conflict that I caused. Jesus loved to use hyperbole or exaggeration to make a point.

In the sermon on the mountain, When He's talking about admitting the part of conflict, that you're the part you caused, He says in Matthew 7:3 and verse 5, he says, "Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend's eye, but you don't notice the big piece of wood in your own eye"? He says, "First, take the wood out of your own eye, the big wood out of your own eye. Then you'll see clearly to take the dust out of your friend's eye". He says before you start working on that splinter in your spouse, or in your neighbor, or in somebody you work with, before you get that splinter out of their eye, why don't you get the telephone pole out of your eye? Okay, that's jamming up everything. You can't see wisely.

That's the ninth step. And finally, number 10, this is really important. Choose my words carefully. Choose my words carefully. If you're gonna deescalate words have the power to set a forest on fire, the power to destroy a life, we're gonna actually come back to this. I don't have to go into it, because there's a major section in the Book of James on the power of the tongue, and we're gonna cover this in detail. But when I say choose your words carefully, I'm thinking about Proverbs 12:18 that says this. Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. The tongue of the wise brings healing. That's what you need to pray for. God, give me the tongue of the wise. I want my tongue to be a healing source, not reckless words that tear people up. A lot of cold cuts. God, put a muzzle on my mouth. Ephesians 4:29 says this. Do not use harmful words, but only use helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed.

Now, I've gone through those 10 steps pretty quickly, but I want you to take this outline and I want you to review it. I want you to state it. If you meet with your small group this week, talk about this in your small group. I've given you more than enough information on how to be a peacemaker in these 10 steps. Jesus once said, "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them". You're not gonna be blessed for hearing this message. You're gonna be blessed if you actually do it, if you take these 10 steps and use them in areas where you've got conflict in your life.

Why do we wanna do this? Because as Jesus said in Matthew 5:9, blessed are the peacemakers. They will be called the children of God. Are you a child of God? Are you a peacemaker? Every week, at the end of the service, we recommit our lives to Jesus Christ. I don't know about you, but I feel like I need to recommit my life to Jesus Christ after just reviewing these 10 things, because there's a lot I need to work on, and my guess is it's probably true of you too. But maybe you've never even met Jesus Christ. And if not, it would be my privilege to introduce you to Him right now. You can open up your life to Him.

I want us to bow our heads, and I'm gonna pray a prayer and you can just kinda say it along with me, and let me introduce you to the God who saved you, created you, loves you, has a plan and purpose for your life, and will give you the power to do these 10 things that we just talked about so that you can have more peace and less conflict in your life. Let's bow our heads.

Father, I wanna thank you for your word. It's so practical, so relevant, so needed. And Lord, we need peacemakers. Of all times, we need them right now. We need them in our schools, we need them in our cities, we need them in our churches, we need them in our communities, we need peacemakers in our families, we need peacemakers at work, around the world. You've told us from your word how to reduce conflict, how to diffuse it, and then even how to resolve and restore relationships. And I pray that this week you're raise up a group of peacemakers, and that you'll tell us who we need to go to to make peace with, that we've been on the outs with it, that we've had a conflict with. And Lord, where there's so much conflict in the world, we pray that these truths will be shared, that there could be peace where there is violence, where there is destruction, where there is conflict.

If you've never invited Jesus into your life, you say:

Jesus Christ, come into my life. I don't understand it all, but I wanna know you. I want you to be the prince of peace in my life. Fill my life with your love, take out hatred, take out bitterness, take out pain and hurt, and fill it with peace and purpose. I wanna get to know you and I wanna follow you and trust you, and I pray this humbly in your name. Amen.

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