Don’t Veil Selfish Motives in Spiritual Terms
The root cause of conflict is our egos, even when we hide our agenda by citing scripture
In Numbers 12 we see a story of sibling rivalry, one at a spiritual level.
Moses, the leader of the Israelites, is confronted by his sister, Miriam, aided by his brother, Aaron. The two pair up to oppose their younger brother, Moses, the guy who ran away for forty years and abandoned his people. They had stuck around. They had suffered in Egypt while Moses had escaped.
Though Moses does return and lead the people, the older siblings, especially Miriam, wants greater recognition for the supporting role they play in this. Though her motivation is selfish, Miriam tries to make it spiritual.
She asserts that God speaks to her and Aaron, just as God does with Moses. Maybe God does; maybe God doesn’t. Though there could be some truth to her claim, the Bible says little to confirm this. We don’t know for sure.
At this point in the story, the Bible slips in a parenthetical note. It confirms the deep humility of Moses. The implication is that Moses makes no effort to defend himself or squash her uprising. He leaves it in God’s hands. God reacts swiftly, putting Miriam (and Aaron) in their place and affirming Moses as his chosen leader.
We see this same type of conflict today with brothers and sisters opposing one another, in both their biological families and spiritual families, the church.
Though usually dressed in spiritual attire, these church conflicts are often (perhaps, always) about ego: selfish motives, greed, and pride. We want our way; we desire more power; we crave recognition. Even when we quote verses and project pure motives, the reality is that we want to be right, which means we want to prove others wrong. It’s about ego.Society dismisses the humble, but a humble spirit pleases God. This should be our ultimate goal. Click To Tweet
Churches split over such conflicts. Christians even kill one another because of such polarized disagreements. Each time we harm the cause of Jesus.
While it would be great if God would take immediate action in today’s disputes, just as he did in the case of Miriam and Aaron versus Moses, he does not. I suspect he’s hoping we will learn from this and one day grow up. I think the key is that we need to react like Moses, from a place of true humility.
Though our society dismisses the humble, a humble spirit pleases God. That should be our ultimate goal, especially in the face of conflict.
What can we do to pursue a God-honoring humility? What can we do to be a peacemaker among church conflict?
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.