The Gospel and the "Matrix of Conflict" in the Home and in the Church

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


God's providence is good...all the time. Duh. But meatheads like me need to rehearse the obvious from time to time. Take tonight for example. I slated a hotel room for myself here in north Atlanta. I've got product training tomorrow, and thought I had it tonight. I was notified of a tour of the new Mitel Atlanta Office from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. The front desk at the hotel directed me wrongly to the conference center. So I got there late. The group had left. But as I purveyed the room I quickly saw I didn't belong there after all. It was only for company sales reps only. My company is a "solution provider." So I called my wife to inform her of my irritation toward the one who wrongly informed me to be here tonight. Her response, wise as usual, was to see it as God's good providence to get me alone with Him...something we both prayed for over the last couple of days.

The time of reflection here not only allowed me to update the Theological Pillow Fight, but also meditate more on a particularly 'prophetic' moment I had at lunch with a fellow employee yesterday. He and his wife are expecting their first in a few months. They are strong believers, attending a church where a dear friend pastors. I confessed my struggles with my own sinful heart over the Thanksgiving holiday, and described for him the 'matrix of conflict' created by two or more sinful persons living under the same roof.

The 'Matrix of Conflict' (having nothing to do with the movie) works like this. Two sinful persons live together. Their new life together begins to reveal all manner of inherently sinful tendencies in the human heart that were perhaps not previously known. These tendencies (new or old) clash with the same or differing tendencies in the other. This takes quite a while to work out through humbly repenting and applying the gospel to the relationship. It takes a lifetime, though to be sure much of it can and should be worked out within the first couple of years of a marriage.

Now throw a kid into the mix. That new sinful human being, under the same roof, brings out new sinful tendencies from the depths of the depraved heart, in mom and dad, that were perhaps not known or realized previously. A whole new set of conflicts develops, and these must be dealt with. But the matrix has grown exponentially. Whereas before it was husband and wife dealing with their issues, now there is husband and wife and baby, multiplying a new set of conflicts by three. Each kid thrown into the mix multiplies that potential conflict again by the total number of persons living under the same roof.

The "Matrix of Conflict" Illustrated

Husband working with self.
Husband working with wife.
Husband working with Child #1.
Husband helping wife work with Child #1.
Husband helping Child #1 in relationship with mom.
Wife working with self.
Wife working with husband.
Wife working with Child #1.
Wife helping husband work with Child #1.
Wife working with Child #1 in relationship with dad.
Child #1 working with self.
Child #1 working with dad.
Child #1 working with mom.
Enter Child #2.
Husband working with self.
Husband working with wife.
Husband working with Child #1.
Husband working with Child #2.
Husband helping wife work with Child #1.
Husband helping wife work with Child #2.
Husband helping Child #1 in relationship with mom.
Husband helping Child #2 in relationship with mom.
Husband helping Child #1 work with Child #2.
Husband helping Chiild #2 work with Child #1.
Wife working with self.
Wife working with husband.
Wife working with Child #1.
Wife working with Child #1 and Child #2.
Wife helping husband work with Child #1.
Wife helping husband work with Child #2.
Wife helping Child #1 in relationship with dad.
Wife helping Child #2 in relationship with dad.
Wife helping Child #1 work with Child #2.
Wife helping Child #2 work with Child #1.

This could go on and on...and does in my family where there is Child #1, Child #2, Child #3, and Child #4. As you can see, the matrix of conflict multiplies exponentially each time another sinner enters the family.

All of this would seem to (1) discourage parents from having more kids, as sometimes it may in fact do this very thing, (2) encourage a sterile and hopeless view of family life. But both of these are dashed against the rock of the gospel. That rock is called hope. We hope in God in our family. We sin against each other every single day. And sometimes we sin bigtime. And without the gospel all of us would be utterly hopeless, despairing, and eventually splitting apart. Such is the picture of homes today without the gospel.

Grace doesn't make our sin "go away." It doesn't 'smooth things over.' It doesn't make us all feel better. It isn't a big "I'm sorry" with a group hug. These are merely the effects of a deeper work going on beneath the surface of a home saturated with the gospel. Mine is certainly not, though I hope it is and always will be. We strive toward this end, though not as diligently as we ought each day.

The gospel teaches us about a grace and mercy that forgives when we sin against each other. It is a grace that not only forgives the sin, but does not hold a grudge. It is also a power that drives each of us forward to love God with more of our heart than we did before (striving ever onward to meet that "all" part of the verse), as well as each other more than before. And in that atmosphere - created by the constant, ever-present, never-ceasing, freshly-poured faithfulness and mercy of God - we breathe an air that revitalizes our commitment to one another, our honor and preference for one another, and a greater patience with one another.

Wow, this all sounds so good! I'd like to go and live there! Yep, the reality is that this is not always a reality, is it? But that brings us back again to the rock of hope in the gospel. I hope - not with wishful thinking, but with faith-filled certitude - that my family will enjoy this kind of life more consistently than we did yesterday. It is in the confines of a local church, also rooted in the gospel, that our family learns to be transparently honest about our sinful hearts, putting our failures before others, and seeks a kind of healing that is effective and lasting, and not just the kind that makes us feel better temporarily.

And speaking of the church, try writing out the matrix of conflict I did above with all the people in your church directory! That's what a local church experiences on a much more massive level than a home! Try pastoring that! I dare you! I have tried it. And let me say that a local church must operate on this same rock of hope in the gospel as the home. A church split, more times than not, is a reflection of a broken home on a much larger scale. When a church is a place where conflict prevails, it is a place where the gospel is not the saturating feature, and it is a place where the sheep have lost sight of hope in God.

He is bigger than our conflict. He is more powerful than it. He proved it at the cross. He killed our sin. He removed the conflict between us and the Father. It was an eternal conflict which would have resulted in eternal punishment. If Jesus is strong enough to demolish the most mountainous conflict that ever existed in our lives, isn't He strong enough to blow down the ant hills of conflict that have grown between us and others in our homes and churches? If we hoped in Him for the greatest, why do we live like we do not hope in Him for the smallest?

This matrix of conflict, though disparaging to consider and magnanimous to resolve, is nothing for God. He has acted to resolve every single conflict between us which ever existed, and He did it at the cross. That work only has to trickle down into the cracks and recesses of our hearts so that it will effectively deal with how we interact with every other sinner with whom we live, talk, work, play, drive, eat, and worship.

May we live on the rock of hope...the hope of the gospel...the gospel which forgives and renews...the forgiveness and renewal which is faithful daily.

You Might Also Like

1 comments