I sat and dozed during one of the last classes of term, half-listening as the professor gave a presentation on world affairs. My attention was drawn sharply back when I heard her ask the class, “Why do you think there continue to be so many wars and conflicts around the world?”
There was a silence as students thought about this question and the many possible answers.
“Greed,” one student suggested. “Poverty,” said another. The teacher shook her head. “Those are also correct, but there is another point I wish to discuss.” Finally one boy raised his hand. “Because most people believe they are always right, and when disagreements arise, they won’t back down.” “Or,” another girl countered, “one side is right and the other can’t accept that it’s so.” The teacher nodded, “And why is it so difficult for either side to agree with the other?” A heated class discussion began, everyone trying to determine why people could not make peace with one another.
What causes difficulties?
As I thought about the incessant conflicts, strife, and wars we hear about daily, I wondered, “What about all the disagreements and conflicts that start small, on a personal level? How does this apply to me, in my daily life?” I remembered a difficult discussion I had had with another person and the bitter aftertaste it had left. “What caused that?” I asked myself. “Why is it so difficult for me to get along with some people, or accept that I’m not right?”
Then I remembered a verse in the Bible, from 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Love is not puffed up…” I realized that I hadn’t found peace and unity with this person because of my ego. I believed I was right and defended my own righteousness, instead of calling on God to help me and using His wisdom instead of my own. I trusted my ego instead of God, which was a huge mistake and had led to the disagreement.
Knowledge puffs up
The only power that can build and edify is love. God cannot help me if I am so puffed up and conceited that I cannot hear His voice guiding me. In such a state it is not possible to love God and other people. In 1 Corinthians 8:1-2 it says: “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.” I must ask myself, “What is it that I really know? Have I asked God what He thinks? Do I trust that He knows best?” If I really believe that all wisdom comes from above, then I will be humble in my own eyes and admit that I have a flesh (ego) in which nothing good dwells. (Romans 7:18)
That flesh impairs my ability to see myself and other people correctly. But if I truly hate my ego, I can instead use God’s wisdom to make peace in all situations, regardless of which side is right or wrong, instead of just escalating the conflict. “…whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” 1 Corinthians 13:8. Knowledge might impress or bring honor for a while, but it is temporary and does not bring salvation and peace, or allow me to bless and love others. It can be useful when applied in practical situations, but doesn’t show me how to have a pure and fervent love for God and all people, as Jesus did. God can do a glorious work if I humble myself and accept His wisdom in my situations. Then love will abound!