It’s easy to get sucked into negativity. Nietzsche said, “Those who fight monsters should be careful lest they become monsters.” It’s easy to react against a real problem, but in the process become tainted by what we react against. For example, you rebuke the hot-headed and the aggressive, and find yourself getting a little heated. In observing the Pharisee, you notice judgments in your own heart against them. In sensing the pride of your neighbor, you find your own ego provoked (remember pride is essentially competitive). Perhaps that is why Paul, after calling for the restoration of the sinner, immediately adds, “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
In order to keep unstained by the negativity and backbiting that conflict often engenders, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. Stephen, the church’s first martyr, provides us with a wonderful example. When others gnash their teeth at him and stone him to death, he directs his eyes upward to heaven, where he sees the risen Christ in his glory (Acts 7:54-58). With his eyes fixed on Jesus, he is liberated to pray for the forgiveness of his enemies (Acts 7:60).
In order to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21) in the midst of conflict, we need to follow Stephen’s example of keeping our eyes above the fray of the gnashing teeth and stones being hurled at us, and defining our situation by the ulterior reality and realm of Christ. As Robert Murray McCheyne put it, “For every look at self—take ten looks at Christ! Live near to Jesus—and all things will appear little to you in comparison with eternal realities.”
~ Gavin Ortlund