A few years ago fifty miles southeast of Indianapolis in Andersonville, Indiana, two neighbors were found dead of gunshot wounds. The bizarre finding of police investigators is that they fatally shot each other. Indiana State Police Sargeant Noel Houze Jr. explained, “They just shot each other in an exchange of gunfire and both of them died of fatal gunshot wounds.” She was 29 and he was 64. They knew each other, but no one has come forward with any details about motives or explanations.
The imagination runs wild, though facts do not follow behind it. What makes two neighbors mad enough to draw guns and engage in a gun battle? What could be serious enough to escalate a dispute to this level (AP wire, 8/17/07)?
Conflict is an inevitable part of human relationships. Normally, the better we know someone the more likely disputes will be and the more heated or passionate they can become. The hope is that civility and courtesy can prevent hostility and homicide!
Luke records a dispute among the apostles, that “an argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest” (Lk. 9:46). The same Greek word translated “argument” in that passage Jesus modifies with an adjective to teach that “…from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries…and defile the man” (Mk. 7:21,23b). Arndt and Gingrich, since this noun is used, suggest that the idea is stronger than merely bad thoughts, but “evil machinations” (186a). Thus, schemes and plots that begin in the heart, that are fed, nursed and stoked, can play out in all the ways Jesus enumerates in Mark seven.
From these two passages come a warning about two areas of life–motives and heart. A bad motive and evil heart open the door which allows conflict to escalate and grow. These conflicts may not end in shotgun blasts, but estrangement, divorce, isolation, division, or character assassination. In trying to deal a hurtful blow to our opponent, we may find ourselves mortally wounded, too. What a needed reminder to guard our hearts, watch our motives, and control ourselves!