My English students and I discovered a profound connection between conflict and significance. All the stories ever told—everything from children’s books to multi-million dollar movie productions—contain conflict. Conflict is essentially any problem or dilemma that requires overcoming and is usually introduced towards the beginning of a story to get the ball rolling. Our favorite stories are almost always the ones that have the greatest conflicts; the ones in which evil has all but won the day just before that glimmer of hope becomes a reality and conquers the darkness. These are the stories we remember, not because they are happy and easy all the way through but because they contain great conflict and great characters that overcome adversity.
Now consider the fact that our culture is all about making life easier. Think about T.V. advertisements. Everything from microwave-safe Tupperware to the latest smart phone model is marketed on the promise that it will make your life easier, faster, smoother. In other words, less conflict. We are people obsessed with eliminating all forms of conflict from our lives because, well, easier is better right?
Then why are so many people dissatisfied, restless, purposeless, and hungry for something more?
The answer can be found in a semester of freshmen English. A good story cannot exist without significant conflict that needs overcoming, and the same is true of a significant life. When our desire for conflict-free lives influences our choices, the way we work, the way we conduct our relationships; when we consistently choose the easiest possible path, we are actually uprooting the potential for significance, the possibility that our stories will be worth telling.
What does Jesus tell us about following Him? “In this world you will have trouble,” and “If they persecuted me they will also persecute you,” and “Enter through the narrow gate.”
Follow Jesus and conflict is guaranteed. This revelation led the freshmen and me to a insightful question: Are many of us bored with the Christian life because we’ve traded the commands of Jesus for the comfortable life? Perhaps following Jesus was never about finding the easiest way out of difficulty, but rather about living lives of significance. Whether it means standing up to peer pressure, confronting a deeply rooted addiction, or befriending the “least” at the risk of losing your reputation, following Jesus always leads to conflict. And as we learn in Freshmen English, conflict always leads to a better story.
Son, a dangerous man doesn’t buy the lie that easier = better, nor does he run from conflict in pursuit of the easiest path; rather, he accepts the call of Jesus and follows where he leads, even if he leads to a cross.