by Wayne BarberIn our last article we began to look at how to handle conflict. We saw that Paul warned about the character required of us before we do anything. A big tendency we all have is to take up an offense for a brother who is being mistreated. But that is a huge mistake. We must allow the Christ who lives in us to do through us what we cannot do. In this second article, we see Paul showing us that when Christ's character is in place, responsible conduct will follow. "I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh" (2 Cor. 10:2). The word "ask" is déomai, beg. He is beseeching them. Paul understands the tendency of flesh to take matters into its own hands. Now that the Corinthians had repented and their hearts were turned towards Paul, they wanted to see him vindicated in the face of those who said he was a coward! Paul is saying: "Don't push me. I do not need to be bold. Don't try to make me prove that I can be bold so that you might win your case over my critics." We are never to force an issue when we know that someone is being falsely accused. Because Christ lived in Paul and because Paul walked by faith in Him, Paul knew when and where to exercise boldness. When the time was fitting he would have to address the deceptive critics who were influencing the church at Corinth. But he knew that those who caused him pain were in the minority and he didn't want to scold the whole church for what only a few were doing. The believers who wanted to see him vindicated would have to trust him to know when the time was right. The Corinthian believers needed to learn that Christians do not deal with such matters in the same way that the world deals with things. The way of the flesh is all the world knows, so it expects us to act the same way. But the character required of us is the gentleness and the meekness of Christ, and responsible conduct is conduct that never takes matters into one's own hands. When you allow Christ to live in and through you; and you don't allow the flesh to have it's way, then you can have a confidence that is always reliable. God will come through in the midst of conflict if you will allow Him to do things His way. "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh" (v. 3). There is such a difference in the character of one who confronts in the flesh to prove a point and the one who has the discernment and character of Christ to only do so when and how it is fitting! Paul explains the difference: "Flesh," in the phrase "for though we walk in the flesh," speaks of the human frail body. We learn from chapter 4 that apart from the empowerment of Christ we are only empty frail clay pots. But the second time the word "flesh" is used, in the phrase: "we do not war according to the flesh," it refers more to the sinful mindset of the flesh that we all have to deal with moment by moment. It's the old "I, me, mine" mindset that does things it's own way! The word "self" is a good synonym for "flesh." And a good synonym for "self" is "sin." When we are facing the conflicts of life, there will always be the tendency to yield to the desire of our flesh, as if we know what we would do if we were God! But there is no vacancy in the Trinity! Flesh will always cause heartache and unnecessary pain! Paul calls the conflict we all have with the flesh a "war"! He knows that this conflict is real and is trying to help the Corinthians realize that their flesh is no better than the flesh of those who falsely accuse Paul. We are never to stoop to the level of those we know are wrong! Paul puts his whole confidence in the Spirit to overcome his flesh and he wants the Corinthians to do the same. It's that confidence in Christ who lives in us that is always reliable! "For though we live in the flesh we do not war according to the flesh." As you face inevitable conflict, in whom or what are you placing your confidence?