Of Dogs, Crocs, and Conflict

The Anchor of Hope

October 23, 2018

An e-publication of Living Hope Presbyterian Church

Proverbs 17:19 He who loves transgression loves strife; He who raises his door seeks destruction.

A few months ago, I saw an article and video of a small dog that liked to harass crocodiles.  As a crocodile would be sunning himself on the water banks of the water, the dog would race down to it barking and nipping at its tail and hind legs.  After a couple of minutes of this treatment, the crocodile would return to the water from whence it came.  The little dog had treated his reptilian neighbors this way for over a decade.  He had become so well known that tourists would actually come and watch him.

And so it happened one day this summer, the little dog, barking and nipping, raced down to the crocodile .  But he then raced toward the crocodile’s head.  The large predator whipped his tail to the right cutting off the dog’s escape while simultaneously whipping his head in the same direction.  Instantly, to the horror and cries of the spectators, the dog was in the crocodile’s jaws.  Immediately, the crocodile escaped back into the water with its prey.  Later, the dog’s owner refused to blame the crocodile.  As he said, “That’s just what crocs do.”

The above story could be paired with a number of verses.  The illustration would have been a particularly vivid picture for 1 Peter 5.8.  “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  However, Proverbs 17.19 draws out two points that are especially noticeable in the story.

First, even the most peace loving person will get into conflict at one time or another.  The question is, “Do you seek it?  Do you enjoy it?”  You can say you are peace loving.  You can say it’s always the other person’s fault.  And yet as Charles Bridges observes, “If we are frequently in it; if we take no pains, make no sacrifice of self-will or interest (1 Cor. 6.1-7), to avoid the occasion of strife” how can we not be guilty of pursuing it?  And loving it comes from the love of sin.  Scan Paul’s list of deeds of the flesh in Galatians 5.19-21.  You will note a recurrence of nouns which denote conflict.  The root of conflict is sin on someone’s part.

Please do not misunderstand me.  Sometimes conflict is necessary to rebuke or restrain sin in someone else (and for some, like the police, it can be more commonly necessary than for the rest of us).  But do you desire it?  Or is conflict something that you hate, but sometimes must do?  Fair questions for anyone.

The dog sought out conflict every day.  He enjoyed himself, and undoubtedly received praise for it.  And his conflict was even against something (the crocodile) that most people would deem as “unlovable”.  But Scripture speaks of conflict here generically with no qualifiers.  In other words, it doesn’t matter if you are the bully or the vigilante, if your target is a sinner or a saint, loving conflict as an acceptable way of life is condemned – and, yes, that includes those who spend their time seeking out arguments on social media.

Second, the latter half of the verse is actually parallel with the first half.  It tells us the general cause of conflict – pride, and it’s eventual outcome – destruction.  “He who raises his door” is a metaphor for pride.  It is picturing someone who exalts himself by building a magnificent facade to the front of his house which is well beyond his economic means or social status.  A classic biblical example of this type of person is Haman in the book of Esther.  His ambitious pride led him into strife against God’s people which, in turn, led to his own destruction.

Sinful pride is a wrongful elevation of one’s place in God’s creation.  This exaltation causes strife with others.  This conflict comes as a result of our rebellion against God’s created order as he effectively attempts to put himself on God’s throne.  The original sin in Eden of trying to be God is never far from man’s sinful heart.   And as with Adam, death ensued – first spiritually and then physically.

The little dog thought he was the master.  After all, he had tormented the beast for over ten years.  But he had exalted himself beyond his place.  It was only a matter of time before his pride took him to destruction.  We could echo the dog’s owner and say, “That’s just what pride does.”  Without repentance, one’s own destruction is always the ultimate end of pride (Pr 16.18).