It finds us. Whether we stay at home, go to school, or commute to the office, conflict will find us. Kids will disobey us, coworkers will disagree with us, and friends will say hurtful things to us. And what often starts as a bright day full of hope quickly becomes rocked by thundering rain clouds of frustration. Conflict has arrived.
Now not all conflict is bad. Often competing ideas can be used by God to promote godly change, to increase productivity and to develop godly character. As we learn to submit to another in love, the church wins. As Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
But obviously many conflicts do not turn out this way. Instead of leading to unity, conflict often produces anger, bruised feelings, and broken relationships. Why does this happen? According to James 4 sinful conflict explodes in our lives because of what’s in our hearts. Notice what he says,
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.
We fight, we get mad, and we quarrel with each other because we are not getting what we want. Think about some of these common responses to conflict: “I don’t care what he said, he has no right to talk to me that way; I deserve better; all I wanted was a little peace and quiet; who does she thinks she is; don’t they realize all my skills, abilities and years of service.” This is not to say that the other party is innocent. But the reason we get mad, the reason we respond to sin with more sin is that we love things more than God. We want respect, peace, ease, and love. When we don’t get them, we arm our passions and go out on the war path seeking to attack, humble, and destroy anyone who does not worship us like we worship us. Hence, we are involved in sinful conflict because our hearts are focused on things other than God.
So how do we resolve conflict and bring it to a conclusion?
1. Seek To Glorify God:
Conflict is not fun. But it is also not pointless. Conflict exists so that you and me can
become more like Christ. As we repent of sinful heart attitudes, practice forgiveness, and extend love, we will see our faith expand. Though trials are never enjoyable, they are not pointless. Conflict exists so that we will become perfect and complete. If we want to see our conflicts resolved and our relationships restored, we must seek to redeem the situation we find ourselves in. We must not fear conflict. We must see it as an opportunity for good and for kingdom expansion!
We get mad not because of what someone else did or said. We get mad because we are finding satisfaction in something other than Christ. To disarm our hearts, we have to confess to God that we are prideful, selfish, and coveting. We have to set our minds on the things above. We must meditate on all that God has done for us through the cross. We must find our hope, joy, and validation in him. Before we can hope to solve human conflict, we must first get our hearts right with God.
After we repent of our sins, we must seek out those whom we have offended and confess our sins to them. Even if the other person started the fight, even if they’ve done more wrong than us, we must go to them in love, confessing our sins. If we hope to win our brothers and sisters back, we must honestly tell them all our wrongs and ask them to forgive us. We must as Jesus says get the log out of our own eye (Matt 7:5). Many conflicts roll on year after year unresolved because no one is willing to confess their sins. We can’t make others change. But we can deal with our own sin. To begin the process of restoration, we must repent and confess our own sins to every person that we have wronged. As Proverbs 28:13 says,
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
4. Go In Love:
After we have confessed our sins and mistakes – then and only then- can we loving
express our concerns to others. Of course, we should only directly talk to those that have wronged us. Telling our friends what so and so did may validate our sinful heart attitudes, but those words will not lead the other person towards repentance. Rather, we go privately go to the person who has offended us, and tell them their sin (Matt 18). And we do not list every character flaw they have ever had. Instead, we tell them about specific sins, hoping that they will respond with repentance.
If someone has wronged us, we must be ready to forgive them. When a former enemy asks us to forgive them, we must say yes. We must remember all that God has done, forgiving others because God has forgiven us (Col. 3:13). Regardless of what someone did to us, we have done more to God and been forgiven. If we are God’s children, we can forgive others. This may not come easy. Our flesh will say, “No way.” But as we plead with God to help us, he will change our hearts. If we have been redeemed by God, we can love our enemies. Now forgiveness does not mean that consequences disappear. The child who ate a one-pound bag of Oreos by himself is still banded from the pantry. But his parents, no longer hold the crime against him. They no longer mention it or bring it up. They have forgiven him. As Ken Sande said,
Forgiveness is a radical decision not to hold an offense against the offender.
Conflicts can get tricky in a hurry. But no conflict has to destroy. For Christians, there is always hope. For more info about how to deal with conflicts, I highly recommend that you checkout Resolving Every Day Conflict or The Peace Maker by Ken Sande.
Are you ready to biblically resolve your conflict?
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