As we sat around the conference room this morning, our devotional leader asked us to shout out words we thought of when he said the word “conflict.” We immediately responded with words such as “anger,” “fighting,” and “shouting”; almost all the words we threw out were negative. To us, conflict is a frightening and frustrating problem that we dread addressing and go out of our way to prevent at all costs. We are terrified of conflict.
While we sit in a place of fear and disunity, God addresses conflict head on to the point that He sacrificed His son so that conflict would be ended permanently.
The conflict of sin stands between us and God; a wall of disunity so high that we could never make it over on our own. But God reach out to us and offered forgiveness of our sins. He made a way for reconciliation by sending Jesus to die in our place and take on the debt of sin for us.
We as believers rejoice in this reconciliation, but we don’t always exemplify God’s attitude towards conflict in our own lives. We shy away from conflict under the guise of not wanting to overstep our bounds in relationships, when in reality we are unwilling to follow the Lord’s example and take conflict head on. God actually commands us as believers to make every effort to achieve unity and peace—without unresolved conflict hiding below the surface—so that He might be glorified to the world:
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23
When we avoid conflict and allow disunity to float just below the surface of our relationships with other believers, we are not bringing glory to God. He desires that we be unified as one body in peace, so that the world will know the truth that through the sacrifice of His son God brought an end to the eternal conflict of sin that separates us from Him.
Of course, the Lord also provides us with Biblical ways to handle conflict. The world resorts to screaming and slamming doors, but the Lord desires that we grow more like Christ through conflict, and He provides with Biblical examples for how to do conflict well. During devotional this morning, we worked through how to handle conflict with other believers using the outline below:
Address yourself first, then the person you have conflict with:
“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5
First, we address how we contributed to the current conflict, and only afterwards should we approach the other person. This is the difference between saying “I’m sorry” and “Will you forgive me?”; the first is selfishly focused on “me,” while the second is focused on how we affected the other person.
Don’t sweat the small stuff:
Ask yourself the following questions: Has the offense (the reason for conflict) seriously dishonored God? Has the offense permanently damaged a relationship? Has the offense seriously damaged others? Has the offense seriously hurt the person who committed it?
If the answers to all of these questions are no, then you do not need to address the conflict. Reevaluate the situation: maybe a person’s mannerisms or tics annoy you, but are not truly causing harm. This is not conflict, but merely your own preferences coming into play; therefore, ignore it and move on so as not to start needless conflict—this type of conflict is not God-honoring.
Don’t spread the big stuff:
We often have a terrible habit of talking about our conflict with another person to a person who is not involved in the conflict in any way. This is called gossip and the Lord DOES NOT like gossip. Gossip wrecks our relationships, poisons our perception of others, and corrupts our characters.
Bear in mind Matthew 18:15-17, which talks about taking along another believer to address sin a believer’s life if he or she does not listen to your words in private. You may involve another person—not a random person, but one with a connection to the first person—only AFTER trying on your own. If you are discussing conflict before trying to resolve it on your own, you are gossiping.
Through our discussion today, we were able to see that the Lord is glorified in many instances and situations, including situations that we would have considered messy and not of God. Although we as a staff agreed that the Lord has blessed our office with little conflict, we all also agreed that conflict exists outside our office and we want to be prepared to handle it in the most Christ-like manner possible so that God is glorified.