When we look at Scripture, we discover that the family is the essential building block of human society. The family spoken of is both biological and spiritual. My wife, children, and other relatives make up my biological family. My spiritual family is made of every believer who has, is, and ever will exist, and in a practical day-to-day sense, my local church family.
God’s desire for us is to live in unity with Him and others. He wants us to experience wholeness in Christ, which is the fruit of the Spirit’s work in the life of a believer. The obstacle to oneness and wholeness in one’s life is sin. When sin entangles us, it leads to fractured marriages, shattered families, and broken people.
The first conflict between a married couple is recorded in Genesis, chapter 3 when sin caused a rift between the original couple (Adam and Eve) with God and each other. The first sibling rivalry occurred with their children and is recorded in Genesis, chapter 4, where, out of jealousy, Cain kills Able. Yes, the first family was a dysfunctional one due to sin, which brings conflict.
Conflict is a disagreement or struggle between two opposing beliefs. Some conflicts are minor such as the right way to put toilet paper on the dispenser. By the way, it is over, not under. It can be as major as the differences between parents on how to raise their children. Anytime there is a disagreement or struggle between two opposing beliefs, there is conflict.
Conflict is something that everyone will encounter. Some will even face conflict daily in relationships and circumstances. This is important to realize because often times when we go through a conflict, we feel as if we are the only one who has ever experienced it. Conflict existed with the first couple, the first family, and as long as there are people, this side of paradise, there will always be conflict.
Not all conflict is harmful. Some differences are natural and beneficial. Some conflict is healthy, presenting an opportunity to learn from another and strengthen the bond between people who seek a positive resolution. However, some conflict is destructive. In fact, many disagreements are the result of sinful motives and behavior (see: James 4:1-2). When conflict results from sinful desires or actions, they are too serious to simply overlook. They need to be dealt with in a God-honoring straightforward manner.
How we handle conflict matters. It matters to God. It matters to others. It matters. God is serious about unity and peace. He wants us to experience peace with Him by turning over the leadership of our life to Him. He wants us to have inner peace, which comes as we turn our lives to Christ and receive forgiveness and experience fullness of living in Him. Our Lord also wants us to experience peace with others for the sake of His witness (see: John 17:20-23). The good news is that God has a plan to resolve conflict that leads to oneness and peace with Him and others as well as wholeness in Christ.
Paul challenges us in 1 Corinthians to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Doing all to the glory of God includes the way we handle conflict. We handle conflict in a way that glorifies God when we trust Him believing He wants what’s best for all involved. We show our trust in Him by obeying Him (see: John 5:3). We obey God by following His Spirit’s leading of us through His Word – the Bible, imitating Him (see: 1 John 2:6).
Let me share three ways to handling conflict. Proverbs 15:1 teaches, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” All of us have been in a conflict with someone that has led to a heated discussion. It is important to take a moment to pause. Perhaps, you have heard it said when you get angry to stop and count to ten. This is good advice. When we are provoked, usually, our first response is not the best. Take a moment to pause and breathe a prayer for guidance. Listening also helps us give a “soft answer” amidst conflict. Listen to the person with the opposing belief and listen to wise counsel. It is incredible how knowledge gained from an opposing view and godly advice on how to proceed in a godly way can lead to a “soft answer” rather than “a harsh word.”
Then, I would draw our attention to Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” This verse addresses, in part, how to live like a Christian. Believers are to speak with extreme love and let their words be as appealing as salted chocolate (my interpretation). In other words, such character is attractive and God-honoring. Simply put, choose your words carefully. Saying things like “That’s ridiculous” does nothing to advance the conflict to a healthy resolution. However, a phrase like “I see things differently” or “I have some questions about what you just said” lets others know we don’t believe ourselves to be all-knowing and care enough to work through the conflict with them to reach a deeper understanding.
God’s Word has much to say about how to handle and resolve conflict. What I have shared is not exhaustive, but a good start to dealing with conflict in a healthy God-honoring way. Ultimately, only the Lord’s Spirit work in our life can cultivate the godly character we need to navigate conflict in a way that brings peace and glorifies God.
It is not the absence of conflict, but the way we handle it that glorifies our Lord. We all will face conflict; this is a fact of life. But, not all of us will handle it well. Let’s encourage one another to trust God and challenge one another to obey Him by following His Spirit’s leading of us through His Word – the Bible, imitating Him. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!