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Practically & Biblically handling conflict...

God cares deeply about our conflict. About your conflict. If you haven't read last week's blog, you can go back and see it on the website. This part 2 of that blog is dedicated to looking at some of the most practical wisdom scripture has to offer in handling our conflict.

Below are 5 different principles for handling conflict in the life of a Christian.

  1. Take The Log Out.

  • 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

  • You've probably read or heard this verse many times if you are a Christian. What has always stood out to me is how backwards it seems. If I am the one who sees something wrong in someone else, then shouldn't it be that I should take the speck out of my eye before I talk to them about their log? Yet in Jesus' ultimate and higher wisdom it is the opposite. Why? Why is it me who has the log in my eye? Could it be that God is much more concerned with how we handle seeing our own sin than the sin of others? This of course does not mean we do not help others in their sin, Yet as we approach others in conflict we do so in great humility, looking to see what we may have contributed or our own sin. Even if you only contributed 1% of the problem, you can take ownership fully of that 1%. If we can do this, we come to them not in pride but with a mindset of grace and restoration as we've reflected on how much greater our own sin is and how the Lord has given us grace and restoration.

  1. Go To Them.

  • That being said, it is important we actually go to the person who wronged us or we had an argument with. In Matthew 18:15 we see the desire of the Lord for us to go to one another in our offense. Go in self-reflection and humility, but go. The truth is there is no need for us to "vent" to someone else to see if we should go. If we cannot let us go, or we are harboring resentment, follow the words of Jesus and go. They may not even realize they did something wrong! The good news is, if they do not listen, Jesus gives us more options to pursue in the rest of the passage.

  1. Learn to fight fair.

  • We all have certain sin patters and communication errors we make in conflict. Understanding the ways in which we tend to sin during our anger or conflict can help us to keep watch for them and exercise self-control in that moment. Understanding this can help you to fight fair.

    • Withdrawal

      • Often we may choose not to say anything, or ignore the problem. Yet it doesn't really go away, we just internalize it and harbor resentment.

    • Escalation

      • In order to "win" the fight, we will escalate through yelling, bringing up past sins, or saying or doing something in anger. This is the opposite of withdrawal.

    • Negative Interpretation

      • We have a tendency to always interpret the worst possible thing from someone's statements. We don't capture what the person intended but assume the worst, instead of hoping all things in love.

    • Invalidation

      • We do a mental gymnastics to say that person does not have the right to feel the way they feel or really shouldn't feel that way at all. We have made conflict resolution impossible by denying there was any conflict in the first place.

  1. Learn To Forgive & Seek Forgiveness.

  • Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)

    • This verse brings an interesting category into play. Sometimes, it is beneficial for us to "overlook an offense". Sometimes it is just not worth pursuing reconciliation and you don't need it. How do you know when this is the case? Well, simply put, if you can truly forgive and overlook the offense, then overlook it. If you can't, then you need to pursue them.

    • The wording there was intentional, "truly forgive". The Christian is called to forgive those who have wronged us, even if they don't seek reconciliation. So what does it really mean to forgive? How is that possible? Well that is a whole other blog, but to simplify it: to forgive someone means you have forgone the right to enact justice. When you've been wronged, you hold on to it and want revenge. Forgiveness turns that over to the hands of God, and lets go of the right to hold it against someone seeking justice. In Christ, through the power of the the Spirit, this is possible even if someone does not seek your forgiveness.

  • Not only are we called to forgive, but one who is seeking peace with others should be good at asking forgiveness from others. (Romans 12:18) We need to learn this.

    • Be earnest. Work to see the log in your own eye so you can genuinely ask for forgiveness as one who understands where they were wrong.

    • Being sorry and asking for forgiveness are two different things. Use the words "will you forgive me". Don't just be sorry you got caught or they got hurt even though you didn't mean it, own what you can and genuinely seek their forgiveness.

    • Do not justify your actions. Be clear and simple that you are apologizing and asking for forgiveness. Do not blur this with justifying why you did what you did. There is nothing worse than someone trying to apologize and that is overshadowed by them trying to explain why they shouldn't need to apologize. This is often the sign of someone who has not done the hard work of taking the log out of their own eye.

  1. Fight Bitterness With Grace.

  • Even if we have worked to forgive and overlook and resolve, we can still struggle with bitterness. Especially if they don't want forgiveness we can be bitter. This of course only leads to escalated conflict later either with that person or taking it out on someone else. Bitterness rots the heart. It destroys marriages, families, and friendships. It is something we need to fight. Grace is defined as "undeserved favor". Forgiving someone and working out our conflict is often an act of grace toward others. We are giving them favor they do not deserve in their wrongdoing. And of course this is how God treats us. ONLY by seeing the grace of God can we hope to fight our bitterness and desire to hold onto our anger with grace.

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