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The Hidden Blessing of Conflict

You don't really know how bad you are at conflict resolution until you are put into a situation that challenges your deepest desires. Maybe for you, that time was entering into marriage, dealing with your college roommates, raising children, or maybe even arguing with someone on a Facebook post. The sad reality is that conflict is inevitable. The only real way you can ever avoid conflict is to avoid people altogether.

But here's the good news, God's powerful word has a LOT to say about conflict and conflict resolution. As Christians, we are called to be "peacemakers" and "live at peace with all men". We are called to forgive and reconcile. These are not optional for the followers of Jesus! Yet we also must realize that handling conflict well is not something that comes naturally. It is a skill we must learn. I want to suggest to you that the first step in biblically handling and resolving conflict well is to reframe how we think about conflict. Conflict, in God's economy, can be a blessing.

A true understanding of the cause of conflict.

"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel." (James 4:1-2a)

The key word here is "cause". What is the real issue with our conflict? Our fights and quarrels ultimately are caused from within. This does not mean that other factors are not contributing to our conflict, but they are not the ultimate cause. These outside factors are merely revealing that our desires are not being met. Our "passions are at war within us". We want something and cannot have it. This is not always as simple as it sounds. Sometimes what we want is respect or love. These are good desires, but when someone treats us with disrespect this often leads to conflict since we are not getting what we desire and think we deserve. Ask yourself this question the next time you sense conflict boiling up within you; "What is it that I want right now that I am not getting?"

Being able to identify the answer to that question is a great first step to understanding the root of any conflict.

We must take our anger seriously.

Anger is extremely interconnected to conflict. If we are honest, there is something that feels good about being angry. Letting out that scream, telling off the person who hurt you, and sometimes even holding onto anger toward someone because it just feels good. The reason this feels good is because we are "feeding our flesh". We are taking on the role of judge and executioner, roles we were never meant to have but in our pride, we enjoy taking. When we feel that our anger is justified, then all bets are off.

In Matthew 5:21-24 Jesus compares anger in your heart to murder, that's right, murder. Then he says that one should leave their gift at the altar and reconcile before coming back. Why does Jesus say it like that? Because he takes anger seriously. Very seriously. It may feel good to be angry, to yell scream, and hit those who hurt us or took what we wanted, but that response is not the path to resolution or holiness. Conflict and anger are not something to ignore, but instead something we pursue resolution for.

This includes those who let their anger sit in their heart and "avoid conflict". What they really mean is they avoid conflict resolution. There has already been conflict in their heart. Anger is not a good emotion to build up, but one to pursue resolving, even so much that we leave the gift at the altar and fix things before we worship. To avoid or ignore our conflict also means we ignore the blessing in our conflict (see below).

See conflict as an opportunity.

In the great book Peacemakers by Ken Sande, he describes the benefit of seeing conflict as an opportunity. Crazy right? I tend to see conflict as an opportunity to display my anger. Yet instead, conflict is an opportunity to glorify God in at least 3 ways...

  1. In trusting God to be the ultimate judge and instead pursuing peace, I am glorifying him in my trust, obedience, and submission.

  2. Conflict is also an opportunity to serve others. We can love our enemies and do good to those who hate us and pray for those who mistreat us. (Luke 6:27-28). We can remember that just like we have the desire to be angry for not getting something we want, they are experiencing the same thing. as we consider others more important than ourselves we can, through the power of the Spirit, turn to serving and blessing the one who is pursuing conflict with us. "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Prov. 15:1)

  3. Conflict is an opportunity to grow to be like Christ. God's highest purpose for you and me is not to make us comfortable, wealthy, or happy. There is something far more amazing in His mind, to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:28-29, Hebrews 12:1-2) Conflict is one of the many tools God will use to help us develop Christ-like character. In conflict, we are shown our weaknesses, our sin, and our dependence on Him as the only one to change hearts. Then we can grow by drawing on His grace to repent and begin forming new habits.

"Worry less about going through conflict and focus more on growing through conflict." - Ken Sande

Blessing for the believer comes in walking with Christ. Viewing conflict the way the bible does is critical to this goal. We do not seek conflict resolution simply to get a blessing, but only by living like Christ through the power of the Spirit do we find the hidden blessing of sanctification. God CAN and DOES use our conflict to make us Holy like him.

Tune in next week for some more practical help from God's word in resolving your conflict.

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