Fortunately the Bible has lots of examples of conflicts and written solutions on how to handle conflict in everyday life. I recently read that there are about 728,000 words in the NIV Bible and the first conflict occurs about word 550 into the text in Genesis! Sure didn't take long for God's people to get themselves into a conflict. The book went on to say that after word 550 almost all of the Bible offers solution after solution about handling conflict til the very end.
The power of the gospel
Elaine and I recently had the privilege of teaching about the nature of conflict and how to develop the skills to resolve everyday conflict God's way. Peacemaking is not natural to human behavior because most of us have our sinful goal of "winning at all costs." God calls us to set aside these ways and allow the hope of the gospel to direct our behavior, even during the often unexpected conflict that may come out of nowhere. Living a gospel led life that only focuses on heaven is not what God had in mind when the Bible was written. God calls us to be everyday peacemakers in all that we do and experience. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:15 - "He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." God is actively remaking all of us a day at a time even a moment at a time. Colossians 3:12-14 says - "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."
Escaping, Attacking or Peacemaking
Conflict creates an opportunity to develop close relationships. Maybe that grumpy store clerk just needs to hear a little uplifting word from someone. Maybe your spouse, friend, child or grandchild can't express the feelings that are at the root of your conflict with them. Very often, just like us, they are just trying to get through the day and are not always plugged into their own feelings, let alone be sensitive to ours. If you are like everyone else on the planet you are wired to escape or attack. Fleeing from a conflict is natural. Attacking others during a conflict is natural. But, we can choose peacemaking as an alternative to our natural responses.Over time we can make peacemaking our default response to conflict.
The 4 Gs to peacemaking
Glorify God - Learn to always put honoring God at the forefront of your actions during resolving a conflict.
Get the log out of your own eye - Some Bibles say "don't try to remove the smudge from someone else's face before you look in a mirror." This doesn't mean get rid of all your sin first, but rather confess your sin in this situation and then move toward resolving the conflict you are facing now.
Gently restore - Determine how you can best help others understand their contribution to the conflict. Genuinely confessing our part and accepting responsibility for contributing to a conflict will bring about a healing environment. Blaming, condemning and ranting won't help. Gently discussing with a calm spirit and gently describing how the other person contributed to the conflict will set the stage and help bring about lasting resolution and deepening relationship.
Go and be reconciled - How can I forgive when I was so wronged? The answer isn't just about you getting your need for justice met. Some hurts are so deep and so hurtful that no amount of power within us can help. No amount of talking, no amount of our own thinking or Bible knowledge alone will help. The Holy spirit will step in when nothing we can do from a human perspective will help us do the right thing or say the right words.
Please read Corrie ten Boom's story that follows - - here is a perfect example of what the Holy spirit can do in A MOMENT OF INTENSE CONFLICT:
"IT WAS IN A CHURCH in Munich where I was speaking in 1947.
The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a cap with skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush—the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking past this man near the showers. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were! That place was Ravensbruck, and the man who was making his way forward had been a guard—one of the most cruel guards.
Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: "A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!" And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? But I remembered him. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard there." No, he did not remember me. "But since that time," he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,"—again the hand came out—"will you forgive me?"
And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again been forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place. Could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses," Jesus says, "neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart.
But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling." And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust out my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
"I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!" For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then. But even then, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. - - - It was the power of the Holy Spirit."
Next steps in your own life
Please use the form below if you'd like to discuss how peacemaking can help you in your conflicts. Or contact either Elaine or me. We'd be honored to try and give some insight or provide some useful resources and simple steps that might be helpful. Also, plan to be part of our next "Resolving Everyday Conflict" class in a few months. We'll provide an advanced notice to you when class will start if you just use the form below. - - Thank you Jon & Elaine Blankmeyer