Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Resolving Conflict

There are numerous examples in the Bible of situations where people did not get along. Start with Cain and Abel and work your way through to David and King Saul, then Job and his friends. The fact is, we live and work every day with people, and sometimes two people do not see eye-to-eye on things. The question is how we as Christians should handle it. How should we behave? For the answer, I refer back to 1 Corinthians 13.
Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn't selfish or quick tempered. It doesn't keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails! (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 CEV)
Love is hard. When you love someone, truly love them, you will do anything for them, anything to resolve conflict. But the problem is, we tend to go by our feelings in the matter; we become defensive, and instead of following the way of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13, we do what our flesh wants to do.

The apostle Paul constantly prayed that the church would walk in agreement. In Philippians 1:27 he said, "...that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." And in Colossians 2:1 he used the phrase "being knit together in love" when speaking to the church of Laodicea. He knew that it was important that everyone in the congregation work together. If you really want to see how important it was, then do a word search in the New Testament on the word "peace". It's everywhere! I especially like 2 Corinthians 13:11.
Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
Be of one mind. Live in peace. That about sums it up. Doesn't it?

But where people's feelings are concerned, I know it's much harder than that. And what if your particular conflict is with someone not of like faith, someone in your workplace, someone who is perhaps not saved, or not walking closely with Christ? That changes the dynamics, I know, but not your response to it. The scriptures are still the same.

Someone in every conflict has to be the "bigger" person. When a Christian is involved, I believe the Christian needs to take that role. We need to always reflect Christ's message. However, sometimes the resolution to a problem might be in giving more space between two parties. I remember in high school having to distance myself from people because they were not "good" for me at that time. I believe there is wisdom in that.

In Mark 4, we are given a list of things that will "steal the Word" from our hearts.

have no root in themselves (verse 17)
affliction or persecution (verse 17)

cares of this world, deceitfulness of riches (verse 19)

lust of other things (verse 19)

These things will cause God's Word to not become fruitful in our lives. We must therefore guard against them. I believe the most powerful passage about this is found in Galatians 5.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1)

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
(Galatians 5:9)

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:13-16)
Notice from verse 1 that Paul says "entangled again". We are only "entangled again" when we return to something we have been set free from. Also notice from verse 9, that it only takes "a little" leaven for the whole situation to be affected. There is no half-solution, one foot on either side of the fence. Finally, in verses 13-16, he points out that the true answer is to always walk in the Spirit because the final result of continued conflict is always becoming "consumed". I have been there, I have felt like something was consuming my every moment. It was at those times that I knew I had to stop, forgive, and move on.

Read now with me further into Galatians 5.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
(Galatians 5:22-24)
The contrast here is made plain. First, we are given another list of fleshly things. In the middle of that list you see "wrath" and "strife". Then, we are given a list of godly things. If we react in our flesh, we will not "inherit" the things of God - things like His presence, His wisdom, His protection, even His blessings. We must therefore strive to find the solution through God's reactions, those in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and those in Galatians 5:22-24.

I once heard a preacher say, "The nose doesn't always have to associate with the armpit." By this, I think he meant that sometimes the simplest answer is to remove yourself from that situation. We must walk in love, but we do not have to always spend our every waking hour with that person either.

We should, however, always pray for the other person. The Bible says "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matthew 5:44) This is what we should do. However, do it with some space. Be kind. Walk in love. But from a distance. Find a godly friend, someone who always lifts you up, to spend your time with and move on.

Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

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