It’s inevitable. If you live and interact with other sinners, you will experience conflict.
Conflict shouldn’t scare you or be avoided like the plague. In fact, conflict can be very good. It’s a significant way that God works in our lives, and the Bible is a book about God entering into conflict to save us.
So why are we afraid of conflict? Because it tends to get very ugly, very quickly. Our typical response s to point the finger at our opponent: “I did that because you…” or “I wouldn’t be so angry if you…”
Meanwhile, James says the opposite: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1, ESV)
If we want to engage in God-honoring conflict in the heat of the moment, we need to look at our hearts, evaluate our responses, and ask the Lord for his help. Here are some suggestions:
1. Identify what drives ungodly conflict in your life.
What tends to be at the center of most of your conflict? Is it acceptance, power, control, recognition, comfort, pleasure, or being right? Each instance of ungodly conflict will allow you to see an idol of your heart.
2. Recognize your default strategy when conflict arises.
Most of us have a default strategy that we use to get what we want. Do you love to fight because you have to be right? Do you avoid confrontation because you don’t want people to disapprove of you? Do you flee from potential conflict because you don’t like uncomfortable situations?
3. Engage in sadness and celebration.
When God reveals what you selfishly live for and how you sinfully try to get it, you can start to grow in repentance and faith. You want to be brutally honest and saddened by your sin, but you also want to be ardently celebratory about what Christ has done for you on the cross and the reality of change made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.
4. Consider the other person involved in the conflict.
As the grace of God reclaims your heart, ask questions about what it will practically look like to engage in God-honoring conflict. 1 Thessalonians 5:14—18 provides some help.
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV)
There are certain times to warn, other times to encourage, and other times to help the person with whom we are in conflict. We are always called to be patient and forever renounce revenge.
Most importantly, God-honoring conflict is always rooted in worship. If we are not worshiping the Lord and keeping him first in our lives, we will fail miserably and do more to harm people than to help them.
No one ever said that conflict would be fun, but “fun” is not the most important thing to Jesus Christ. His kingdom plan involves a total restoration of what he has made, and right now, he is using conflict to work out this comprehensive plan in you.
1. When was the last time you experienced conflict that turned ugly or was not God-honoring?
2. What was the source of the conflict? Notice the temptation to blame the other party initially but consider James 4:1. What “passions” caused you to start the battle or enter into it?
3. What idols of the heart did this conflict expose? Have you taken steps to fight this idolatry since?
4. Examine 1 Thessalonians 5:14—18 again and identify the one area that you need help with the most. How will you seek the Lord and his grace for it this week?