Whether as couples, co-workers, friends or just living life, we all have to deal with conflicts. How can we handle conflict in a way that builds up, brings peace, and pleases God?
From classrooms to living rooms, to playgrounds, to boardrooms, to churches, to presidential villas… to just about anywhere and everywhere, the possibilities of conflicts arising are endless, all it takes is at least two people in one space, as the saying goes: ‘it takes two to tango’. It’s not far-fetched at all to affirm that when it comes to human interactions, conflicts come with the territory!
Consequently, there is no shortage of expert tips on how to manage and resolve conflicts, both within formal and informal settings. And whilst there’s much wisdom to be gleaned from specialists who know their onions, the Christian believer is primarily helped by gaining a biblical perspective on the true source of conflicts.
Desires at War
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” James 4:1-2a
With not much care for “who said what?” or “who did what?”, James cuts right to the chase here – quarrels and fights arise from desires warring within us. Right in the thick of an argument, that may not be the most obvious conclusion, especially when the task at hand is to broker peace as a matter of urgency.
However, looking beneath the surface and beyond the immediate, James’ insight affirms what we probably already know – conflicts, like every other sin, are an inside job. Through slow, unnoticeable series of choices, indulged sinful desires progress to sin and ultimately to death. The seriousness of sin of all kinds requires a potent and long lasting remedy, the type of which we need to help us work through conflicts, not just superficially, but at the very heart of the matter.
An image of the cross gives us a visual aid for two aspects of human interactions originally marred by sin. Lost in our sin, we are estranged both from God, and fellow humans.
For the Christian therefore, resolving conflicts on the horizontal plane (i.e human to human) starts with making peace on the vertical plane (i.e with God) first. The latter reorders our desires and arms us with motivation to pursue reconciliation with the best of intentions – love.
As our journey of transformation progresses, we no longer only seek peace for peace’ sake, neither is maintaining ‘safe relationships’ at arm’s length our goal. Rather, knowing what is at stake, we follow in the footsteps of our saviour, making every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy (Heb 12:14).
A Worthy Goal
Whilst the charge is to make every effort to live in peace with everyone, it bears saying that attaining such ideal may look different from one relationship to another. Following a time of conflict, some relationships may pick up as though there was no glitch, others may take time to heal, while some may not return to what they used to be. What’s crucial in each scenario is to ensure that bitterness does not fester, and our hearts are set on the greater goal of restoration, more so within the household of faith. We have a common enemy on the prowl, who must be firmly resisted; how better do we do that than standing side by side, firm in the faith.
For sure, the ‘cancel culture’ fad of our day is gaining ground, but we march to the beat of a different drummer, and so as much as lies in our power, we strive to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is more to be said about the practicalities of fleshing things out in relation to the timing, wisdom and approach to resolving conflicts, but for now, a thought to ponder may be ‘is there any root of bitterness quietly working its way through the soil of my heart?’.
Sike Osinuga is a Christian woman learning the ropes of being a godly wife and mother, one wobbly step at a time. An erstwhile Telecoms Engineer, she enjoys reading good books and writing. Her passion is to know Christ and to make Him known. She blogs at http://www.thrivebytheword.com”