Conflict in Church & Life
The events of the past few months have shown us the damage that can be done by conflict. The government shut down has discouraged, disappointed, hurt, angered, and confused many. But conflict like we witnessed in government is not relegated just to Washington D.C. You may experience it right in your own congregation, friendship circle, business or family. A couple of years ago I reviewed some of the key points in the book “Getting to Yes” by William Ury and Roger Fisher which can be found on my web site at: http://www.wallaceresources.us/GettingToYes.html . Their insights provide great insights into how not to get into destructive situations and, when in them, what to do. Here are three other insights about conflict I would add:
*We are called to act out of love in all that we do. If people did this alone then many conflict situations would be much less damaging and persistent. As you look at your strained relationships are you doing as scripture calls?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love...11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us…19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
I John 4:7-8, 11-12, 19-20
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:20
On the last passage remember that your focus in not to be on the last sentence but the first. Allow God to take care of any coal placing and focus on the loving. How are/can you loving/love the other person(s) as a child of God?
*Notice and tend to the wounds; yours and those of others. Some of us love to act like we are fine and unscathed after a battle when in reality we have taken some deep cuts (describe you?). We can deceive ourselves into thinking that we can “just move on” or “get over it” by ignoring what has taken place or not looking back. Yet healing from conflict usually doesn’t just happen. Instead we need to be intentional about doing repair and finding healing. This takes reflection, prayer, confession, forgiving, accepting forgiveness, and oftentimes acts of restoration.
Likewise, tending to the wounds of others is needed. Whether we caused the wounds or not we need to be agents of health, wholeness, and healing. A few years ago I put together a 25 day devotional journey to confession and forgiveness (http://www.wallaceresources.us/ConfessionDevotional.html & http://www.wallaceresources.us/ConfessionalService.html ). It wouldn’t hurt us and would do considerable good if we would regularly tend to the wounds we have received and given so that healing could come. We can just want to move forward but in order to really move forward sometimes we need to deal with the past. In conflict ask:
“Where is the other person hurting and is there something I can do to relieve that
pain and bring health?”
“How can I interact in a way that doesn’t unnecessarily bring more harm?”
“What wounds of mine might be tinting my perspective or driving my actions?”
*We need to be clear about what we are to achieve. Have you ever fought to achieve a specific item and then found out that the specific item wasn’t really all that important? Instead it was the bigger picture that was what was important. Sometimes we get too into the specifics and lose sight of the larger view of where we are heading. We can fight over unimportant specifics and so block the effort to accomplish the vision. Not infrequently I have seen people (including myself) highlight details too much. This isn’t to say that details are unimportant; they frequently are but most if not all situations have a variety of solutions to them. When we demand only that only certain pathways are to be used, when they aren’t the only valid options, we can destroy possibilities and cause our own defeat. Is there anywhere that you are focusing too narrowly and need to be open to other pathways to reach your goal? Have you asked ‘what are the true non-negotiable specifics and why are they non-negotiable’?
Hopefully we have learned from the recent conflict in our nation and can use this experience to help our nation, congregations and ourselves do better in handling issues. Use the experience not to be partisan but to teach a biblical way to approach disagreement and conflict. Use this moment to reflect on your way of dealing with conflict and to grow in how you do it with love, wisdom and success.