Though most of us try to avoid it, we witness or experience conflict in our families or relationships, in the workplace, and even in the Church. Healthy conflict and tension, if managed biblically, can bring people together, and God is able to be glorified when resolved.
Conflict is typically distressingly messy. Conflict causes stress, fear, anxiety, anger, and many more overwhelming emotions. Many of us want to run from conflict. Some want to fight it, but then second-guess how we handled it. To find hope in times of conflict, seeing our personal conflicts through the lens of the gospel is key.
The gospel is transformational. It is in Jesus' death, burial and resurrection that empowers us to experience the newness of life so that we can demonstrate the newness of life to those we are in conflict with. No matter if we are experiencing an injustice done to us or an injustice we did to somebody else, the gospel is big enough to encompass the mess.
Here are some truths to remember when navigating conflict:
God's Gospel is Enough
Conflict is typically messy, but it can be beneficial when resolution and restoration occur, and God is glorified. The gospel is big enough for every conflict we are experiencing. We have not surprised God by our broken relationship. Our hope through conflict is based solely on Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who offers an example of how to handle conflict. Our greatest injustice is our strongest opportunity to be Christlike. Our attitude and response can be different from our instincts if we dwell on God's Word and adapt our thinking/response through the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 15: 1-8)
God's Justification is Strong Enough
Conflict tries to steal our identity, which is rooted in Christ. God is righteous and does not advocate sins (that we have done or that is done to us). Conflicts are spiritual attacks wanting to destroy our relationships with others and with God. We must examine our part of the conflict and repent for any sinful behavior. Our relationship with God is the greatest expression of the gospel here on earth to others. We may have injustices or false accusations brought against us (as they did to Jesus), but our identity is in Christ, who intercedes for our salvation and sanctification. (Romans 8:31-34)
God's Spirit is Enough
We can discover grace and peace through our circumstances.
Conflict can cause us to question our spiritual wellness or sinfulness. If Christ is our Savior, we know how to respond to conflict in a godly way through God's truths. God promises freedom in our conflicts even if we are still experiencing tension or upset. God's divine nature is kindness, goodness, mercy and just.
God is for us. God is for the other person we are in conflict with. Now, let us be a little careful here with these concepts. God is not for our sin, nor is He for the sin done to us. He is a righteous God. God is for us because we have repented of our sin and turned to Him. We should live humble because Jesus humbly lives in is. We may have non-humble responses at times. Repent of that.
Principalities and evil forces are at work wanting to destroy our relationships. The spiritual attack is present to destroy our relationship with God and with others. Why? Our relationship with God and with others is our greatest expression of the gospel here on earth.
Read and proclaim God's Word into the conflict and our private life and the sinfulness of our own flesh. (2 Peter 1:2-4)
God's Love is Deep Enough
Conflict can cause us to feel forgotten by God, but nothing can separate us from His love. If we are living in sin or practicing actions that dishonor God, we need to repent and turn back to Him. His love doesn't give us permission to sin but rather the ability to repent and embrace the gospel.
When we experience tribulation for doing the right thing, keep persevering in Christlike humility, not self-righteousness. We can conquer conflict through Jesus because it is not through our own strength and abilities but through Jesus, who loves us. If we have messed up, spoken evil of someone else, or slandered someone, we need to ask God and the other person for forgiveness. Whether they forgive us or not, that is between them and God. Our choice to do the right thing should not depend on the other person. (Romans 8:35-39)
God's Comfort is Purposeful Enough
God pours out His mercy even in times of conflict. His mercy does not give us permission to dishonor God but to honor Him in our actions and words. Often in times of conflict, we try to find comfort in something or someone else, often telling others about the injustices done to us, hoping they will side with us or vindicate us, but God is all the comfort we need. As we are comforted by God through His Word and prayer, we are able to comfort others who are in affliction or conflict. Even though our willful or ignorant disobedience to Him or our offense to others, God can still bring us comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
If we believe that by encountering God's presence, understanding His character, and remembering our identity in Christ Jesus, we will be able to fulfill our calling to live in peace with others as far as it depends on ourselves. If we believe that the Holy Spirit can transform unhealthy tension and make it healthy through understanding and living out God's Word, we can commit to living as a peacemaker.