April 30, 2020
Love One Another Through the Conflict
“Conflict” is such a powerful word. It conjures up many different feelings and tapes in our heads, doesn’t it? I wonder if anyone in our Stepping Stones community had a positive thought when they read the word “conflict!” But in today’s scripture, Paul exhorts believers to agree with one another, to love each other, and to work together with one mind and purpose. The attitude and action plan Paul proposes is in opposition to the message about conflict I picked up at home and what was expressed and modeled as I grew up.
Jesus’ last instructions, moments before he ascended to heaven leave no doubt about what the church is to be doing: “And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
If we are to be effective witnesses as Christians, we need to work together with one purpose and one mind – the mind of Christ. Our witness can be hurt … and even destroyed … if pride and self-centeredness consume us. This is often evidenced as bickering, gossip, stinginess, revenge, lack of forgiveness, and other habits that only lead to strife and division. We need to set aside personality conflicts, social differences, cliquishness, and everything else that divides us and keeps us from accomplishing the purposes God has for us and for those to whom we minister on His behalf.
Conflict is obviously more complex than this. I could never provide an all-inclusive analysis and strategy for handling conflict in a single page. The key principle that determines and steers the whole conflict management process is adopting an attitude that says “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” not “my kingdom come, my will be done.” The former builds a rock-solid foundation to continue the conflict management process; the latter forms a shaky and treacherous foundation of sand that promises harm and catastrophe for all involved. The type of foundation you choose steers the process to a fleshly demise or a God-glorifying, life-growing experience.
Many excuses allow us to avoid working through conflict with another person. Don’t fall into the laziness trap. We all have a need for comfort in the face of difficult but important decisions. In the end, avoiding the conflict will be more harmful to you than the temporary uneasiness you’ll feel while trying to address and solve the conflict. Just think of your reality this way: all of your rewarding relationships took big steps forward when you were able to navigate conflicts with those other people. The collaboration, trust, forgiveness, and identification of a shared goal were monumental rewards that began in that conflict.
Today, think of an area in your life in which you are experiencing division with a sister or brother in Christ. Are you putting Christ in the center? My kingdom or Thy kingdom? What are you choosing and why? Your greatest need should be to please God and honor Him, not ease your own discomfort, guilt, or ego. Specifically acknowledge an incident or situation in which you have failed the relationship. Prayerfully examine how pride might be playing a role in the division. Whether you address conflict with a rock solid foundation of wanting to glorify God, or you use a sandy foundation of wanting to glorify yourself, is your decision, so choose well.
My Father and my Lord, Please forgive me for sometimes allowing pride or other wrongful attitudes to lead to division with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Help me to do my part to walk in unity so that I am an effective witness for Jesus, accomplishing what You have called me to do. Help me build courage to withstand the pain, hurt, or anger I sometimes feel in conflicts. I know You can provide more to me in that pain than in the “comfortable” times when I avoid conflict. Help me see conflict ahead of time so I can respond well and address it early to avoid hurting others. I pray this and all prayers in the name of Your perfect witness, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Philippians 2:2
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4