I just completed a course that stretched me more than any other this academic year, a leadership course about managing conflict. This course was particularly challenging because I have a tendency to avoid conflict in my personal life. In my periods of avoidance, I do not always take the time to make the righteous Christian responses like praying for my enemies and those who despitefully use me (Matthew 5:44) or consider the ways of others as more important than what I want or desire (Romans 12:10, Philippians 2:3).
Nope. I have a tendency to ignore the small issues in hopes that they will go away. (They never do.) So, what normally happens is a root of bitterness will grow in my heart (Hebrews 12:15), and then I have a desire to defend myself. At the end of the conflict, I want to win. All of the scriptures about vengeance is mine says the Lord, and God will fight my battles, go out of the window because I can clearly handle the issues better than God can.
There is nothing righteous or Christian about any of that, and I am certainly not proud about this reality. I told you that the class was hard and that it stretched me. So this is my confession of the truth; before this class, I rarely saw conflict as an opportunity to glorify God. I only saw conflict as something that hindered whatever it is that I wanted to do. Conflict was about me and not about God at all.
To get to the heart of that matter, it was important for me to take a step back from my personal issues and see that conflict was not a part of God’s original plan for his human creation. Conflict was introduced as a consequence of The Fall, mankind’s original sin against God (as recorded in Chapter 3 of Genesis). After that sin, we see the “blame game” come into affect – Adam is against Eve, Eve is against the serpent (Satan’s agent of choice), and all three of them are against God.
Conflict presents a deception that I am at war against another person, when the reality is that conflict reveals that we are constantly engaged in a spiritual battle between God and Satan. Therefore as Christians we, especially the leaders, should always be vigilant to see when Satan is at work among us, in our most intimate relationships, and even in the church.
In wrestling through these issues, I was reminded that conflict gives us opportunities (James 1:2-4) to:
1. Glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31),
2. Serve other people (1 Corinthians 10:32-33),
3. Grow in Christ likeness (Romans 8:28-29, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Matthew 4:1-11), and
4. Grow in spiritual maturity (Galatians 5:22-26)
We’ll talk some more about conflict on next week. Let’s begin the discussion here, “How do you approach conflict?”
© Natasha S. Robinson 2011
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