How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
The psalmist was right. Unity is a wonderful thing but it’s not easy. That’s why God has given so much instruction in His word on How to Resolve Conflict.
When my boys were growing up, they had a talent for disrupting family vacations. Their arguments commonly occurred in the backseat of our car. One rhubarb I have never forgotten erupted after their mother had ordered each of them to stay on their sides of the vehicle. “Keep your hands to yourself and be quiet,” she ordered. A brief silence ensued and then Michael complained that Sean was looking out his window. Then all heck broke loose. I stopped the car and laid down the law. Janet took exception to the harshness I used when reprimanding the boys. I disagreed which made me the recipient of the dreaded silent treatment. And while I reeled from the frost in the front seat, the boys chatted and played in perfect peace and harmony.
Conflicts are like landmines planted along our paths. They can erupt without warning and in unexpected places. In fact, as we saw in the previous example, one explosion can lead to another. Sometimes the flame is extinguished quickly, and in other situations it takes a while for the ice to thaw. But in healthy relationships, healing always takes place. Love prevails.
But where love falters or is nonexistent, conflicts divide and destroy. As Christians, we are expected to rise above our biases, hurt feelings, and differing opinions. And seek to resolve conflict. We are to be instruments of peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers…” (Matthew 5:9) When Jesus told us to love our enemies, He didn’t tell us to expect love in return. Our actions are to be based on the expectations of Christ and not the reactions of others.
(6) To resolve conflict, hold your temper (Proverbs 15:18; James 1:19)
We all have different personalities and some of us are more hotheaded than others. The responsibility, however, is the same. Like I mentioned earlier when calling attention to the fruit of the Spirit. “Self-control” indicates spiritual maturity. It is to apply to all areas of Christian behavior and thinking.
When you blow your top, Satan has you right where he wants you. The spotlight now shines on your unrighteous behavior. Despite your good intentions, you look like the bad guy.
(7) To resolve conflict, exercise patience (Proverbs 15:18)
Yep. “Patience” is another fruit of the Spirit. It’s also a quality of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13. Note the counsel advised in Proverbs 15:18: “…the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” Before a conflict can be resolved, there must be calm. Don’t throw fuel on the fire. Cool the discourse with patience.
Your enemies will attempt to provoke you. Rather than trading insult for insult, pray for patience. Remember, too, you’re not without help in the conflict. “…leave room for God’s wrath.” (Romans 12:19) The Lord honors your efforts to do things His way. If you have done your part to seek a peaceful solution, and you are above reproach in the matter, then God may administer judgement.
(8) To resolve conflict, listen carefully (James 1:19)
Conflict cannot be resolved with only your side of the argument. Listening gains understanding of why the other person thinks and feels the way they do. Sometimes — just knowing you care enough to try to understand their grievance is all that’s needed to come to an agreement. Strive to see things from the other person’s perspective. Do your best to walk in their shoes.
(9) To resolve conflict, speak calmly (Proverbs 15:1)
Speaking calmly results from patience. Calm is vital to maintaining a civil dialogue. Avoid sarcasm. Your tone should be kind, caring, but firm when needed. Let your calm dictate the tone of the argument. Don’t give into their attempts to pull you into a shouting match of insults.
(10) To resolve conflict, speak thoughtfully (James 1:19)
Thoughtful speech is considerate of others. It means that your way is not the only way, nor are your feelings all that matters. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
That brings us to the end of the second devotional on resolving conflict. We’ll continue with How to Resolve Conflict, Part 3 tomorrow.
For more on this topic, check out this article: With Christian Freedom Comes Responsibility
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.