I believe that it is safe to say, “Most Americans would rather avoid conflict than address issues.” I think that it is just part of our human nature that finds it easier to avoid issues and “maintain the peace.” The challenge is that conflict that is avoided hardly ever resolves itself, it seems to grow worse. The Bible is filled with reminders on this like “let not the sun go down on your anger.”
I was recently reminded of this truth will reading in the Old Testament. God’s instructions from Moses in Leviticus 19:17 reminds us to deal with issues with this advice: ““You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.” (Leviticus 19:17) It was impressed with the three practical truths revealed in our verse. First, we are reminded to not allow hate to take up residence in our hearts. Many year ago I adopted the saying from another, “Bitterness, which is a form of anger, is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die!” There is a powerful message in this poignant statement. It is a reminder to protect our hearts. Solomon admonished his son when he said, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) When there is anger in your heart just about everything in your life is broken.
The third statement reminds us of where unresolved issues take us, to sin. The verse quoted above from Ephesians 4:26 reminds us, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” I like this verse because it teaches that anger is not sin, but what we do with our anger. Paul is pointing out that there is a big difference when you take control over your emotions and when you let them control you. One of the greatest releases for anger is spending time with God, especially in prayer. The Psalms offer a wonderful balm of healing for the angry heart. David takes us through the process of working through the wrongs of life and entrusting them to God. We are also reminded that when we give our challenges to God, He is able to transform our perspective on the situation!
The second statement in our verse reminds us to do the hard thing and address the issue(s). I have allowed the “elephant in the room” to destroy more events than I would like to admit. But I have learned that issues do need to be addressed. God reminds us through Moses, “but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor.” The thought behind “reason frankly” is to put the cards on the table. I want to point out that your goal in addressing the issue will have a huge impact on whether the situation is resolved. If your goal is to be right, acting as a prosecuting attorney, you will find a defense attorney sitting across the table from you. But if it is to restore the relationship, by acknowledging your shortcomings, almost always you will a find willing partner across from you.
Now, while it would be nice, not every conflict can be resolved here on earth. Yet, is does not mean that we should not do everything in our powers to attempt to work things out. Besides, if we never try, we will never know what God can do. Let me encourage you to be a person committed to conflict resolution!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson