It is natural for conflict to feed conflict. This is observable in every arena of life. The smallest of children will lash out at a sibling that takes their toys and the oldest of adults justify being mean towards someone that hurt them. The results of unmitigated conflict are escalation rather than de-escalation or even better resolution.
The Lord recently brought one verse to my attention, as a pastor, that I believe indirectly challenges every follower of Christ. Now, there is no shortage of instruction on the need to not respond to conflict with conflict. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9). The Bible calls us to an extraordinary response, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”( Romans 12:21). Again God’s Words challenges our natural response to withdraw from conflict, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26–27) The follower of Christ is called to work out each of these verses in their daily lives. But the one that stood out to me is directed at those in leadership positions. “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,” (2 Timothy 2:24)
The challenge of responding to conflict Biblically is that it always goes against our natural person or our old nature. Let me touch on a few insights that stand out to me in this verse. First, mature followers respond to conflict differently. Paul here is speaking to Timothy and by extension to all of us in positions of influence. He reminds us that we must not be quarrelsome. I understand this to be an initiator or aggravator of conflict. The word means to spar, but is not speaking of a physical fight but one of words. Jesus’ brother, James, reminds us that the most difficult part of our bodies to control is our tongue! What a testimony when a mature leader takes the proverbial high road and refuses to wallow in the mud of conflict. It is a testimony because it is a demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
The second, we must be kind to everyone, no exceptions. It is easy to fall into the trap of being kind to those that are like us or that we like. Yet, our lives are filled with people that are different from us. Yes, that person in your life. The Bible reminds us that kindness is treating them the way that Jesus treats me. If you are like me, you are a master at reasoning away what Jesus calls me to do. We are called to demonstrate what makes us different.
Third, we are to work to instruct others. The phrase “able to teach” speaks of engaging those difficult life situations looking for solutions. What we fail to grasp is that conflict is the result of different expectations. A person that is mature in Jesus should be able to engage those difficult situations with the goal of working out a Biblically allowable outcome when at all possible.
Fourth, when all else fails, we must “patiently endure evil.” God is not surprised by those difficult people and situations in our lives. His Word reminds us that we should expect difficulties. And another verse that I have been meditating on reminds us that, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:17)
So the question I am asking you and myself. Will I overcome the conflict in my life today with kindness? Because when we do, we bring a glimpse of heaven to earth.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson