Most of us dislike conflict! It is something that we try to avoid, if at all possible. Our dislike often leads us to ignore it, or attempt to minimize what has happened. The danger of this approach of “Conflict Avoidance” is that it results in significant consequences. We should not be surprised that followers of Jesus are encouraged to be urgent in resolving conflict.
This past week, in our sermon series “Let God Use Me,” we were moving through 2 Samuel 13 and I titled the sermon “Learning to Resolve Conflict.” It is a very difficult passage that deals with the rape of Tamar by her step-brother. It is a situation where the conflict is ignored by the father and swept under the rug by Tamar’s brother Absalom. The consequences of conflict avoidance seen in the passage remind us of the repeated Biblical admonition to deal with conflict with urgency. Conflict avoidance only leads to greater conflict and turmoil. You can listen to the message here.
Our natural tendency is to avoid conflict. Now a person that enjoys or pursues conflict has a problem. But those of us that avoid conflict only make things worse. Conflict resolution is one of those relational practices that we must develop as followers of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul reminds us that the urgency to resolve conflict is because of the value of relationships. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:25–27)
Let’s look at a couple observations from this passage. We are called to practice Godly transparency. It means that we put away falsehood. It also means that we speaking the truth in love. Now this is not about emotionally vomiting on another person. It is about revealing ourselves through honesty with others, even when it might not be well received. I also see an emphasis on treating others the way that we would want to be treated.
Second, we are called to control our emotions. Our culture provides us with many unbiblical excuses for venting our anger. Yet this God given emotion, if handled the wrong way, leads to sin. Our anger will destroy us and our relationships with others if not controlled. Our anger is often manifested in two ways: the first is the explosive type of anger and the second is the slow burn, covert type that focuses on settling the score. Both types of anger inflame conflict rather than resolve it. The end result is that the cycle of conflict continues.
Third, we are reminded that God places a time limit on harboring anger. We are reminded to deal with issues before the end of the day. The urgency to resolve conflict stops it before matters grow worse. Think about how the conflict in your life escalates the longer that it goes. We are reminded that the Devil uses this to destroy God’s people and God’s work. When you resolve conflict you close the door on the devil’s influence!
Yes, conflict resolution is difficult but it is worth it. You can not have a deep and growing relationship with anybody without dealing with conflict Biblically. Jesus reminds us that conflict resolution is a priority before worship! “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” ( Matthew 5:23–24 )
-Pastor Joe Parkinson