When we look at conflict as Christians, we often believe Christians need to be pacifiers that ignore problems and ensure stability to we maintain the peace. Our life as a Christian is successful if no one gets upset by what we say or do?? Is this really the truth? If we look at the life of Jesus, He actually demonstrated the opposite. He came to disrupt false peace .... the false peace presented by the disciples, religious leaders, Romans and even the people in the Temple. We could quite rightly say that conflict was central to His mission. If this is the case, how should we view conflict and why?
A major issue is that when we try to keep the peace through any means, we not only create an unstable base for our relationships as they are based on lies, we live in a state where we are not walking in integrity. We sacrifice what we believe to achieve peace. This not only is damaging as we experience what is known as cognitive dissonance and we suffer as we are not walking in what we believe to be true.
The second major point is that the true peace that we can have through Christ's Kingdom cannot come through lies and pretences. We cannot live a life where we pretend what is wrong is right. To have peace we need to not only know the truth but to be able to convey this truth in a way that is in love and that each person is able to speak and be heard. Through positive and healthy conflict we can expose lies to the light and replace these lies with the Truth.
So when exploring the issue of conflict, the real issue is not the conflict and whether conflict is right or wrong. In fact, conflict is critical and essential if we are going to be healthy and well-balanced followers of Christ. The problem, therefore, is becoming skilled in how we process and negotiate our differences in love and humility. Being a peacekeeper brings instability, but when we purposefully embrace conflict as an essential process that needs to be used to get to that place where we can have true peace. True peacemaking often comes through conflict.
When Jerusalem fell, Daniel was taken as a slave to Babylon to be trained for leadership. The goal of the king was to totally remove their faith and culture and replace it with his own. We read, though, that Daniel and his friends made a conscious choice right from the beginning to be in the culture (they had no choice) but not be consumed by the thinking and ways. They continued to worship God, to put Him first and live the way that pleased God. Because of this, God gave them knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. Daniel could understand dreams and visions. By reading this account we can see how Daniel and his friends decided to resolve the conflict that came with their choice to honour God.
8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 9 Now God had brought Daniel into the favour and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. 10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.”
11 So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.” 14 So he consented with them in this matter and tested them for ten days.
15 And at the end of ten days, their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. 16 Thus [c]the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink and gave them vegetables.
17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Daniel 1:8-17
Instead of making demands, Daniel very skillfully dealt with the conflict by speaking about his concerns and ensuring that he could start by trialling the new way of eating and then as it meant that both he and his friends were healthy after the experiment they were allowed to continue. They did not accept that eating the food offered to idols was something right so they entered a place of conflict so they could walk in what was right. As a result, God greatly blessed them.
So how can we resolve conflict maturely and eliminate all "dirty fighting" tactics? How can we take responsibility for difficult issues and not become victims? In the Emotionally Healthy Relationships Course, we are shown that the first thing is that we need to do is recognize that our families of origin have moulded us in how we view and handle conflict. Not ruffling anyone's feathers, being nice and making sure everyone is happy are ways of thinking that stop true peace. Jesus brought disruptions, did not avoid conflict or appease people or ignore tensions but skillfully brought the truth in love and allowed the other people to live in the truth or walk away. He taught us that true peace can only come through revealing what is wrong and living in the truth. The chart below shows whether you are fighting fairly or not.
In the emotionally Healthy Relationships course, there are 8 steps for fighting cleanly:-
(Speaker starts and the listener just repeats what the speaker is saying to show that they have listened)
Stage the problem. "I notice...."
State whey it is important to you. "I value .. because..."
Fill in the following sentences: "When you .... I feel ..."
State your request clearly, respectfully and specifically. Include details including times and dates.
Considers the request. Briefly shares their feelings and perspective on it.
Are you willing to do all, part or none of it?
Agrees on the request or modified request or offers an alternative. Keep negotiating until there is an agreement up to three times.
Write your agreement down and plan to go over it in 2-4 weeks.
When writing the blog, I have had the most incredibly tough week with conflict. It has really been tiring, draining and emotionally exhausting. I can sit and write this blog, though, knowing that I am at peace because I have dealt with each situation in love. There are many things still in the air, but I am committed to be blessed as I walk through each conflict in love, but ensure that truth is not discarded to make people happy. Being a follower of Christ means embracing conflict as a natural part of walking in the Kingdom of God. As this is the case, I am committed to learning how to do conflict well and in love. I encourage you to do the same.