“Parking lot. After school. You . . . and me.” I laughed off her words, but I couldn’t stop myself from trembling. How did we get to this point? How had I let our conflict go this far?
It was my junior year of high school, and I had been accused of flirting with another girl’s boyfriend. As I reflect back on that time, I must admit two things. First, there was some truth to her claims, and secondly, I didn’t handle the conflict between us well. Instead of admitting that I was in the wrong, seeking forgiveness, and working towards reconciling that relationship, I denied any wrong doing, played into the drama, and soon found myself bracing for a brawl in the student parking lot.
Not all of the conflicts we find ourselves in will lead to a brawl in the parking lot, but it’s important to understand how God instructs us to handle ourselves when we’ve been wronged or when we have done wrong to others. In the book of Romans, Paul encourages us,
“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18 (AMP)
This verse shares two things that are worth noting. First, God’s desire is for us to live at peace with everyone. Secondly, it says “as far as it depends on you.” That tells me that to live at peace with everyone is going to take some action on my part. Am I going to find myself in conflict with others? Yes. But, the struggles within that relationship should never start with me. In all of our relationships, whenever possible, we need to be taking active steps towards peace.
As we begin to look at how God instructs us to do this, there are a couple of things we need to remember. First, God calls us to be set apart. 1 Peter reminds us to,
“Be holy in every aspect of your life, just as the one who called you is holy. For it is written, ‘You must be holy, because I am holy.’”
1 Peter 1:15-16 (ISV)
As believers, God calls us to be holy, to be set apart, and to live our lives in a way that His presence within us cannot be denied. And, as believers, the ways in which God calls us to handle conflict are vastly different from the way the world does. The book of Romans says,
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
Romans 12:2 (MSG)
Most people look to the entertainment industry or social media as a guide for handling conflict. We, however, are to look to God’s Word as our guide. His Word teaches us how to handle the conflicts we will find ourselves in and the steps we need to take to move towards peace.
So, where to we start? We’re going to start by taking a hard look at ourselves and what leads us into conflict with others. The word “conflict” actually comes from the Latin word “conflictus” which means “to strike together”. It conveys a sense of struggle, a battle, a clashing of opposing principles. Conflict occurs when we find our own thoughts or actions are in direction opposition of the thoughts or actions of another. This realization tends to stir ugly emotions within us, and reveals something important . . . the condition of our heart. James asks,
“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
James 4:1-3 (NLT)
We often find ourselves in conflict because if we’re honest, our motives are usually not pure. Deep down, we’re selfish; we want things to always go our way. We’re prideful; our perspective is the only one that matters. We’re impatient; we rush ahead without thinking and without taking the time to consider if our way is the best way. We allow anger and bitterness to settle into our hearts and becomethe lens through which we choose to view our circumstances. To put it bluntly, conflict reveals our true selves. And at least for me, it’s not pretty. Scripture tells us,
“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10 (MSG)
There is nothing that we can hide from God. He examines our hearts and sees the truth behind every thought we have and every action we take. He knows the ways in which we struggle, and He knew we would find ourselves in conflict with others. He knew that we would need His guidance to navigate our relationships in this world. And, that brings us to our first step.
The first thing we need to do to move towards peace is to identify if we are the offended or the offender. Has someone wronged us or have we been the one to wrong another? When conflict rises, our first instinct is to jump on the defensive and deny any wrongdoing on our part. But, it’s really important to pause and ask yourself what part of this conflict is yours to own. Is this conflict a result of your words or actions? Jesus said,
“How can you say to your brother, ‘Oh, brother, let me help you take that little speck out of your eye,’ when you don’t even see the big log in your own eye? What a hypocrite! First, take the log out of your own eye. Then you’ll be able to see clearly enough to help your brother with the speck in his eye.”
Luke 6:42 (VOICE)
Before we go on the defensive and place the blame solely on another, we need to be asking ourselves for what part we are responsible. If we are the one who has wronged another, God’s Word is very clear on what we are to do. In Matthew, we find these words:
“Therefore, if you are bringing an offering to God and you remember that your brother is angry at you or holds a grudge against you, then leave your gift before the altar, go to your brother, repent and forgive one another, be reconciled, and then return to the altar to offer your gift to God.”
Matthew 5:23-24 (VOICE)
If you are responsible for your conflict with another, go to her, admit you were in the wrong, seek forgiveness, and try to make things right. Far too often, our pride keeps us from admitting we’re wrong. We get so consumed in our thoughts about ourselves and what makes us feel comfortable that we neglect to remember how God has called us to live.
“In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”
Psalm 10:4 (NIV)
And, isn’t that the truth? When we are focused inward, we are unable to see the hurt or pain our actions may have caused. When we are focused inward, we are unable to see where God may be leading us. If we are unable to see where He is leading, how can we follow? If you have done something wrong to another, swallow your pride, and go and make things right.
But, what if you are the one who has been offended? What if someone has done wrong to you? That’s harder to swallow isn’t it? If someone has done wrong to you, the first thing God asks of you is to pray. Matthew tells us:
“You have heard people say, ‘Love your neighbors and hate your enemies. But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends. If you greet only your friends, what’s so great about that? Don’t even unbelievers do that?”
Matthew 5:43-47 (CEV)
When someone has hurt us, praying for them is the very last thing we feel like doing. But, it’s the most important thing we can be doing. When we bring someone in prayer before God, it’s not in an effort to change that person or to call down judgement on her. That’s God’s job. No, when we take someone to prayer, it ends up being for our benefit. We are the ones changed. God can soften our heart towards that person, allow us to see that person through His eyes, and help us move towards forgiveness. Now, you might be thinking, “Whoa! Do you see what she did to me? Do you see the pain she has caused? She does not deserve my forgiveness.” Actually, she does. Ephesians tells us to,
“Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32 (AMP)
We are to forgive because we are forgiven. We did not deserve God’s forgiveness, but He gave it freely because of His loves for us. And just as He daily showers us with love and compassion, He calls us to do the same with those who rise against us. Be kind. Show compassion.
Lysa Terkeurst says that each of us has an underbelly, a place deep within us where we store all of our hurts and disappointments. When we find ourselves on the receiving end of an offense, we can easily forget that we are not the only ones with an underbelly. The offender has one as well. She has deep hurts and disappointments. Her harsh words, her prickly exterior, her hurtful actions . . . what if their only reason for existence is to hide and protect the areas where she feels so very vulnerable? The world will tell you that she deserves your hatred, but what she truly needs is your compassion. She needs your forgiveness.
“God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you.”
Colossians 3:12-13 (CEV)
Forgiveness is not always easy, but something God has called us to do. Who has God placed on your heart to forgive? What steps do you need to take to move towards peace?
Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 15 Mar. 2021.
Dictionary.com.. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/conflict?s=t Accessed 13 Mar. 2021.
“Examples of Biblical Conflict Resolution Activities.” Grace In My Space, Living and Designing in Grace.21 Oct. 2019. https://graceinmyspace.com/examples-of-biblical-conflict-resolution-activities/. Accessed 13 Mar. 2021.
Online Etymology Dictionary. https://www.etymonline.com/word/conflict. Accessed 13 Mar. 2021.
Stratton, Carol. “What Does It Mean to Pray for Your Enemies?” Christianity.com. https://www.christianity.com/wiki/prayer/what-does-it-mean-to-pray-for-your-enemies.html. Accessed 16 Mar. 2021.
Terkeurst, Lysa. Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Grand Rapids. Zondervan. 2012.
“What Does the Bible Teach About Conflict Resolution?” Compelling Truth. https://www.compellingtruth.org/conflict-resolution.html. Accessed 15 Mar. 2021.
“What Does Romans 12:18 Means?” BibleRef. https://www.bibleref.com/Romans/12/Romans-12-18.html. Accessed 13 Mar. 2021.