“I tried apologizing, but we ended up arguing and we are worse off than before!“
“She said she was sorry but it wasn’t sincere so I called her on it. We ended up raging at each other and parting ways without any resolve.”
Why don’t these kind of skirmishes resolve easily? What’s happening between two people who love God, that keeps them from being able to work through conflict? I’m talking about what I would call entry-level conflicts: “He said something mean.” “She treated me disrespectfully.” “He made a mistake and he doesn’t want to apologize.” These people aren’t arch enemies. They are brothers and sisters in Christ and in community with each other. They’ve run into the inevitable surfacing of flaws buried in all of us. Ugh.
This conversation has many fronts to explore if we are going to try to understand what’s happening to us. Here are three things to ponder with the Holy Spirit, that might move us toward getting unstuck in conflicts with our spiritual siblings.
Firstly, the western Church exists having created a culture of consumerism that makes it extremely easy to cut your losses with a church family and go find another. That’s akin to two people entering marriage with a handful of nullification-clauses in their pocket. It means that when things get hard, one of the core thoughts is, “Do I want to stay in this relationship in the first place?” If you don’t think that impacts conflict resolution, think again.
Secondly, technology affords me the option of “doing church” online and in my jammies. This is a genuine gift for people who are truly shut-ins, but it’s an all too tempting reason to isolate for the rest of us. It’s also a fabulous way not to deal with difficult spiritual siblings or have to face a problem you might be responsible for creating. This stay-at-home-option has lured many Christ followers into viewing gathering with a church family as a convenient non-essential. Armed with a consumer mind-set it becomes a motivation killer with regards to conflict resolution.
Lastly, I’m pretty certain we don’t know what the Lord requires of His children when conflicts arise. Our pervasive Biblical illiteracy leaves us in the dark at a time with when we most need concrete direction to know how to problem solve with another person. And honestly, too often we prefer to remain ignorant, afraid of what it would cost us to reach for healing.
What to do! You and I must face the hard reality that we are responsible to do everything within our power to be at peace with those around us. The Lord is not hiding information from us, nor is He leaving us without clear direction. Why not open up 1 Corinthians 13 and ask the Lord to teach about the command to love and what that love looks like? How about a look at the early Church in the book of Acts and asking for fresh insight into how integrated the lives of the early believers were. Or how about opening the book of 1 John and asking the Spirit to bring illumination about the perils of harboring hatred in our hearts? Having the living God within us, we are abundantly resourced to learn and grow!
How much does it matter that we get on a healthy side of conflict resolution? Well, if unsaved people know we are true followers of Jesus by our love for one another, then reaching for and maintaining health within the family of God is an imperative. It’s non-negotiable. The VERY good news? Healing and wholeness are ours for the asking (at least on our side of the conflict). So let’s start asking. The Helper eagerly awaits.
We’ve Got This In Him!
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling
to which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another in love,
eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit
in the bond of peace.