There have been times in my life when all I truly wanted was peace. When everything seemed so troubled and confusing that I couldn’t figure out what the next logical step should be and this caused a great deal of turmoil. We’ve all been there. When conflict arises, clarity seems to vanish and confusion, hurt, and resentment seem to take over. Because people, man… people are messed up!
I remember this one study group meeting, when my peers and I were so righteously discussing the political issues of my country – Brazil. We were saying “they should…”, “they are…”, “they don’t…” until my professor asked us to reframe our speech to “we” instead of “they”. Well, that put a dampener on the discussion. All of a sudden, we found ourselves having difficulty to judge and act as if we knew better because now we were implicated in the root of the issues. We were forced to see our share in the responsibility, even if that meant admitting our own corruption in smaller scales or our inability to rise to the occasion and fight back. After switching from ‘them’ to ‘us’, we could no longer solely blame the “other side” for the problems and issues we faced. It’s never easy to come to the realization that conflict, regardless of whether it’s inevitable, is never one-sided – unless you’re Christ, in which case, you’re perfect and this does not apply to you.
The thing about conflict is that it is never easy to go through it and have the courage and willingness to mend it. On the other hand, it’s impossible to live a righteous life if all you do is avoid conflict completely–there’s no truth to that kind of relationship.
When I was little, I was fascinated with King Solomon. I was mesmerized that from all the gifts he could have asked God, he chose wisdom--“Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! 9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1Kings 3:7-9). I remember thinking I would very likely choose something way more tangible or ephemeral and probably, plain dumb. It’s probably still true and that is telling of the condition of my heart in many ways, but the truth is we all fall short of the glory of God. That’s one of the reasons why the stories in the bible are so important, so we know how to properly orient our lives and more importantly, whom to trust in the process.
I believe there are at least two very foundational principles we can learn from Solomon when it comes to the many conflicts we’ll face in our lives. First, like Solomon, we’ve got to know ourselves. We’ve got to search our souls and learn what we lack so that we are clothed in humility and approach God with our requests. Taking inventory of who we are in our core, will allow us to have clarity on what our needs and virtues are. This will also enable us to see others more clearly as well since our eyes would be opened to our great need of the Lord and our hearts would have been infused with the humility and gratitude that accompanies those who see themselves in relation to our glorious Lord. If anything, the realization of his ever-available love and mercy should do something to us. And if we’re being honest, it’s probably smart to recognize early on that we could all use a little more wisdom, especially when faced with conflicts.
Secondly, like Solomon, we’ve got to make the right sacrifices to God when He presents us with the opportunity to grow and the blessings beyond what we deserve— “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies—I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” Then Solomon woke up and realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, where he sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then he invited all his officials to a great banquet.” (1Kings 3:10-15)
Having wisdom allows us to make the proper sacrifices to the Lord and allows us to celebrate his faithfulness and goodness to us through ups and downs. The bible talks about Solomon solving all sorts of conflicts wisely (i.e. 1st Kings 3:16-28) because He knew what to ask for in the first place. That’s the key to the resolution of conflicts, relying on God to provide what we need. Practically that might mean that sometimes our first steps need to be realizing we don’t know what to do, being honest with ourselves and God, and finding out how we can figure out the right and the wrong in a particular situation. Perhaps that means picking up a good book, meeting with our pastor, seeing a counselor, and praying. Once we’ve figured out what the right thing to do is, then it’s time to have the courage to do it.
Dr. Henry Cloud gives us three biblical and helpful guidelines to know how to go about dealing with conflicts wisely. First, identify what kind of situation you’re in and who else is involved. If it’s a wise person, proceed to honest conversation owning your share in the issue and stating your willingness to work towards healing and the mending of the relationship. If it’s a fool, make sure to put in place consequences, so that you protect yourself from resentment and further pain and so that you allow that person to deal with the consequences of their actions, therefore, gaining a chance to learn and grow from it. Lastly, if the situation you’re in and/or the person who’s involved is evil, you’ve got to make sure to cut off their influence and access to you. It is never a wise decision to make ourselves a martyr and a victim of injustice. It’s as honorable and vital to protect and stand up for ourselves as it is to protect and stand up for those who need help. Remember Matthew 22:39! We’ve got to treat ourselves as someone we care about just as we should to with someone else we love. I suppose that can take practice but learning to be a responsible and healthy adult is a tad easier when we study Jesus’ behavior and character. At least we know what we’re aiming at!
Conflict is challenging, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to find out what is in our hearts and to allow ourselves to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Pride can play a huge role in how we respond, but so can humility and wisdom. The bad side of humanity is exposed in us when we are in conflict and all we can see is our hurt, the injustice done to us, or our ideals. We get lost (hopefully temporarily) in our self-righteousness or our simple refusal to admit our wrongdoings and we refuse to forgive – sometimes others, sometimes ourselves. I suppose that as long as we’re safe, honest, and grounded in humility, we’re on the proper mode of being.
Regardless of what the conflict is about, we’re called to do what we possibly can to live at peace with everyone and to remember that revenge belongs to God (Romans 12:18-19). As I said in the beginning, people are messed up. But whenever we think of “them”, we can also think of “us”, in an exercise of faith and humility, trusting that the Lord is faithful to carry to completion the work He began in us and in them and remembering that by the good and healthy love we display for one another “they” will all know we’re Christ’s (John 13:35).
If you missed out on this week's sermon, check it out here.