How do you respond to conflict? Specifically, that everyday, interpersonal type of conflict you might encounter with a friend, roommate or spouse? As sinful human beings, most of us tend to respond to conflict with a "fight" or "flight" response—we engage (usually poorly) or we run. Both can be sinful and can feed our belief that conflict is entirely negative. But through all my years of avoiding conflict, here’s what I’ve finally learned—conflict is inevitable and it isn’t all bad.
As Christians, we have an opportunity to choose something other than the “fight” or “flight” response—we can choose grace. If handled biblically, conflict presents an opportunity for confession, repentance and peace. God will use it for our sanctification and His glory.
Conflict can lead us to confess.
If we claim that we are free of sin, we are lying to ourselves. Before we begin taking steps to resolve conflict, we must get the log out of our own eye. What is the real sin hiding underneath my sinful behavior? Is it pride, idolatry or spiritual adultery? We need God to see our sin clearly because we are prone to rationalize and deny, to fight or flee. Conflict teaches us to take responsibility for our sin, confess it to God and trust His forgiveness.
Conflict can lead us to repent.
God’s kindness leads us to repentance as we reflect and confess sinful behavior and an unhealthy heart. Repentance is a gift from God, and it is also a choice. When our hearts are grieved by our sin in conflict, God is faithful to bring us to the knowledge of the truth—both in the situation and in His character—so that we can walk in true repentance and healing.
Conflict can lead us to peace.
God is so serious about our sin and reconciliation with one another that He commands us to leave worship and go to our sister or brother (Matt. 5:23–24). Confess your sin and if possible, so far as it depends on you, pursue peace and live reconciled. This is our biblical responsibility in conflict—to go, speak with love and pursue peace—because with each step, we are imitating our God who never stops pursuing, never ceases to love and never runs out of grace.
Because of Jesus’ blood, we are forgiven. And as forgiven people, we can forgive. That is our great opportunity in conflict, to forego desiring retribution or penance, offering grace instead. And if it takes seventy times seven, to God be the glory.