You will never have a relationship with another person that is free of conflict. You will always find yourself in moments of disagreement, even in the best of relationships.
Further, unity does not happen because of sameness, because we’re all different. Unity happens because people choose to believe the right things, whereby they think, speak and do the right thing.
People who build real and loving unity do not fight to be right, they fight for what is right…If I am always fighting to be right, then I don’t really care what is right. Instead, what I really care about is being in control. So I will say what I need to say (in whatever way I need to say it) in order to win the argument and get my way. I don’t really care if I hurt you with my words. I don’t really care that God placed you in my life to help me see and learn something new. No, I am satisfied with our communication when I win and I get my way.
Thankfully, God’s Word offers a better way. This way is only a reality as people surrender to the Lordship of Christ, who tells us what is right and wrong.
As individuals who live in a broken world, we will constantly be inundated by conflict that is thrust upon us from some sort of circumstances out of our control or conflict that is brought upon us due to some decision we have made. Interpersonal conflict is a reality and God tells us in Eph 4:15 that we are to speak the truth in love. Tripp says, “the biblical model is always honesty (truth) in the context of a caring relationship (love).” What follows is nine truths that should govern you as you seek to fight conflict rightly:
- Love the other person enough to take time to prepare for the conversation. Laziness will lead to possibly saying something that is driven by the emotions of the moment rather than what you are biblically responsible to communicate.
- Always be willing to listen. As someone who really struggles with disciplining my mind (and tongue) to simply be quiet and truly listen to what the other person is saying this is a monumental truth.
- Approach conversations where conflict has arisen as opportunities to learn, not as opportunities to always “educate” someone.
- Throughout the conversation look for ways in which you could serve the other person. Even amid a disagreement, there are often opportunities for you to encourage, comfort and strengthen the other person.
- At all costs, avoid personal attacks. When has this ever produced a healthy resolution to conflict you’ve had? Furthermore, this is always motivated by pride and God is actively opposed to the proud in heart.
- Seek and ask for forgiveness – from God, from each other – every time your attitude gets out of line. Wow, you say, that sounds like I’ll be asking for a lot of forgiveness?!? My response: then ask for a lot of forgiveness.
- Remember that unity is a process, not an event. I cannot stress this enough. How many times have you purposed in your heart to say and do the things and done that and thought to yourself, “well, that’s settled!” And, by God’s grace, the other person received your words well, only for the same conflict to arise weeks, days or even hours later. There has to be a tenacity in pursuing unity and it’s something that is a process, not an event.
- Related to the previous point is that you do not need to lose heart when the process is slow. Just ask yourself, “are there any areas where you keep coming back to and asking for the Lord’s grace and forgiveness.” The answer is of course! And God continues to forgive and give grace. As a result of God’s posture to you (over the course of a lifetime) you too should exemplify a commitment to unity, no matter how long it takes.
- There will be times where you will need outside help and you should pray for wisdom to acknowledge this and humility to ask for it.
As sinners who desire the world to conform to what they want, conflict is an inevitability. But “by speaking the truth in love – fighting for what is right – peace is possible, though it may not come quickly.”