My husband and I were very grateful to have had the chance to attend a Peacemakers seminar with the Christian and Missionary Alliance this week. It was an all day seminar taught by Rick Stein about how the Gospel invites us to see conflict differently than the world teaches us to see it. The question isn’t IF conflict will come, because I can tell you right now, it will. It will keep coming. It comes in our families, in our churches, at work, and in our community. We live in a fallen world. So the question is WHEN it comes, how will you respond?
Rick explained that there are three types of responses to conflict: Peace-faking, peace-breaking, and peace-making. Our natural response is one of the first two. Eighty percent of us are peace-fakers (myself included). We will cover up our hurts and the root issues because we want to avoid confrontation, or because it’s just easier to run from the conflict than to have to face it. But we have mastered what it looks and sounds like to be a peace-faker and to convince everyone around us that we are doing great. Eighty percent! That’s a lot of us, people…The other twenty percent of us are peace-breakers (my husband falls under this category). These people are chargers and are not afraid of the conflict. They might want to “duke it out” with their words to try to get the conflict resolved, when in reality they may just be trying to get the other person to agree with their opinions, not actually resolving the conflict. Both sides of the spectrum are dangerous and unhealthy solutions. So what do we do?
The Gospel invites us to press into the conflict to be a peace-maker. Not a runner, and not a charger. Why?
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
God invites us into unity so that the world will know Jesus! What did Jesus pray for at the last supper (John 17:20-23)? For unity! When we are so weighed down by peace-faking or peace-breaking, we are either just avoiding the conflict or creating even more disunity by not lovingly approaching the person that hurt us. God invites us to step into that space, to help point each other back to God! To, in love, help point them first to their vertical relationship with God so that we can secondly mend the horizontal relationship. Did you notice the key words there? In Love. We can not approach conflict as a charger or as a victim. It will not resolve anything. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)
Our pastor started a new four-part series this past week on conflict where he covers this topic in even more depth and clarity than I did. If this blog struck a chord at all in you, I recommend listening to his sermon here. To become a peace-maker takes the strength of the Holy Spirit in you, but you can do it! Fight the worldly tendencies, and open your heart so that the world may know Jesus. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).