When the COVID-19 crisis hit, it caused a mixed reaction in relationships. Added time together has helped some people and strengthened some marriages. But others found close relationships more difficult. I’ve heard of several reports of increased quarreling, fighting, abuse, and separation/divorce. And I’m afraid we’ve only seen the beginning of many relational problems connected to the pandemic. Additionally, we’re also living in a time in which people are rightly calling for reform regarding racial equality and justice. Protests have erupted, and more conflicts have ensued.
I take no delight in conflict. Like many others, I prefer peace, unity, and harmony in my relationships. But due to the fallenness of this world, conflict is inevitable (Gen. 3–4).
But this doesn’t mean we’re hopeless. All conflicts don’t have to end in division, rage, or murder. They can lead to positive change. In a day when many are broken by these contemporary conflicts, we need to lift our heads and realize conflict isn’t always a bad thing.
Conflicts = Opportunities
Conflicts are actually opportunities. That doesn’t mean the desired end always happens, but conflicts do give us opportunities to grow and change. This is true for roommates, families, neighbors, churches, institutions, cities, and nations.
The problem comes when we waste our conflicts.
Conflicts are actually opportunities . . . to grow and change.
You waste your opportunity to change when you choose to avoid or attack. These flight or fight responses must be rejected; instead, we must seek to work through the issue in order to experience true peace and flourishing.
This isn’t easy. You’ll have to face the issue (or person) head on—and that might entail some “awkward conversations.” It’ll involve you examining your own heart first before pointing out the other’s faults. It’ll involve honesty, confession, repentance, and practical changes moving forward. This takes a lot of emotional energy. It requires living out the fruit of the Spirit and not fulfilling the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). But it’s worth it. This act of love is for our good, for the other person’s good, and for God’s glory. So while we shouldn’t look for or create conflict, we should see the opportunity to mature in our faith.
Be a Peacemaker
Reconciliation is what Christ came to bring, both on a personal and a cosmic level, through his work on the cross (Col. 1:19–23). Our crucified and risen Lord gives us both the pattern and the power for reconciliation. When we pursue peacemaking, he tells us we’re “blessed” and that such peacemakers are called “sons of God,” for in this work we reflect his character (Matt. 5:9).
But it’s so easy to be a peace-faker or a peace-breaker instead.
Peace-fakers pretend things are ok when they’re not. They remain passive or indifferent, but these reactions don’t bring growth and change, nor do they honor God. One could choose this approach in light of the recent racial tensions in our country. A much better approach would be to have conversations, listen, learn, mourn, and make actual changes in your life, job, church, school, city, or other areas of influence. You would grow in maturity, others would be rightly honored, and God would be glorified by such reforms.
Peace-breakers create conflicts as they’re unable to practice self-control. Relational conflicts arise from internal cravings (James 4:1–3). When passions for either good things (comfort, rest, food, happiness) or sinful things (selfish ambition, jealousy, greed) are unmet, disorder follows.
Peacemakers, however, are characterized by purity, peaceableness, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, fruitfulness, genuineness, and sincerity (James 4:17). These traits are present when there’s a deep satisfaction in the Lord. When one is regularly tasting that the Lord is good, it’s amazing how that affects one’s attitude, conversations, and relationships (1 Pet. 2:1–3).
Peacemakers are characterized by purity, peaceableness, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, fruitfulness, genuineness, and sincerity
Hope for the Hurting
It’s easy to fight or to flee in a conflict. It’s easy to avoid awkward conversations you need to have, or to lose your mind over a relational conflict. It’s easy to avoid seeking help from a trusted friend, pastor, or counselor—and just fume and hold grudges instead. But if, by the Spirit’s power, you’ll pursue forgiveness and reconciliation in your relationships, you’ll grow personally, you’ll help others grow, and you’ll do something that glorifies God.
Jesus Christ gives us the greatest inspiration for pursuing reconciliation, and he also provides the example for doing it.
Jesus Christ has an amazing ability to take an absolute mess of a situation and turn it into a beautiful display of transformation. He shows his reconciling grace to broken people and restores them. He will not break the bruised reed (Isa. 42:3). He restores the wounded so they can be fruitful and can flourish. The Savior is gentle, and he provides rest for the weary. One day our Prince of Peace will usher in total peace. Until then, let’s show the world what our King is like and what kind of kingdom we belong to as we embrace his words: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).
The author of this article has a new book on conflict and conflict resolution, Christ-Centered Conflict Resolution: A Guide For Turbulent Times.