“Human conflict is surely a consequence of sin. But not all conflict is sin. … … Peace is something we make, not keep. Conflict is God-purposed. The conflict in your life right now is not a surprise to God, nor beyond His power to work out for good purposes. God allows conflict, perhaps even lead us into it, Images and linksthat we may know His love and trust His peace.” ~ Making Peace, Jim van Yperen
As a mother, when my children come to me with disagreements, it is not sufficient for me to decide on the merits of the situation. There is the additional responsibility to preserve the relationship between the siblings, and to coach them in managing future disagreements. A wise parent would know the hazards of extremes – either sweeping things under the carpet, or meting out harsh punishments at the perils of stirring up resentment between family members. As a mediator, I’ve also encountered many disputes. While disputing parties come to mediators with serious substantial problems to resolve, we have discovered that conflicts arise more often than not from breakdown in communication and deterioration in relationships. It is the mediator’s duty to assist in problem-solving, but real satisfaction comes when warring parties reconcile and walk out with peace of mind, or on some occasions, even friends again.
I think it is fair to say that the world is more adept at peacekeeping than peacemaking. In spite of tremendous human endeavour put into developing the justice system, laws merely regulate our behaviour through reward and punishment. Ultimately, conflict continues to perpetuate and escalate because humanity is more accustomed to the notion of win or lose, this way or that way.
How should the Christian view conflict then? With a sense of dread and despair? To be avoided at all cost? The Bible reveals after all, a narrative of conflict between God and man, and between man and man, right from the Fall in Genesis persisting through to Revelation. For me, there are times when the beauty of the Gospel message is overshadowed by the overwhelming despair and sorrow in all of Scripture. Why do we as believers put our faith in a God that persists in telling us about strife, anguish and even sorrow?
“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24
Man’s choice to succumb to sin results in conflict with God, and with each other. But God modelled for us a solution. In the struggle between sin and righteousness, God provided reconciliation between Himself and man through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. With Christ as the Mediator, imperfect as we are, we are called to reconcile with one another, and to actively mediate conflicts between others. (James 4:1-10, Colossians 3:13, 2 Timothy 2:24).
We, as disciples, are tasked to do this continually to fulfil the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus began. The first task is to join in the ministry to reconcile man to God. But our job does not end there. The second task is to reconcile men to each other. In times of conflict, we therefore prioritize people over issues, choose to heal than to merely yield, and take every opportunity to touch lives. In doing so, the resolution of conflict becomes constructive and purposeful, and reveals the transformative power of Christ.
When Jesus dealt with challenges to his authority, He demonstrated for us wisdom and shrewdness in managing conflict. In Matthew 10:16, He exhorted his disciples to be “like sheep among wolves… be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” We are not called to argue our case cleverly, nor to prove logically that we are right, but we are asked to submit humbly to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
The Christian, out of kinship to a righteous God, is called to model the kingdom of God in an imperfect world. He is expected to be more than a rule-keeper or a law-enforcer (peacekeeper), he is expected to actively mould differences into commonalities and influence people towards righteousness and submission to God (peacemaker).
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”. Matthew 5:9
“Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness”. James 3:18
By Linda Leong (YCKC Bulletin 25&26 May 2013)