I’ve done some bold and amazing things in my life. I’ve traveled the world, fought for my country and adopted several children. I know that the Lord has more amazing things in store for me. As much as I love an adventure and a good challenge, there is one thing that I ashamedly have gone to great lengths to avoid; conflict.
Conflict in life is inevitable. But, I struggle with the risk of hurting someone else’s feelings. I struggle with the risk of being wrong and I struggle with staying calm when I’m so passionate about a specific topic. I like peace in my life and if I had the option, I would choose calm seas over a storm any day.
But the truth of the matter is, that without conflict there is no growth. Without being challenged and learning to speak truth in love, there is no forward momentum in life. Conflict can be the catalyst for change and an opportunity for spiritual growth if we navigate through it using God’s Word. The lack of working through conflict can be dangerous and gives the devil a foothold to use in our lives.
Ephesians 4 gives a great plan for communicating while working through a conflict. I encourage you to read through this with an open heart and choose to apply these 4 rules to your next conflict situation.
#1 Be honest – Ephesians 4:25
“Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”
Putting off falsehood and speaking truthfully are a command from the Lord. Sometimes I wish the verse would also say, “and ignore the situation if it makes you feel uncomfortable.” But, it doesn’t. Speaking truth doesn’t mean speaking your mind. What it means is, matching up your thoughts and viewpoints with scripture and speaking what God has to say about the situation. Speaking truthfully brings glory to God, not to yourself.
#2 Keep Current – Ephesians 4:26-27
“In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
One of the easiest ways for a conflict to go bad is to bring up past offenses. When we feel like we are stuck in a situation with no way out, its oftentimes easier to throw past offenses into the conversation to make the other person angry. This type of conflict can lead to sin. Anger is not sinful in and of itself. But, anger used to hurt another person can quickly turn sinful.
#3 Attack the problem, not the person – Ephesians 4:29
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful to build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
This was a verse that I made myself memorize several years ago. I had a bad habit of attacking “the person” anytime I would have a conflict with my husband. I struggled navigating through conflict and this was an easy way out for me. I’ve since learned the ugliness of what this choice can lead to and have repented and worked hard at applying verse 29 to any conversation I have.
Attacking the problem instead of the person starts with looking at your heart first. It includes acknowledging your inner motives, using Biblical terminology, right thinking and modeling grace. It’s important that as Christians we steward our tongues in all situations.
#4 Act, don’t react – Ephesians 4:31-32
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling, slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Reactions include things like bitterness, wrath, anger slander, clamor and malice. These reactions can easily come when we don’t prepare our minds for conflict and have a desire to be right. Our Genesis 3 nature is to be defensive about dealing with our own sins. But, God calls us to replace these reactions with kindness, a tender heart, and forgiveness.
Moving forward, will you join me in committing to Biblical conflict? This means not avoiding or shutting down during a difficult conversation. It means standing firm on Holy ground and using scripture to arrive at a healthy resolution. Conflict won’t ever be easy, but it can be manageable and even rewarding. Just remember, you can’t change the other person, but you can change how you respond.