Dear church family,
Last weekend, at Easter, we paused to remember that Christ died to resolve the greatest of all conflicts: our hostility towards God and God’s (just) anger towards us.
I wonder if you have ever thought of your (pre-Christian) self as in conflict with God?
From the beginning humanity has been in conflict with God.
All conflict is painful and costly. The human and relational cost of our conflict with God has been incalculable. The result of our conflict with God has had catastrophic and cosmic consequences – both in this life (for everyone), and in the next (for some).
But Christ, who is our peace, came and preached peace to us and reconciled us to God. As a result of his actions we not only have peace with God, but we can also have peace with each other (Ephesians 2:14-16). As we repent to God we experience the peace that is available for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
How grateful we are that God, in Christ, takes the initiative to resolve our conflict and reconcile us to himself and each other!
Yet, sadly even as Christians, conflict is still part of our experience. One statistic that I was very surprised to read recently (from The Gottman Institute) was that 7 out of 10 problems in relationships are ‘perpetual problems’. Our ministries teams (staff and volunteers alike) experience conflict. Even our missionaries experience significant conflict – I understand that one of the biggest heartaches on the mission field is inter-missionary conflict.
Our Christian walk is still riddled with conflict, because we live in the overlap of the ages. We have a taste of the ultimate peace that Christ has achieved for us in this age, but it won’t be fully experienced until the current age that we live in has fully passed away.
As Christians, we have the moral framework and the spiritual resources to deal with conflict well. Recently Ling and I set aside a few hours in the morning, while we were both fresh, to chat through some of our own conflict. It was really, really helpful. We learnt a lot about how the other person approaches things and how we can respond more graciously in the future – but like everyone else, we still have a long way to go.
So how are you going in resolving your own conflict?
Are you in a good relationship with those you attend church with? If you are not, remember Jesus’ words in Mark 11:25 and why not reach out to them soon?
Are you raising kids? Remember to teach them the basics of resolving conflict – “how did I hurt you?”…“I’m sorry for ___”…“I forgive you because Jesus has forgiven me.” It may seem dated compared to other parenting approaches these days, but it is God’s way and is full of wisdom.
Are you considering getting engaged? Great! Have you experienced significant conflict yet? It’s really important to talk about how to resolve conflict in a Christian way.
Are you experiencing conflict in your workplace? It might be quite countercultural to apologise to a boss or work colleague, but cling to Christ and follow his example – 1 Peter 2:23. People are watching and they will take notice.
Are you letting old conflicts dominate a significant relationship in your family – a sibling, a parent, a spouse? Is it time to try a new approach? Why not spend some time in prayer about it. Remember the goal is to make them feel understood, (not solve the problem!) and that often starts with assuming that we haven’t understood them and need to listen.
Even though Easter has come and gone, let’s all keep drawing on the grace of God on display at the cross and with fresh hope in the one who will one day end all conflict, use the strength that he supplies to address our conflict.
As we have sung many times before: “Our sins they are many, his mercy is more.”
Together in Christ,
PS. If you are experiencing significant conflict, please don’t ignore it or think you must suffer alone. We are a big church family, and while each situation is unique there may be others who may be dealing with, or have dealt, with something similar and may be able to help you. Do speak to a trusted friend, your Discipleship Group leader, a ministry staff member, or a professional, if you need help.