Conflict – A Biblical Look

The term conflict invokes mostly negative connotations within secular societies, faith-based communities, and religious organizations. Aside from competitive sports or sanctioned debate, conflict comes with a certain amount of baggage that tends to send those involved into fits of angst or anxiety. Concerning the theological nature of conflict; biblical doctrine provides a much more positive acceptance on this age-old pejorative that gives us all, as persons of faith, a chance to use conflict for the glory of God and the good of humanity. Moreover, the Bible gives us many examples of how to properly respond to conflict while ensuring that we serve God, and each other, with a healthy attitude and proper response.

Although the subject of conflict and the biblical look into how we handle conflict, as believers, is too vast a topic to answer is a simple article, we will look at just one aspect of doctrine: the Sovereignty of God and His relationship to humans during times of conflict. Ultimately sound theology always goes back to God. It is His glory and His worship that should prevail in all situations between human to human struggle; “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36 ESV). Sovereignty is a controversial subject so we will not open that pandora’s box, at least not yet. Suffice it to say that R-Rated Religion holds the position that God has complete and utter sovereignty in all matters, in all situations, and concerning all subjects, and has had this from the beginning of time until the end of time, and beyond. This is important in that it is the theological underpinnings of why we attempt to bring in the triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) to our conflicting situations.

Relating to the character of conflict inherent in scripture; “the Bible teaches that we should see conflict neither as an inconvenience nor as an occasion to force our will on others, but rather as an opportunity to demonstrate the love and power of God in our lives.[1]” We saw this in Genesis with God’s promise to give Sarah and Abraham a child. Sarah’s willingness to force her will over the will of God to bear her a child in old age had a catastrophic effect that still plagues the middle-east, to this day, with hatred and resentment. Think of the generations of conflict spawned from this inability to allow God’s sovereign promise through patience. We must not put our will over that of God’s. Much like suffering, conflict allows God to show us our true nature in congruency with his grace and mercy. When we rush to judge others in times of strife, before allowing God to intervene and mediate, we tend to lose sight of true grace over self-indignation; “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13 ESV).

Pertaining to how we answer these issues, Ken Sande writes: “Conflict provides opportunities to glorify God, to serve others, and to grow to be like Christ. These opportunities, which are sometimes described as being faithful to God, being merciful to others, and acting justly ourselves, are commended throughout Scripture.[2]” Christians need to take these instances of conflict as opportunities to glorify God in all things (2 Corinthians 4:15). Once we do that, we can then realize that this is actually an opportunity to serve one another for the glory of God. This is hard to do but will yield results not normally imagined in our secular society. It is best to view conflict as a means of opening biblical erudition by bringing all members involved into the wisdom and logic of the word of God. We can use scripture to teach and guide ourselves out of strife while enriching our witness and Christlike discipleship.  “Conflict is especially effective in breaking down appearances and revealing stubborn pride, a bitter and unforgiving heart, or a critical tongue. [3]” These issues are at the core of most contentious situations; however, scripture deals directly with all problems giving guidance and understanding to all the parties involved.

This barely scratches the surface of biblical conflict. Look for more articles on this subject as we will circle back on this topic, from time-to-time,  with more in-depth situations and theological topics that relate to strife and acrimony.

In closure, I believe one constant is evidently pervasive throughout the entirety of both testaments; that conflict is inevitable and without cause to distinguish anytime soon. From the first book of Genesis to Revelations, and all the books in between, conflict is continual and ubiquitous. It seems to be at the core of every teaching in scripture. One could conclude that understanding conflict, and its place in our history and faith will better advance one’s understanding of God’s grace in our lives when handling suffering, defeat, and triumph; “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). It is through conflict that we allow God to reconcile our differences; that we can successfully overcome correlated strongholds in the secular world so riddled with strife. So the next time you find yourself embroiled in conflict, with yourself, a loved one, or an enemy, focus on how that brings Glory to God by abiding in His word. It will get you through your trouble one-hundred percent of the time. The Bible guarantees it! 

Footnotes:

[1] Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, 3rd ed. (Baker Books, 2004), pg. 31.

[2] Ibid, 40-41.

[3] Ibid, 37.

Bibliography:

Sande, Ken. The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. 3rd ed., Baker Books, 2004.

 

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