How We’re Learning
By Brenda Pace
Being a Peacemaker
Free from conflict—yeah, right! I sure wish this was or even could be true. Although I have met a few people I’m convinced thrive on it, to be free of conflict this side of heaven is an impossible dream.
A better title for this blog post by yours truly would be: Free from Conflict Aversion. You see, I am a brood of chickens when it comes to conflict. Whether the world, work and ministry, friends, or family, when conflict looks remotely possible my first response is to put my fingers in my ears, shut my eyes tight, click my heels, and pray I’m Dorothy going from Oz back to Kansas.
I may be a peacemaker at heart, but over the years I’ve often camouflaged my aversion to conflict in the cloak of peacemaking. Prayerfully, God has used me to promote peace in spite of myself. However, recently I’ve taken a good inward look and admitted my fear of conflict—as in any way, shape, or form.
I’ve admitted to myself that often my fear of conflict has owned me and kept me from growing emotionally and spiritually.
I’ve asked the Lord to teach me discernment for living and working peacefully with people and not to be afraid to confront or engage in healthy conflict. I’m reminded of the conflict that ensued between Paul and Barnabas described in Acts 15:36-41:
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Selfishness does not appear to be the reason for Paul and Barnabas parting ways. Instead they had a disagreement on their views of how to conduct a missionary journey. In fact, they both continued in an effective ministry, perhaps even reaching more people for Christ as a result of their going in different directions.
Further, 2 Timothy 4:11 indicates Paul reconciled with John-Mark and Colossians 4:10 gives evidence that Paul and Barnabas remained friends. No, conflict does not have to be negative.
How to Be Free from Conflict (Aversion):
- Consider the motive
Conflict is not necessarily negative. What makes it so is the motive behind the conflict. I’m learning to ask myself if the purpose for a conflict is for my or another’s selfish reason such as revenge, self-righteousness, and saving face, or is confrontation necessary for a positive change for higher good.
James addressed motive in his epistle when he wrote, in James 4:1-3, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
- Consider the method
An attempt to resolve conflict with another must first be done privately to combat misunderstanding, rumors, and assumptions. The biblical model of approaching conflict is found in Matthew 18:15-17.
Too often we speak to others about a conflict before we confront the source. The goal is always to resolve conflict quickly with the least amount of damage as possible. This is counter to today’s culture that thrives on conflict with the goal of defeating those who have an opposing view rather than finding a good solution for all.
- Consider the outcome
I’ve experienced the joy that comes from a resolved conflict and I’ve experienced the heartache that comes from an unresolved conflict. When I consider the outcome, I’m motivated to overcome my aversion to conflict and take the steps toward peace.
The reality is that peace is not always up to me. I make myself vulnerable when I engage in conflict, but I must be willing to live out the words of Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
What do these scriptures teach about conflict?
Outcome—Romans 14:19/Ephesians 4:3
The military promotes esprit de corps which indicates a common spirit that inspires enthusiasm and devotion. Conflict threatens such unity. May the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi be a guiding force in your life today.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
Keep it Shut by Karen Ehman
Caring Enough to Confront by David Augsburger