The Heart of Conflict and the Path to Peace

Originally posted on June 17, 2010:

Here is a brief summary of our teaching on biblical communication. Several of us have been gone during the last several Sunday’s, and this information is important enough to look at frequently and have archived in some form.

As the readings and scripture suggests, conflict arises when things don’t go the way we want them to and from a false sense of imposition of our will on others. This is where we essentially seek to become God and develop the attitude that the reading very precisely describes as, “My kingdom come, my will be done on earth as it is in my imagination.” Desire, Disagreement/Disappointment, Deserving, Demanding, Dependence, Deification, and Destruction are the common culprits situations where sin creeps in as identified in chapter 6 of Love That Lasts.

The main thing to keep in mind is that this study is rooted in 2 primary admonitions in scripture. The first is that the source of all conflicts and quarrels between spouses, friends, and fellow believers come directly from our passions and pride (James 4:1-3). This has little or nothing to do with the other person, or any real or percieved offence committed against us. It does however have everything to do with our own hearts. “Conflict exposes our pride and the power of our sin, reminding us of our desperate need for the Grace, Mercy, and Wisdom of God.” (Love That Lasts, pg. 104).  The second is that all conflict can be resolved. Yes ALL. “Therefore any resignation or hopelessness you may feel regarding your marriage or other relationships stems far more from an inadequate view of God than it does from any view, adequate or inadequate, of your spouse, yourself, [or others]“. (Love That Lasts, pg. 104).  To believe otherwise points to a fundamental distrust and disbelief in God Himself and His ability to all things through Christ.

What occurred to me as I have been reading this chapter is how very true this is in my own heart and life. What also occurred to me are the different types of conflict that by analogy are strikingly similar to political and military contexts, and war specifically. Its often been said that “war is a continuation of politics by other means” -Karl Von Claueswitz. When biblical diplomacy fails because of our own sin and lack of humility, the following types of relational and emotional warfare will erupt:

1) Escalated Hostilites: This is marked by arguing, heated physical or verbal exchanges, temper tantrums, throwing things, and hurling insults toward one another. We also often think we have a trump card that will nuke our opponent and shut the whole thing down. This is typically the aim. We want to win, and in the heat of the moment we aren’t particularly concerned with the injuries or casualties that we inflict. This is relational equivalent of WWII which was marked by active conflict and resulted in atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

2) Trench Warfare: You both dig trenches in the argument, knowing the other person’s position but refusing to actively engage them. Instead you stay in your trench, popping up for the occasional exchange of gunfire, or random slight. During the trench warfare of WWI, many of the casualties came from people getting sick in the trenches. The solders had no means of fully resting, cleaning themselves, disposing of bodily waste, or dealing with the corpses that mounted. When we’re in these types of conflicts with our spouses or the bretheran, we often do more damage to ourselves by wallowing in our own filth and muck. What we need is for Christ to lift us from the miry clay.

3)Armistice/Cease Fire: This is simply an intermission between episodes of active conflict or a temporary cessation of hostilities.  This doesn’t mean that you have reconciled with someone or that you’ve forgiven them, it only means that you have agreed to stop general hostilities. Then a solution (or something resembling one) is recommended by the more dominant person in the relationship, leaving the other person seething in silence. There has been no confession of sin or wrongs committed, and therefore no grace or forgiveness extended. This is neither peace nor reconciliation. In this type of conflict, at least one side is always waiting for the spark to start a new argument; almost daring or taunting the other person to draw first blood. When it comes to our relationships, many if not all of us have at times had the mindset that we won’t start something, but we’re certainly gonna finish it.

There are two great examples for this. The first is the Korean Conflict (or War if you prefer). This conflict essentially ended with North and South Korea drawing an imaginary line at the 38th parallel and creating a demilitarized zone. Paradoxically, this is precisely the place where most of the conflict happens in Korea as the area is heavily patrolled by armed guards, anti-personnel mines, searchlights, etc. There are several examples of this in unhealthy body life. This is like a husband and wife sleeping in separate rooms, having separate activities, separate finances, and living separate lives. This can also happen when friends avoid each other after a real or perceived disagreement, or when church members belong to the same congregation, but go to different church services to avoid each other. In a house church setting this can be even more toxic. I’m particularly saddened by this as it relates to our house church because this has happened numerous times with many different people and situations since we’ve existed. Very clearly, the is much growth to be had here.

The other example of an armistice would be the Treaty of Versailles and the armistice that followed which technically ‘ended’   WWI. Although there was no longer active shooting, Germany still held hostility and resentment toward the Entente for what they lost when the map of Europe and near east was redrawn. An entire nation seethed with anger, bitterness and resentment, culminating in the election of a leader (Chancellor Adolph Hitler) who vowed to right the wrongs committed against the Fatherland at Versailles. If you miss the parallel in your marriage, friendships, or relationships in Christ you are completely lost!!

4) Wars of Attrition: These are long, protracted conflicts in which an enemy seeks to wear down the resolve of their opponent. This often manifests itself by more covert, guerilla-style (passive aggressive) communication. This is where sighs, eye-rolls, door slams, being constantly irritated and such become the primary mode of communication toward people. Vietnam is great example of this as the Vietcong resorted to guerilla warfare on the West in an attempt to oust them from their country.

5) Quagmire: This type of conflict is characterized by wasted manpower, unnecessary civilian casualties, poor engagement strategy, and no clearly defined exit plan. In this type of conflict, we often repeatedly employ methods that simply don’t work, despite failing results or wise council to consider other alternatives. This is where you frequently argue in front of the children or guests, dishonor a spouse, brother or sister in Christ, or generally berate someone unnecessarily.  Here is where you spend years being simply bitter with someone for reasons that are mostly all made up and in your head. It is very uncomfortable to watch.

The path to peace, by contrast, is very simple and strait-forward. The difficulty is in the execution mainly because of our patterns of sin and pride mentioned earlier.

1) Humbly acknowledge sin

2) Biblically and specifically confess sin in a way that is unqualified and and free of any and all justification. such as, “I’m really apologize, but I did what I did because you really pushed my buttons”. Confessing sin is not the final chance to get our last dig in.

4) Ask for forgiveness specifically and being understanding and humble when it not given immediately.

5) Grant forgiveness whenever sought. “Make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peacibly with all” (Rom. 12:18).  ”Forgive, just as in Christ the Lord also forgave you (Eph. 4:32). This is perfect, Christ-centered love as found in the scripture. The scriptures teach us to have an attitude of  ”submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21)  We are commanded to love in a way that always hopes, trusts, believes, and seeks the best in others and for others. To not seek to resolve conflict in a way that is honest, humble, specific, and that believes and hopes the best in others is immature, childish, imperfect and sinful (1 Cor 13:11). How childish have you been and how poorly have you stewarded your relationships? How have you not sought to protect another? How often have you committed murder in your heart? have you sought reconciliation and forgiveness? There’s no time like the present. God can resolve all conflict.

I have been very profoundly convicted by this study and have become convinced that God will restore our relationships if we only get out of the way and let him. If any among us have business to do; may we have the humility and courage to do it at the earliest possible opportunity. We are commanded to. Satan will try to convince us to behave like cowards, please don’t give him that chance.

May we contribute to building the Kingdom so that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. May we decrease as Christ in us increases. May God bless us all!

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