We started a new series this past Sunday: Peacemakers in a World of Conflict. Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Mt. 5:9).” To be called children of God in this instance is a way of saying you’re a chip off the old block. People can see the family resemblance because you are reflecting God’s character of making peace, bringing together, building bridges. It means you are a part of the family business as Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Jesus’ work is reconciling all things, healing the world, repairing relationships with God and others (Col. 1). The power of the cross is peacemaking power (Eph 2). As the series progresses, we will explore in greater depth what we talk about when we talk about peace, but first we worked towards a better understanding of conflict. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- A simple definition of conflict that we will use through this series is this: Conflict is a situation in which two or more people have clashing ideas (or actions). That’s it.
- If that’s the foundational definition we are using, then no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, no matter how idealic your surroundings, conflict will always exist. You can’t escape it. You can leave a city or country, you can leave a job or neighborhood, you can leave a friend or a spouse, you can leave a church, but you can’t escape conflict in some form.
- Conflict does not have to include fighting. Often when we hear the word conflict, we think of things that can go with it. Arguments. Accusations. Attack (“armed conflict” or “physical conflict”). Or on the other end of the spectrum—flight, running away, avoidance, separation, giving up, walking away. All of those are potential outcomes of conflict, but they are not an inevitable part of conflict. They are not automatic.
- Conflict can actually be healthy and productive. For one thing, it’s healthier in every relationship to deal with conflict rather than always deny it, downplay it, or dismiss it. But it’s also an opportunity for growth. We can gain better understanding of another, a new perspective. We can reexamine long held assumptions, conclusions, the way you always did it or believed it. We can ask healthy questions. Why? Is there more than one way to see this? Have I missed something? How might God want me to grow through this time of conflict?
We can’t avoid conflict in our world, but we can choose to respond to it in mature, honest, and peacemaking ways.