The Upside of Conflict:7 Ways to Look at Your Next Disagreement

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So, here’s the thing with conflict, I hate it.  It makes me uncomfortable mainly because I am awkward with it. I want to talk my feelings out and I know most people are not good with that mainly my husband.  I usually have no filter when talking my feelings out because I feel that communication is good therapy, again not everyone agrees.

I mostly hate conflict because I see it as a negative, I usually want to run and hide from it. I don’t like to face it head on because I know I can be a bulldozer when I really want to be a sweet, gentle little lamb.

Let’s define conflict, it’s a noun and it’s also a verb.  As a noun it is a sharp disagreement but as a verb its to be{come} incompatible (according to dictionary.com) It can easily stay a noun but depending on your personality (not mentioning any names) it can quickly climb to verb status.  I am gonna be more real here than when I mentioned my shoe addiction, obsession, habit {denial:} It’s gonna hurt my pride but it has to be done.

As I moved from South to North East I realized the stark difference in “Christianity”.  I am having to come to terms with what God’s people really look like.  Why! I thought they all looked just like me! HAHA not really.  Does this sound familiar?  I’ll admit quickly that mercy is not high on my spiritual gifts and yet it isn’t an option.  I’ve been stuck in a theological bubble for a really long time, not a bad thing when you’re growing and learning God’s word but at some point you’re going to meet other Christians who don’t really believe like you do theologically or practice their faith like you do and yet God still loves them.

When I took my Meyers Briggs personality test there was a big fat J at the end of my letters. (Gotta take the test to know) If you don’t know what the big fat J is it’s for judger. Well, it’s true. I am.  I hate to admit that but I know I am not alone.  This isn’t just a confession it’s also a challenge for you reading this where ever you’re from (North, South, West, where ever!); we all got some judgement genes.  No one’s immune, not if your democrat, republican, poor, rich, a minority or not, judgement comes in all shapes, sizes, political platforms and the best bible study groups.

And so moving here has not just been a mission trip of sorts but a seminary class on the subject of love and acceptance.

At the root of conflict is difference, not bad but when not kept in check it can escalate to  judgement and pride. I’ll show you what I mean. Let’s take one of the most godly people in the bible, Paul and his best bud Barnabas and let’s dissect the disagreement they had that was apparently note worthy for Luke to mention (the writer of Acts) or else we wouldn’t be reading it today;)

Read: Acts. 15:36:41

Paul and Barnabas agreed on the most important part, their mission together: to visit other Christians in the towns they had preached to and encourage them.  But when it came to the details Luke notes that they disagreed sharply. In Hebrew the word is ‘irritation’.  Conflict arose because they had a difference of  opinion that resulted in irritation.

Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 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. Acts 15:37-38

At this point in the passage there is a crossroad.  Paul could’ve A.) agree with Barnabas (that’s called a stuffer, stuff your feelings and go with the flow…totally not encouraged;) B.) disagree but submit his will to Barnabas and take Mark anyway (or vice versa) but I mention Paul because he is the beloved Apostle and our fearless leader. C.) Disagree, sharply (apparently), tell him your point of view, be logical in the situation and break away from the situation.

Paul was obviously the logical one in the relationship (not bad, just different), Barnabas was the one who could overlook flaws. Maybe he was an enabler (I don’t know!!!) but he was willing to overlook what happened in Pamphylia and welcome him back into the circle of friends.

The point is this, yes there was conflict and scripture doesn’t reprimand either man for the conflict that took place.  The point of the conflict is for us to see God’s greater plan at work even in this.  When we study scripture we can find countless passages on dealing with difficult people.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you Eph. 4:32

Maybe Paul felt it wise not to proceed with Mark because he’d hold them back from the real mission God called them too.  Maybe, that was his way of keeping peace by going his own way.  I don’t know!!! But friends separated, opinions were voiced, different paths were taken.

But because God’s purpose in our life and mercy is so much greater than our messes and stupidity and foot-shaped mouths there can always be a turn around like in the case of Paul, Barnabas and yes, even Mark.  Happy Endings are God’s idea.

We see this turn around in 2 Timothy 4:11b.

…Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

Paul’s heart softened towards Mark.  The book of Timothy marks Paul’s last words and with this small statement we can conclude that there was much growth since the first remark Paul made about Mark.  Both men has grown in the faith and love for one another.

Here’s the take home, conflict hurts but we can have a different perspective next time it occurs, as in we can keep the conflict a noun, something that occurred but keep it from {be}coming a verb, incompatible. Cause who likes incompatible people anyway?

During your next disagreement remember the outcome that is possible in Christ; keep your mind on these seven:

  1. Reconciliation.  We say separate, He says reconcile.

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

I know a little about this because you know the last article I wrote about, the one about my husband leaving me,  well, the turn around on that story is that 3 years later we were reconciled and married again. Long story, that’s for another blog post but in the end God won and he is still winning in our marriage after 13 years.

2. Hope.

We have real hope in Jesus. When I was newly divorced I had heard a story about a wife that was left by her husband for drugs, women, and the night life but she remained faithful and prayed for him for seven years.  Now, he is a renown evangelist who loves Jesus and his wife.  Because of their story I had hope to pray for my husband. Although I didn’t expect or want reconciliation at that time I prayed for peace and salvation. We always hope that conflict can have a positive outcome.

3. Keep your eyes UP.

We shouldn’t stop doing God’s will or living out His purpose simply because we’ve hit a rough spot in our road of life.  Had Paul stumbled on his way and given up his purpose we wouldn’t have most of the New Testament. Paul went on to write 10 books of the New Testament (indisputably).

He went through Syria and Cilicia strengthening the churches. Acts 15:41

So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers. Acts 16:5

Separation can be used for good in God’s economy. When Christians divide we can spread God’s love more abundantly and thoroughly.  God uses that time to strategize on spreading his Word by using His people even when they are in the midst of conflict…if we let Him.

Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus. Acts 15:39b

4. A softened heart.

At the end of Paul’s journey in Timothy we see Paul’s heart towards Mark changed and softened to the point he wanted Mark with him because he had been helpful in his journey. God had a chance to work on Paul’s heart.  Paul gained hind sight and perspective on the loss of a brother in the work of God.

God has a way of doing that.  The last words my {ex} husband told me was that he wasn’t in love with me.  In the 3 years that we were apart God had radically changed his heart. My husband’s heart not only softened towards me but I became the woman of his dreams, not because of anything I had done but because of the time we had spent alone with the Lord.

5. Stronger Relationship(s).

Not only did God restore the relationship between Mark and Paul; we see their relationship stronger than in the beginning of their journey together.  Paul is now requesting for Mark to be by his side for the last stretch of his mission.

A few years ago I sat on a ministry team where there were many differences of opinions.  Nothing revolutionary when you get a bunch of women together;) At one of our meetings our mission was side tracked due to confusion about the mission and the passion some of us had for a different direction. The team was in trouble.  One of the women on the team said that conflict thickens relationships.  I was hoping she was right.  I liked the team I was on and I wanted more than anything for there to be resolution and for us to get back on track on the main mission of the team.  It never happened.  The team dissolved, feelings were hurt and relationships broken.  The leader moved away, many of the ones left behind had some issues to resolve on their own and many were hurt long after the team broke up.  Although the leader of the team never got to experience the “thickening” she talked to me about the rest of us did because we were willing to stick it out and not quit. We didn’t leave church, we stuck to the mission He gave all of us and were willing to love.

6. Spiritual Growth.

It’s obvious from this story that everyone grew not only in age but spiritually.  This doesn’t always happen after conflict.  Conflict often leaves us angry, disillusioned, sad, broken, separated, and scarred but it doesn’t have to be that way.  Conflict can make us stronger in our walk with God and mature us enough to handle the next big things in life.

As the years go by with my man I realize there are things we can handle easier now than we could’ve in the past.  We realize we can’t make our relationship work on our will, we need God. Remember his last words to me? Funny how God always has the last laugh!! Marriage is hard and every year can make us stronger not weaker but we need Jesus.

7. Love.

We can agree to disagree agreeably.  Disagreement doesn’t have to mean hate.  Disagreement doesn’t have to mean incompatibility.  We can disagree and love at the same time.  We disagree and agree to act loving any way.  Love doesn’t equate agreeing.  When Jesus came to earth it wasn’t because He agreed with us, on contrary, He came because He disagreed with the darkness we were living in and came to rescue us from it.  Conflict can lead to love if we let it.  More than ever our country needs to realize this truth. Christian, we can love and disagree, remember it’s the thing that sets up apart.

The challenge here is to choose the 7 outcomes of conflict.  When our perspective changes we can begin to see past the yuk of conflict.

 

 

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