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Resolving Conflict: Glorifying God

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

About two years ago, my sister and I were on the phone talking about cell phones. The topic was, “Should our 80-something year old parents—who have never used computers—get smart phones?” We got into an argument about it. Both of us were annoyed at each other. She hung up on me, and I was glad.
It’s rather immature on my part.

Surely mature Christians never have conflict, do they?

Surely the Apostle Paul—the most influential Christian in 2000 years—surely he never had a conflict. Right?
Paul and his fellow apostle Barnabas were preparing to go on their second missionary journey through the Mediterranean world.
Acts 15:37–40 ESV “Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.”
We don’t know the details of the dispute, but it was a severe argument. Two of the more godly men in the NT, and they have a fight. If Paul and Barnabas can get into a squabble….a “SHARP” disagreement…what hope is there for us to never have conflict??

We are beginning a 4-part series through April. The series is NOT about how to create conflict. I think we’re all quite good at that. The series is about how to resolve conflict. How to make PEACE.

Conflict is everywhere, and God calls us to work it through in God-honoring ways.

This series is founded upon the truths and principles laid out in a book, Peacemaker, by Ken Sande. The book was originally written 30 years ago and has been improved upon since then. It is a widely regarded book. Noted Christian leaders like Franklin Graham, John Piper, J.I. Packer, and Dennis Rainey have all written support of the book. Also, this Peacemaker ministry has developed an 8-week small group study, Resolving Everyday Conflict. 3 or 4 of our Life Groups have already gone through it.

There are 4 principles for making peace in our relationships. Each Sunday this month, we will examine one of these 4 principles.

What about Conflict

Conflict is everywhere.
In the work place. We’re irritated with our co-worker. Angry with our boss.
In the neighborhood. The jerk next door with the dog that constantly barks.
In the home. Husband and wife. I wish I could say I’ve never argued with my wife or raised my voice, but I sadly cannot say that.
Parents and their children.
Even in the church. We can be angry with one another.

Sometimes it’s a rather small irritation with someone, like having a sliver in your finger.
Other times it’s a monumental fight, one that has gone on for decades, like having terminal cancer. I know some of you in this room have been a part of those. Sometimes with close family members with whom you haven’t spoken in years.

How do we know if we have unresolved conflict?
• When you see someone, you don’t want to talk to them or look them in the eye.
• When you hear their name, you have an emotional reaction. And it’s not a happy emotion.
• You avoid thinking about someone.
• You daydream about them. Screaming at them. Hitting them. Pouring out vengeance.

There are 3 ways to respond to conflict.
1. Escape
2. Attack
3. Make peace

Escape.
We run away. We leave the room. We simply want it to go away. We give the silent treatment. We avoid conversations at any cost. In a worst case scenario, the conflict is so severe we consider suicide. The only way out, it seems, is to die.

Attack.
We fight back. We go to war. We use harsh or angry words. We file lawsuits. We might even use physical means. Slapping, hitting. Fist fights. Road rage. Domestic disputes. In worst case scenario, the conflict is so severe we consider murder. It really does happen, doesn’t it?

I suspect a high percentage of us in this room tend to respond to “Escape.”
And another high percentage tend to respond “Attack.” And many of us may be “ambidextrous.” We can go either way, depending on the day. 
Often the Attack person is married to the Escape person.

A few months ago I was talking with my youngest daughter about conflict. She said that she and her roommate are opposites. Her roommate tries to escape from conflict, then gets passive-aggressive. “You left a mess in the kitchen again. But don’t worry. I cleaned it up for you.” My daughter, though, wants to get it resolved NOW. And she gets aggressive in seeking peace, which can create more conflict.

There is a third response.
Make peace.
1. Overlook an offense
2. Reconciliation
3. Negotiation
4. Mediation
5. Arbitration

Instead, we want to learn (over our lifetime) to become Peacemakers.
Not Peace Fakers. Not saying, “Oh, everything is OK. Let’s just get along”, when really, it’s not at all OK. Deep down, we’re still angry and hurt.

Not Peace Breakers. Not duking it out with our Mouths and even our fists.
But Peace MAKERS.

Jesus said, in a phenomenal promise from God:
Matthew 5:9 ESV “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Jesus elevates anyone who know how to find TRUE peace.
Satan is after Confusion and Anger and Disunity.
God is the God of peace. The God of tranquility and harmony and calmness and love.

This is important: God’s passion in Peace Making is far, far more than simply the absence of irritation or anger or frustration. Or simply to put up with one another. Or to avoid one another so that your anger doesn’t boil over.

He wants us to love one another. To truly love one another from the heart.
1 Peter 1:22–23 ESV “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…”
A heartfelt, earnest, fervent love. Why? Because we’ve been born again. The moment we believe in Jesus Christ, we are born again. Born of God. We become children of God. Ephesians 2 tells us we are no longer children of wrath. We are now children of the living God! And God our Father is the God of peace.

So our goal is so much greater and richer than simply trying to get along or not be annoyed.

The ultimate goal is to imitate our heavenly Father and the Son of God in a oneness. A like-mindedness.
Jesus prayed for us.
John 17:20–21 ESV “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
The very name of God and the nature of God are at stake here. The honor and glory of God are at stake.
Jesus prays for us, for a deep, rich UNITY. A heartfelt LOVE for one another. And the end result? Jesus said, “So that the world may believe.”

Why do we have conflict?
Diversity.
We are all very different. Different personalities. Different spiritual gifts. Different experiences.
Misunderstandings.
We don’t communicate well. Even when it’s an honest mistake, with no malice intended. We don’t listen well.
Selfish attitudes.
These lead to hurtful words and actions. Comes out as anger, jealousy, gossip, the “silent treatment,” pouting, hitting.

With my sister and me, our conflict came because I pushed my ideas on her. And I was insensitive to the amount of work she already does to help my parents.

Ultimately the problem is with the heart.
The ultimate problem is with our hearts. Look at this powerful verse from James.
James 4:1 ESV “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”

We have desires that turn into out-of-control cravings. Even demands.
• Something you want too much (even a good thing)
• Something you will fight to obtain or sin if it’s denied
• A desire that’s become a demand.

For example:
• I desire a clean and orderly house.
That’s a good desire. Nothing wrong with that. But when I elevate my desire too much, it becomes an out-of-control desire, even a demand. “Kids, pick up all this junk!” “Why is the house always so messy??” Conflict results.
• I desire respect. That’s a good desire, isn’t it?
But when I elevate this too much, it becomes a demand. Then if I sense someone is not respecting me, my anger rises and I start to fight back.
• Our daughters: They didn’t want their sisters borrowing their clothes without permission.
That’s a reasonable desire. But pushed too far, it can become a demand. They forget that Mom and Dad bought many of the clothes. Plus, everything we have belongs to God, not to us.

These passions are at war within us. So even good desires can turn into demands and unhealthy responses, and a conflict is in the making.

The biblical answer:
Philippians 2:4 ESV “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Note what God does NOT say: He does not say you should never try to meet your own needs. You can and you will.
You need to sleep. That’s OK. You need to eat. That’s OK. What DOES he say, though. Don’t look ONLY to your own interests, but ALSO to the interests of others.

In my argument with my sister, I didn’t consider HER interests. I didn’t give much thought to how hard she works to care for our parents as they age. I had my opinions, and I was not interested in considering any other viewpoint.
My opinion was right, and I will fight to the death defending it.

When we are faced with conflict, we have an opportunity to display God to the world.
John 13:35 ESV “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus said that our LOVE will be a powerful witness to the world of the reality of Jesus Christ and us his followers….IF….we love one another.

We are in the process of remodeling our facility. It’s 20 years old and showing wear and tear, and so we’re poising ourselves for the next 10 to 20 years. We have a design team of architects and designers and a few others, including myself.
If you have ever been on a group like this, you know it the potential for conflict is high.
Several times I have found myself reacting to proposals or opinions.
Even yesterday morning I was thinking about some design proposals, and I realized I was emotionally reacting. I had a few opinions, and I was beginning to formulate arguments to defend my position to the death.
As I was praying, I realized I was taking my desires, and in my heart turning them into demands.
I had to confess to the Lord that my approach was not first about looking out for the interests of others.
My first approach was not to be united with the design team, like Jesus prayed for.

The First Step

What is the first step we should take when faced with a potential conflict?
The First Step
Ask yourself, “Is this worth fighting over?”
Proverbs 19:11 ESV “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
There is something very wise and sensible, even glorious, about overlooking an offense.

Many conflicts….MOST conflicts….can be avoided by simply acknowledging, “You know, this really isn’t worth the fight.”
It is an act of love to extinguish a small flame before it becomes a blazing inferno.
Proverbs 17:14 NIV “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”

In my story with my sister last year, I should have been more humble, listen better, and drop the matter. It’s just cell phones. In view of eternity, what type of cell phone my parents have simply doesn’t matter. Sure, I have my opinion. Whether I’m right or wrong…that’s not easy to discern. But I let it become a blazing inferno by insisting I was right and she was wrong.

Most things we can and should simply overlook. We cover over it and forgive it. We don’t have to talk through everything.

Four G’s of Peacemaking:
But there will be times when we can’t overlook the offense. We can’t get it out of our minds. The anger or frustration is still brewing. We have to MAKE PEACE. We have to take some steps to make peace with our friend, our spouse, our sibling.

How do we do this? The FOUR G’s of Peacemaking:
1. Glorify God
2. Get the log out
3. Gently restore
4. Go and be reconciled
We will spend the four Sundays in April going over these four principles for making peace when there is conflict.

So this morning, we look at the first G. This first principle.

Principle One: Glorify God
1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Remember our tendency is one of two things: To ESCAPE or to FIGHT.
To become Peace Makers, we need to ask this: How can I please and honor God in this situation?
NOT: How can I fight and win and get what I want?
NOT: How can I run and hide and escape this conflict?

My wife is in China for 3 months getting some intensive treatment for her stroke. Last Wednesday, someone there spoke somewhat harshly to her. She didn’t retaliate. She didn’t pretend it didn’t happen. Instead, she had a meaningful, respectful conversation with the person, and they worked it out.

On our design team for the remodeling of the building, is my first and greatest passion to honor God and love people, or is it to push my opinions?

We typically only focus on the Horizontal relationship: The other person and me.
We FORGET to bring the Vertical into it: God and me.
We want it OUR way. We want to WIN or to RUN our way.
But as we mature, we want to more frequently and more quickly have it God’s way.

This is the Higher Ground we want to pursue.

To Glorify God,
We must know and remember the gospel.
We tend to think the gospel is just for our salvation. “Yes, Jesus died for my sins. I believe that. Now I’m going to heaven.”
And we don’t stop to realize how powerful this story is, and all the changes that God makes in us and to us.
And how God wants this salvation story to permeate how we think every day.

You see, the gospel is a message of PEACE. Peace with God.
Romans 5:1 ESV “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Through our faith in Jesus Christ, we are no longer enemies but friends. We are no longer under wrath but are in harmony with God.

This is God’s grace, for we have done plenty to deserve his wrath, and we do not deserve to be at peace with him. But in Christ, we ARE at peace. Now we are to go and live this way.

This is a great passage:
Colossians 3:12–13 ESV “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

The gospel tells us:
• We have been chosen. He wants us.
• God has made us holy. He has washed us clean.
• We are God’s beloved, in spite of what we have done to him.
• we have been forgiven completely for our crimes against God
So now, Paul says, go and treat others in a similar way. Treat others the way the you have been treated. “Put on” these truths like a coat.

A few weeks ago, I was in a series of conversations with someone. The person was somewhat pushy. Was opinionated. Talked too much (in my opinion). I found myself irritated and annoyed.
But later…not immediately…. I thought about the gospel. About the grace God has shown me in saving me. How patient he has been toward me.
So instead of focusing on this person’s faults, I started thanking God for their strengths. The other person hasn’t changed.
But my attitude has.

Not long ago I was having a difficult day. I was very, very tired. And feeling like a growly bear.
I was being critical of my wife over very little things. Picky.
I was convicted of my sin. And I felt ashamed for my behavior. In pride I didn’t feel like apologizing.
So I was tempted quite strongly to excuse myself. To say, “I’m tired and I can’t help it.”

But I knew I needed to honor God and not try to exalt myself and make myself look better.
The gospel tells me that I am a sinner, but that God in his kindness gave me his Son to die in my place so that I might live.
I can confess my sin to my wife because I know, remarkably, that the Lord loves me still. Sometimes I think that if I humble myself, I might actually DIE from it. But so far, I haven’t. 

Someone said,
“Relationships get easier in your life as the gospel gets bigger in your heart.”

So the First Principle in resolving conflict is to glorify God. And we do that remembering the gospel.

To glorify God, we also must
Remember that he is both strong and loving.
He is strong enough to work in power even in the worst situations.
He is loving enough to bring us good.
Psalm 62:11–12 HCSB “God has spoken once; I have heard this twice: strength belongs to God, and faithful love belongs to You, Lord.”
God is strong. God is loving.

A number of years ago someone slandered me. It hurt badly. It hurt my wife. Over a couple of months, my anger grew and grew. It came to a point that I felt like I might explode. In fact, I don’t remember ever being angrier at someone before or since then.
One Saturday morning, I knew I needed some help, so I called up a fellow pastor one Saturday morning. And I had one of the most profound conversations I have ever had. He essentially pointed me to God’s strength and God’s love. He pointed me to the power of God to take evil and turn it on its head for good.

He first talked to me about how God uses trials, even severe trials, to train us and conform us to his image. To make us more godly.
Then he asked me this question that unlocked my anger: He said to me, “Do you believe God wants to take this situation and work it for good in your life, to train you and make you into a greater man of God?”
Until that moment, I had been focused on me. On circumstances that were out of my control. And I was angry.
He essentially reminded me that though my life may be out of MY control, it is NOT out of GOD’S control.
He reminded me that God has both the POWER and the LOVE to work all things together for good.
After that conversation, I spent the next hour in prayer and reading a relevant passage in Hebrews 12, about our heavenly Father training his children through hardship. And my heart was completely transformed.
I was able to release my anger entirely, because I remembered that my life is in the Lord’s hands.

If we don’t believe in God’s POWER and his deep LOVE for us, then every jerk who comes into our lives is seemingly going to RUIN us. Ruin us with injustices. With disrespect. With their selfishness. With their demands.

But if God really is the Sovereign King who rules over every person and is wisely and tenderly watching out for our lives, then we can have a large measure of peace.

We will glorify God in the middle of conflict if we believe that he really is powerful and full of tender love toward his children.

Application

Two things for your consideration and action.

Pray.
Simply pray and ask your heavenly Father,
“Are there any people with whom I am not at peace?”
Today…this afternoon….before bed tonight, ask the Lord if there is anyone with whom you have an unresolved conflict.
Then pay attention to how he leads you.

Glorify God
Second, set your heart on making God greater and you smaller.
Turn over to him all your self-centered desires, and confess to him you want HIS desires to be first.

PRAY THIS: “Would you help me to make me less and make you greater? Would you help me to glorify you by seeking peace?”

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

Conclusion
Why strive to be a peace maker?
Many obvious reasons.
One, peace is simply vastly superior to war.
Two, Jesus promises rich blessings to all who seek after peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers…”

Perhaps the greatest reason to be a peacemaker is that when we seek after it, we become imitators of God.
Ephesians 5:1–2 ESV “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
As we imitate our heavenly Father by our love, we HONOR him.
And as we become imitators, we show the world who He is.
God by the power of the Spirit can help us, no matter how deep the conflict is. And no matter how long it has gone on.