Conflict is inevitable. It impacts our days and shows up in micro-annoyances or larger-scale ruptures. As I look back at the landscape of my week or month, conflicts of varying kinds seem to be a theme. It may be that I’m not afraid of it, or my training as a social worker pulls me into situations teeming with different opinions. Whatever it is, there’s been a regular diet of circumstances where I find myself amid pain, disagreement, unmet needs, and people of varying thoughts.
These moments are a privilege to enter, but at the same time, I get dizzy being thrown back and forth between the facts as root causes become unearthed. Paul Tripp’s voice often rings in my ear as he says, “it’s amazing we don’t have more conflict than we do in the midst of daily life because we are sinners.”
If we’re honest, we expect smooth sailing. Conflict isn’t an opportunity but an interruption to our plan and sense of control. We must shift our perspective to avoid being thrown off when conflict arises. As we reimagine our relationship with conflict, it’s helpful to see that this isn’t new. The story of conflict goes way back—it’s an origin story that continues to find us today.
The Oldest Story in the Book
If we visit the first pages of Scripture, we see conflict in Genesis 3 as the Serpent embodies an arrogant and proud spirit to introduce doubt to Eve. Before slithering toward her, he’d already opposed God. He rejected God’s Word and cunningly deceived her into believing she could be like God. She grew more significant in her mind while God became increasingly smaller. Eventually, she succumbs to the lie, plunging all of humanity to ruin. Sin is threaded into our DNA, but the good news is that was just the story's beginning. God reached into that conflict himself. Click To Tweet
This baseline reality put us all in new waters as we live in the wake of that first conflict. Sin is threaded into our DNA, but the good news is that was just the story’s beginning. God reached into that conflict himself. In the first gospel—the proto-Evangelium—God promised victory to come through the woman’s seed. On our own, we cannot win this war, but the provision of Jesus is the place of ultimate triumph (Col. 2:15).
Jesus is our place of hope. His love, presence, and sacrifice bound us to a new future where nothing can separate us from God (Rom. 8:37–39). We carry this light as his sons and daughters wherever we go, even into conflict.
God calls pastors and ministry leaders to be on the front lines of embodying the possibility of healing when division runs deep. Our reconciliation to Christ gives us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18). As you go about that work, keep in mind these three postures that you can embody amid conflict. Your presence and care with the Spirit’s guidance can shift conflict from a roadblock to a place of opportunity.
1. Curiosity Leads to Understanding
A spirit of wonder during conflict allows us to move beyond empty words and move toward truth. Our ability to ask questions leads to wisdom that’s available to us when we ask God (James 1:5). He loves making known the hidden things (Prov. 25:2). Still, his posture of openness allows him to work in and through situations to yield greater understanding. We get to model that as we lead situations riddled with feelings and assumptions. People see the Lord’s gentleness and mercy when we seek to come alongside the hurting. We can’t escape conflict, but we can carry hope because the story isn’t over. Click To Tweet
2. Listening to Bear Witness
People want to be seen above anything else. Slowing down to truly listen and bear witness to someone’s experience is an act of compassion lost in our time. Jesus regularly moved toward others (Matt. 14:14, Mark 1:41, Luke 7:13) and met their needs through that posture. May we be known by our love which is the mark of a true disciple (John 13:35).
3. Humility is the Way of Jesus
Jesus entered into our midst as the lowly one. He did not “count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6–8).
Our example, empowered by his Spirit, moves us to lead from humility. We get to admit where we’re wrong and how we’ve missed the mark because our identity is in Christ. The kingdom breaks through as we seek to profess the gospel and live it out in difficult circumstances. Slowing down to truly listen and bear witness to someone's experience is an act of compassion lost in our time. Jesus regularly moved toward others and met their needs through that posture. Click To Tweet
We can’t escape conflict, but we can carry hope because the story isn’t over. Small outposts of resurrection are available as we wait for the ultimate consummation of all things (Eph. 1:10). May we dive head first into the opportunities that conflict presents for the ultimate good of those we’re called to love and serve.