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Conflicted During Conflict

Conflict.

Even the mere mention of the word brings emotion and makes me conflicted with thoughts.

Most ladies don’t enjoy conflict. Don’t get me wrong – there are those who do enjoy conflict. They can stir a pot and keep things catty. There are numerous (NUMEROUS) shows on television that display women who enjoy conflict and who will keep battles going at all costs while often dragging others in with them.

While I don’t mind giving an opinion and there are parts of Julia Sugarbaker and Lucy Van Pelt that live within me, I don’t like being at odds with people. If I have ever confronted someone about something, it has come with a lot of prayer, a bunch of angst, a lot of wringing of hands, and many sleepless nights.

I hate conflict.

I’m not alone in these types of feelings. In talking with a group of friends last week, we all expressed similar feelings and emotions. We determined that ladies use a lot of tactics to sidestep conflict, including, but not limited to, avoiding someone else, defriending on Facebook to avoid a situation, and pretending like nothing at all has happened. Women are more relational and typically don’t want to harm a relationship, but sometimes the methods they use to stay out of conflict end up add more conflict than there was originally.

Admittedly, I have probably used every one of the sidestepping methods mentioned and was somewhat comforted last week to find out that all the ladies (regardless of age and spiritual maturity) around the table have, too.

But, that doesn’t mean that those are healthy ways to handle conflict. They are easy ways and easy doesn’t always mean healthy.

When I think of conflict, there are three passages of Scripture that come to mind. These include Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18:15-20; Paul, Barnabas and John Mark in Acts 15:36-41; and Paul, Philemon and Onesimus in the Book of Philemon.

In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus is speaking with the disciples about what actions should be taken when a fellow believer wrongs you.

First, He says that if a fellow believer has sinned against or wronged you, you need to take responsibility and go to that person one-on-one in private and show him what happened (vs. 15). If the individual listens and repents, problem solved.

But, if the individual doesn’t repent, that’s when Jesus says you are to take one or two more with you as witness to try to talk it out again with this person (vs. 16). If this doesn’t work, Jesus says that’s when you take the situation before the church (vs. 17).

Jesus explains in verse 17 that if the individual is still unrepentant at that point, you begin again from the beginning and continue to show the need for offering forgiveness that can only come by God’s grace.

It is following this passage of Scripture that Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” and Jesus responds to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22, NASB). And, Jesus didn’t mean that we keep a piece of paper handy with hash marks for a countdown to 490 and once that number is reached we no longer extend forgiveness to this individual. No, Jesus was speaking about unlimited forgiveness – even if the person doesn’t repent or ask for it, we forgive.

We do this because it is a model of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness extended to us. Our responsibility is not to make a person apologize or repent of things that they have done. No, our responsibility is to lovingly forgive as Christ has forgiven us.

Is it easy? No, it isn’t. It isn’t easy to go to another person and lovingly tell them, “Hey, you wronged me and that hurt” and then to forgive even if they don’t care. However, this is exactly what Jesus has done for us. Romans 5:8 is a constant reminder for me in this, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

In the midst of conflict, we don’t have to be conflicted.

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