The story of the bungled “snatching” by Queensland mother Sally Faulkner of her two young children in Lebanon hit Australian national headlines recently.
It is not difficult to empathise with a mother feeling so desperate that she resorts to using media and a professional child recovery organisation to bring her children back from an estranged husband in a foreign country. A father’s desire to have his children close is also completely understandable. Clearly there were competing positons and interests at play. Despite all the news, talkback coverage, articles and interviews, we the public do not know the whole story nor all the facts surrounding this case. There were many players, some direct and some indirect; some of them apparently more “innocent” than others. At the centre, two innocent young children.
So what can we learn from this sad situation? Maybe there could have been more open discussion and willingness to see others’ points of view and understand their interests? Possibly the media interests of 60 minutes and the business of the child recovery organisation took undue priority over the well-being of the children? How much responsibility should each of the players shoulder for the way this unfolded?
In most cases of on-going relational conflict, all those involved contribute in some way to the conflict continuing. Yet we are almost always first to blame “the other person”. It is almost always either “their fault” or “mostly their fault” and we will usually justify our attitude, words and actions as a necessary response to theirs. Obviously that approach doesn’t work and relationships are further damaged.
The Bible shows us a different way. It gives practical guidance on what to do in everyday arguments and conflicts. It’s not only full of true stories about difficult people and dysfunctional families, but also tells us how much God loves us, forgives us, wants us to live the way we were designed and gives us the reason why this is possible – Jesus Christ!
Despite what we may say or even feel, we can choose how we respond when we are involved in a conflict. No one can “make” us respond a certain way. Jesus said that the way we approach conflict should be completely different to the usual way “our gut” tells us. He said that instead of blaming others we should, “first take the log out of you own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”. (Matthew 7:5)
John Piper put it this way, “My sin against God is a log. Your sin against me is a speck. Before I do eye surgery on you, I need heart surgery from God.”
Maybe Sally Faulkner and her estranged husband, Ali Elamine could have avoided the pain and heartache of recent events if even just one of them had chosen to take Jesus’ advice and looked first to their own contribution to the situation?
What about us and the conflicts we face everyday with our spouses? Our parents and siblings? Our children? Our friends and neighbours? Our colleagues?
Do we ask God to do heart surgery on us before we do eye surgery on our opponent? It’s worth thinking about.
To find out more about what the Bible has to say about how we should approach conflict, when we can and should overlook minor offences and when we should (or should not) exercise our legal rights, read Chapter 4 of The Peacemaker (Ken Sande).
(Over this year, through each edition of Peace It Together, we will be sharing the basic peacemaking principles as covered in each chapter of the book, The Peacemaker (by Ken Sande).)