Conflict is everywhere
Whether it is arguments over COVID roadmaps to recovery, clashes over climate change, or politicians at war with each other, conflict is both a normal and yet often a regrettable part of our lives. Conflict is everywhere. This one statement summarises a truth that makes a necessity of searching for peace amid the turmoil of conflict.
But peace is only a possibility when we become sick of the ill effects of aggression and estrangement that conflict can produce.
Searching the Scriptures for help
In one of the key times in the life of my faith I sensed that God was giving me a task to dig more deeply into the biblical Proverbs. For 18 months, I searched those Scriptures, studying them a chapter a day, plumbing their wisdom. I discerned the patterns of virtues like diligence and prudence, and I saw the inscrutability of God in life. Another thing I saw was the refrain of wisdom and folly. I saw that life at the extremes was a folly; that God calls us to balance.
Proverbs seemed to speak to my ‘biases’, in that I had always been centrist in my views on many things. Later I have come to see, through the ministry of Richard Rohr (see, this article and key book resources in the footnote), the idea of the dualistic (judging) mind. This mind sees only right and wrong, good and bad, black and white, fair and unfair, rewarded and punished. It’s a judging way of thinking. Proverbs helped me to see the plethora of grey between the polar black and white.
Whenever conflict rises up in us, it usually has some basis related back to something we care strongly about. This is not always bad. In fact, it is usually an indication of something good. There’s nothing wrong with passion. But inevitably we still need to hold ourselves to account — to check-in with God, in praying the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24:
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
The connection between conflict and our heart desires
We still need to check our heart on matters, especially matters that seem most important.
In the PeaceWise Everyday Peacemaking and Heart of Peacemaking courses, we explore the function of the heart in an attempt to decipher what is pleasing and honouring to God. We inevitably find that even good desires can blur into demands which lead to judgments and ultimately punishment of others; and that when they do our relationships suffer, because conflict is magnified.
A devotion to the call of peacemaking is hearing Jesus’ beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9).
Peacemaking as evangelism
Reversing that verse around, we find that if we call ourselves children of God, as Christians do, we are then compelled to live us peacemakers. Indeed, as we do, those people in the world we are evangelising will call us children of God, for there is something quite different about someone who puts God first, is kind to others, and seeks to be like Jesus in conflict.
If there is any way that we can set ourselves apart in our faith, it is via our responses to conflict. Indeed, it is this very component of character — tested in the fire of the situation — that the truth of the strength or weakness of our faith is revealed. When we glorify God, serve others, and be like Jesus — in conflict, especially — the fruit of the Spirit is manifest, and people cannot help but notice.
At PeaceWise, we call these the Three Opportunities in Conflict. That is, when our hearts are racing, and we have feelings of anger to attempt to:
- To glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31)
- Serve others
- Be more like Christ.
So, what about you? Do you sense God nudging you to press further into this freedom that being at peace, as far as it depends on you (Romans 12:18), in your relationships affords? Is God asking you to take the first step?
This article is by Steve Wickham. Steve has been married to Sarah for 13 years. They have one son, and Steve has three adult daughters. Steve is PeaceWiseKids Content and Curriculum Manager and he is also on the PeaceWise national training team. He is also a pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church in Perth, a Christian counsellor, a school chaplain, and a health and safety advisor at the Dept of Fire and Emergency Services, WA.
 Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (CAC Publishing: 2016), 98-99;
Yes, And . . . : Daily Meditations (Franciscan Media: 2013), 406; and
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 34-35.