The Royal wedding of Prince Henry and Meghan Markle made news around the globe. We all heard much about the departures from tradition involved in the marriage ceremony itself, and the strife in Meghan Markle’s family. Sadly, we can well imagine some of the tense conversations that must have taken place behind closed doors.
Royals and celebrities aren’t the only ones who have to deal with relational conflict. How do you feel when conflict looms? What do you do when family or friends “make” life difficult for you? Do you get that sinking feeling? Conflict sure does have a way of bringing the worst out in people. Relationships can, and often do go sour, and sometimes are permanently damaged. It’s really not surprising that so many people will do their level best to avoid conflict. And even those who step into conflict still dislike it.
And yet conflict is also an opportunity, especially when it’s handled God’s way. It seems hard to believe, but it’s true! The worst conflict ever was the conflict between God and sin on the cross. There was nothing beautiful about execution on a Roman cross, but Jesus somehow makes his death wonderfully beautiful as he says ‘Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34). And though it looked like it was just a win for the devil when the Son of God died, it was at that same moment God’s glorious victory, for he was at that moment absorbing all that sin deserved on our behalf. Now that IS beautiful! Conflict is an opportunity. Jesus proves it!
It’s hard to see opportunities in our conflicts. They just seem dark. But if we choose to trust God and see our conflicts from his perspective, opportunities are there, in the same sorts of surprising ways they revealed themselves at the cross.
Even when we are in the middle of a conflict, there is the opportunity for us to ask ourselves, ‘How can I glorify and honour God?’ It might be by the gracious way we handle ourselves and our conversations with others. It might be by how we approach others with a forgiving spirit, remembering how much we ourselves have been forgiven, and are, each day, forgiven by God.
There is also an opportunity to serve and bring blessing to others. We can serve people the way Jesus served us: by seeking their good above our own. Even in the midst of our own hurt, we can because of Jesus’ love and grace for us, choose to make a conflict situation a place for others where love and grace is found. Just as Jesus laid down his life to give us God’s full forgiveness, when we didn’t deserve it, we can ask ourselves, ‘How can I, in this conflict be loving and gracious?’
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
And finally, through all this, we have a marvellous opportunity to grow more like the Lord Jesus in our own character. God grows his people through tough situations. Peter talks about the trials God sends to us, and how they are God’s way of refining us so that the genuineness of our faith is revealed (1 Peter 1:6-7). By facing our conflicts with the help of the Holy Spirit and the counsel of God’s Word, we can grow and mature as disciples of the Lord Jesus.
All this is great news. It doesn’t mean that the experience of conflict is easier. But it does mean that we can enter it positively and purposefully as we handle it God’s way. Conflicts allow us to glorify and honour God, and serve others, and so be a shining light in what is so often a dark world (Matt 5:14-16). We can see it as an God-given opportunity to grow to be like Jesus Christ himself. There is no doubt that we will face conflicts in our lives. The question is, ‘Are we willing to embrace these as God given opportunities for his glory?’
This article is by David Coy. David is married to Noreen, and they have four married daughters and two grandchildren. He trained and has worked as an Anglican minister. David connected with PeaceWise training in 2011 and is now working in Biblical peacemaking through Turning Point Ministry Services.