February 29 – Conflict: The Result of Killing

February 29 – Conflict: The Result of Killing

1 Corinthians 10:13

“Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t brag and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.” (James 3:13-18)

We can kill others through physical abuse, verbal abuse, anger, hatred, and a lack of love. When we fail to love as we ought, what results? Conflict! We see conflict everywhere in our world, from arguments among family members to wars among nations. Yet God’s ideal is for His people to live in peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6), and peace is a fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5:22). Therefore, believers are to be characterized by peace as we live out the traits of Christ, who resides in us. Paul taught, “Live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18) and “Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:13).

As we look today at avoiding and resolving conflict, we’ll primarily examine conflict among believers — in the Christian home and in the church. But the principles we will study apply to some extent to the workplace or other locations where non-Christians are part of the conflict, though avoiding conflict or resolving it may be less hopeful when one party is not a believer.

Though most conflict should be avoided, some cannot be. For example, it would be sinful to avoid conflict in the church if heresy tried to enter. Disagreement will always occur if two or more human beings are together very long. But when disagreement escalates to conflict, sin is lurking in the shadows if it hasn’t already pounced and that is when the killing starts. Our task is to keep the disagreement from escalating to conflict and to learn how to get off the escalator if we’ve already reached the conflict level.

Several key attitudes help us avoid conflict. A Godward orientation: yield and trust. The only place to start in avoiding conflict in family or church relationships is to —

  • unconditionally yield our will to God;
  • trust Him with the outcome.

If someone in the home or a faction in the church doesn’t yield and trust, conflict is inevitable. But when both parties yield and trust, conflict can usually be avoided or resolved. In our passage for today, did you notice the word selfish? The opposite of a Godward orientation is self-love. James said selfish ambition leads to disorder — conflict. Yielding to God brings His wisdom to the situation, and His wisdom is “peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits” (v. 17).

Paul wrote, among other things, that love is patient, is kind, is not selfish, is not provoked, and doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. If I love the other person, I’ll refuse to judge their motives or generalize about their character. Just as I don’t like it when people take a single act or word of mine and generalize to conclude something about my character, I’ll refuse to do that to my opponent. As I do for myself, I’ll even try to figure out a good motive for bad conduct.

A lack of love, the irreducible form of killing, ignores potential factors in the case, affixes unworthy motives, and reaches premature conclusions. And then talks about it. Love, on the other hand, seeks the welfare of the loved one, even at personal sacrifice. Do I make excuses for my opponent with the same persistent creativity as I do for myself? For me, that’s the hardest thing, but that’s love.

Peace-making requires humility. Most of us don’t naturally like being a servant, much less actually considering others better than ourselves (see Philippians 2:3). Yet if I refuse the servant role — one my Savior took — conflict is inevitable. Servants don’t object to washing dirty feet. Bonding in peace, then, begins with love and humility: “Walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

While David was fleeing from Saul (see 1 Samuel 25), David sent his men to request provisions from a rash man named Nabal. Ignoring customs and laws of hospitality, Nabal refused to accommodate David’s request and sent his men away, so David prepared to attack in retaliation for this insult. When Nabal’s wife, Abigail, heard about the conflict, she had a generous supply of food loaded on donkeys and went to meet David’s troops. Falling at David’s feet and humbling herself, she apologized for her husband’s behavior and asked David to forgive the offense. David accepted her offer. Abigail’s wise, humble action prevented unnecessary bloodshed and vengeance that would have best been left to the Lord. Humility defuses conflict and promotes peace.

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