Conflict part 1: conflict when needed

Current research shows that conflict is bad for our health (presumably especially for us sensitive people). Recently I have read that marital conflict even correlates with earlier mortality in men.

Of course, there is conflict and then there is conflict. Some conflict is inevitable, or at least necessary. Although we want to avoid conflict when possible, conflict is sometimes forced on us, and we have to deal with it. This first post deals with that sort of conflict; the next will deal with the sort that we should avoid or resolve as quickly as possible.

If Jesus wanted to bring grace to people who felt oppressed, he was going to have to confront religious and political elites. Paul was ready to dialogue with people, but when some proved more interested in winning a point than being open to truth, he was ready to call their bluff and move on.

We all respond differently to conflict. Some of my friends (such as Michael Brown) are skillful debaters and enjoy good give-and-take. Me: not so much (though I relish intellectual dialogue when it is friendly). I am shaped more by my background of learning to stay on the ground when being beaten, since the most frequent abusers typically got tired after awhile and quit. I do not like conflict, but neither do I care to see truth neglected or justice disregarded. Some conflicts become inevitable:

Prov 25:26, NRSV: Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain, are the righteous who give way before the wicked.

Prov 24:10-12, NRSV: If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength being small; if you hold back from rescuing those taken away to death, those who go staggering to the slaughter; if you say, “Look, we did not know this”— does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay all according to their deeds?”

John the Baptist was certainly no reed shaken by the wind (Matt 11:7//Luke 7:24).

In the Gospels, no sooner has the Spirit descended on Jesus than the Spirit propels Jesus into the wilderness to face testing by the devil. The Spirit does not equip us for a life of continual ease, but to do God’s work and endure any opposition that it may require.

Still, graciousness is ideal even in important conflicts, when possible (2 Tim 2:23-25, NRSV):

“Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth”

Prov 15:1 (NIV): “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Rom 12:14, 17-18 (NIV): “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse … Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Sometimes the conflict isn’t worth it.

Prov 23:9 (NASB): “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.”

Prov 29:9 (NIV): “If a wise person goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace”

Prov 17:10 (NRSV): “A rebuke strikes deeper into a discerning person than a hundred blows into a fool.”

We have to discern whether it is worth it or not (Prov 26:4-5, NRSV):

“Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself. Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes.”

Previous Post

How much of the Bible did King James write?

Next Post

Conflict part 2: other conflict

Related Posts