Conflict part 2: other conflict

The previous post addressed necessary conflict to stand for justice or truth on behalf of the Lord or others. But that post was mostly to qualify what I planned to write in this one. It was recent studies of conflict being bad for health that motivated me to think right now about some biblical teaching about conflict.

The sort of conflict addressed in these studies seems to be especially interpersonal conflict with those with whom we are in relationship—family members, coworkers, employers or employees, etc. It often has to do with simply personal ways of seeing things, or miscommunication or misunderstanding that need to be clarified.

Even so, conflict can be defined more than one way. Constructive dialogue over disagreement, with a high level of trust that makes unnecessary feelings of being threatened, seems healthy. (That’s what we’re supposed to do in academia, though sometimes disagreements get personal.)

Hostile conflict, by contrast, seems toxic. (This would be especially true for those of us who, as children, sometimes experienced violence in a context of hostility and anger. It my case that at least got me readier for subsequent experiences of being beaten for my faith, sometimes with apparently lethal intent.) Sometimes even such direct conflict with those close to us becomes unavoidable, when some challenge our faith or matters of justice and truth with hostility (e.g., Matt 10:34-37). Even in such situations, though, Jesus exhorts us not to take it personally (Luke 10:16).

When possible, it is ideal to deescalate conflict, control one’s anger, and calm another’s anger (though not at the expense of simply avoiding addressing something important that must be addressed). Scripture often addresses this issue. For example,

Prov 10:12 (NRSV): “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses”

Prov 12:16 (NRSV): “Fools show their anger at once, but the prudent ignore an insult”

Prov 13:10 (ESV): “By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom”

Prov. 14:29 (NRSV): “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but one who has a hasty temper exalts folly”

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

Prov 15:18 (NRSV): “Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife, but those who are slow to anger calm contention.”

Prov 16:28 (NRSV): “A perverse person spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends”

Prov 16:32 (NRSV): “One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.”

Prov 17:14 (ESV): “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out”

Prov 18:6 (ESV): “A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating”

Prov 19:11: “Those with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense”

Prov 20:3 (NRSV): “It is honorable to refrain from strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.”

Prov 22:10 (NRSV): “Drive out a scoffer, and strife goes out; quarreling and abuse will cease.”

Prov 26:21 (ESV): “As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife”

Prov 29:8 (NIV): “Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger”

Prov 29:11 (NRSV): “A fool gives full vent to anger, but the wise quietly holds it back”

Prov 29:22 (ESV): “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression”

Prov 30:33 (ESV): “For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.”

Rom 12:18 (NIV): “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (even further, cf. 12:14: bless those who persecute you)

Among fellow believers (Col 3:12-15, NRSV): “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful”

After all (Matt 5:9), “It will be well with those who make peace!” And (James 3:18, NIV), “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness!”

If studies are right, conflict might raise levels of stress that harm the other person’s well-being. Sometimes that is the point of the spirit behind it:

Matt 5:21-22: “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”

1 John 3:15: “All who hate a brother or sister are murderers”

Prov 15:4 (NIV): “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.”

Yet counselors warn that hostile attitudes hurt especially those who hold them. Negative attitudes we hold inside hurt; Proverbs speaks of the pain of wounded hearts. Prov 15:13 (NIV): “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Prov 18:14 (NRSV): “a broken spirit—who can bear?”

Forgiveness and grace toward others releases our own hearts as well, though that is not the primary biblical point of forgiveness. Angry words or actions can cause long-term harm in more tenuous relationships:

Prov 12:18 (NIV): “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Prov 13:3 (NRSV): “Those who guard their mouths preserve their lives; those who open wide their lips come to ruin.”

Prov 18:19 (NIV): “A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city”

Prov 20:2 (NIV): “A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion; those who anger him forfeit their lives.” (It may not be a good idea to offend bosses, either …)

Part 3 will look briefly at conflict within families.

1 comment

Comments are closed.

Previous Post

Conflict part 1: conflict when needed

Next Post

Picture of naked dog

Related Posts