If you are in any relationship you have experienced conflict. Starting in the earliest years in your family life you began to learn how to respond to conflict. From there you may have adapted and changed but you still have a style or approach to conflict that will show up no matter the struggle. Resolving conflict is something people will have to face. Psychology tells us that there are basically 5 ways people resolve conflict. Most people will yield to one these five ways. They are:
Avoidant– A person doesn’t like to deal with the conflict and will seek ways to evade it. They may withdraw from or ignore the person with whom they are in conflict. They are usually good at pretending that nothing happened and move on with life as normal. Being avoidant can lead to continual repeats of conflict because ultimately things are never addressed.
Accommodating– This is the person who gives in when faced with conflict. The accommodating person will accept another’s ideas even if they do not agree. It is a surrender of opinion to let the other person have their way. While one person walks away happy the accommodating person is likely to begin to feel significant resentment leading toward possible bitterness.
Competitive– This person stands their ground. Their goal is to beat the other person out when it comes to a disagreement. The conversation is more of a competition of proving that they are right rather than working toward any kind of resolution. It can often be attacking and inconsiderate. A competitive person will likely gain immediate ground in conflict but in the long run their approach will prove be detrimental to relationships.
Compromising– This method of conflict resolution is more of a give and take. Both people look to consider the common ground and work toward negotiating things they each will let go of in order to meet a resolution. This approach seems like a win-win but often neither party feels they got what they wanted and passive aggressive interaction is common.
Collaborating– This is a considerate method of working together for a solution. Both parties seek to listen, understand, and discuss what their goals are for the situation. It requires a joining together to work for a solution that is better than what was presented individually. People who collaborate are usually respected and appreciated in relationships.
As you read those descriptions you likely saw yourself in one or maybe two of them. But where does God fit in this brief look at resolutions to conflict? Where would you classify his style of conflict resolution? Maybe you would put him as compromising or collaborative but there is just something that doesn’t fully fit. This is where God is not like us.
God is not afraid of conflict. In fact the greatest conflict of the world was something God planned. The conflict of the cross was by far the most significant conflict in human history. No war, civil rights movement, or historical ruling ever marked history like the cross (click to tweet). But the conflict of the cross shows us how God the Father brings resolution to conflict. He doesn’t avoid or compete. He doesn’t even collaborate. Instead God redeems in conflict. The cross brought redemption for us from the state that we were in, separated from God by sin, to where we now stand as believers in Jesus, fully accepted as beloved children. God redeems what was lost and beyond repair and brings new hope and purpose.
What does that mean for us? Certainly we cannot expect to be able to redeem every conflict. Some conflict will never fully be resolved until the last day when the Lord pronounces justice through his judgement or acquittal through the blood of Jesus. On that day he will wipe away the tears of conflict that have lasted a lifetime. Instead we should seek to approach conflict in a way that reflects our call to love one another. Our approach to conflict resolution should be impacted by the redemptive resolution shown to us by a merciful and loving God. So far as it depends on us, we ought to seek to live peaceably with everyone with a disposition of humility that reflects a heart of trust in the Lord. Often our attempts will bring peace but sometimes things will remain unresolved. When this is the case, trusting God is imperative.
If God had our backs in the greatest conflict there ever was (the cross) then he certainly will have our backs as we seek to honor him when faced with conflict. This will not be easy. We may find ourselves terribly misunderstood, misrepresented, and ultimately misjudged in a conflict with another. Despite humble and loving attempts discord may still remain. What can we do then?
Once again the cross teaches us about God and conflict resolution. This time we must look at God the Son. Jesus was right in the middle of the conflict of the cross. He was misunderstood, misrepresented, and ultimately misjudged. How did he get through that? In 1 Peter 2:23 it says, “When he was reviled he he did not revile in return; when he suffered her did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Jesus kept his focus on God when faced with conflict. He didn’t put his trust in his ability to defend himself nor did he hope the courts would bring a just ruling. He continued entrusting himself to God. When we face conflict we ought to make efforts to work through it and pursue peace, but if it remain unsettled we need to follow the example of Jesus and look to God.
God knows how to redeem all of our conflict. We may or may not see it fully resolved despite our efforts to pursue peace. We must trust him and rest in the work of Jesus for us. He may be using conflict to bring about further sanctification in our own lives as we continue to look to our redeeming God.