Something profound and pervasive happened in the Garden. As the taste of fruit lingered on the lips of man and woman, a poison passed through their bodies and souls. The effects of the toxin were immediate and fatal.
In this moment, all creation suffered a dramatic division as mankind was suddenly immersed into struggle with the land, one another, themselves and their Creator. This hostility has marked the world ever since, and no one is immune. We see the tragic effects of this enmity every day in our offices, homes and cars as desires collide with reality.
Conflict is a natural consequence of a fallen creation. But there is a cure to conflict, and that hope is found in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result of the redemption purchased by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we need not be defined by and enslaved to conflict with our fellow man.
I recently asked Lee Lewis, our Fort Worth campus pastor and an elder of The Village, to speak to the issue of relational conflict. Lee holds a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Counseling and also serves as a biblical counselor at North Texas Christian Counseling.
How would you define conflict?
A heart or soul struggle rooted in pride and/or idolatry that spills into thought, life, relationships, habits, etc.
What is ultimately the root cause of conflict?
Thwarted desires of the heart are what cause conflict. When a person begins to ask for things that are derived from their hearts from people or things or circumstances, then this creates fertile ground for disappointment.
What differentiates biblical conflict resolution from worldly conflict resolution?
The world approaches conflict at a surface level, usually parsing accurately the implications of what is happening in the conflict. The goal usually is to address that issue at its surface to move forward. God uses conflict to expose false allegiances in our hearts. The Scriptures are far more interested in moving beyond the conflict symptom to what is driving the "control to protect" or "control to provide" heart-set that has the conflict front and center.
So how should Christians respond to conflict?
I think for the Christian the response has to be with the Lord first, knowing that conflict tends to reveal more about that relationship than whatever matter is at hand. Looking to the Lord affords us to see beyond the immediate symptom and press into the Truth, which exposes our hearts. This then creates an opportunity for humility to reign as engaging the conflict then takes place.
Are there any practical hints that you can give regarding conflict resolution?
I would say that in conflict it is so easy to take so much personally. But knowing that conflict reveals more about the relationship between God and man than man and man frees us up to depersonalize things and ask the Lord for a godly discernment into the root of what ails.
What are some resources you would recommend for studying conflict resolution?
The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
War of Words by Paul Tripp
The Village’s Church Discipline Guidelines