Anyone besides hermits born in the wilderness can tell you that whenever you put multiple individuals in close proximity, there is a high likelihood of eventual conflict. And if those hermits happened to be neighbors, it wouldn’t take long for them to learn, too. Even Cain and Abel duked it out when they constituted half the entire human population! Think about typical breeding grounds for conflict: high school, family gatherings, social media, work, camp, even vacations. Where two or more are gathered for long enough, disagreements will arise. So what do we do with conflict as we intentionally pursue unity?
First, guard your heart from being easily offended. The most mature people you will ever meet seldom get their feelings hurt. Keeping an objective point of view allows you to not only remain emotionally steady, but to reach out and meet the needs of others who may be acting out of pain. Here’s a beautiful example I recently read: a stressed wife asked her husband to do a certain chore, but he didn’t do what she asked up to her standard of perfection. After she had berated him long and hard about it, he looked at her with compassion and asked, “Honey, is that really how you talk to yourself?” Instead of jumping on the defensive wagon, this husband let love choose his reaction, and the encounter led to his wife weeping, repenting, and recognizing the anger she had allowed to seep into her own soul. His thick skin was the catalyst for her healing.
Sometimes it’s not necessarily a sin issue that drives a wedge; conflicts can arise from disagreements, personality clashes, or even differences of opinion. If, though, it is something that needs to be addressed for the good of the other person or the honor of Jesus (rather than simply stroking your wounded ego), confront the offender in gentleness, humility, and grace. Do this in a private sphere, and take every step you can to create a feeling of safety. Don’t make it you vs. them—create a sense of being on the same team and just fighting the possibility of disunity. Watch your words, your tone, your body language, your facial expressions. Regardless of how your gentle message of correction is received, let love guide you. Matthew 18 is a great resource for confronting sin in a way that honors Jesus.
Forgiveness is key in the whole conflict conversation. Scripture is full of commands to forgive one another, to release your need to pay back any wrongs against you. Unity will be impossible if you insist on carrying grudges around. Sometimes you just have to let it go and move on. The whole point of unity is loving one another to make Jesus look good: how will He look good if outsiders see us wince every time we hear a sister’s name mentioned? We are to bear with one another in their weaknesses (and our own) as we navigate life together. God never said it would be easy—He just gave us His Spirit and told us to obey.
Be open to correction. Spend time with the Lord and let Him convict you when you need to change something. Allow others the room to speak into your life as well; give them license to tell you when they notice selfishness, immaturity, or pride creeping into your interactions with others. This is really hard, but if we are going to be a healthy family, we need consistent reality checks. Convincing yourself that there is no way you did anything wrong isn’t helpful in the pursuit of oneness.
We often equate conflict with broken relationships, but this doesn’t have to be the case. There is a way to lovingly work through a hard situation together in a manner that brings our hearts closer at the end. If done right, conflict can lead to a better understanding of and more compassion for others. Pray with one another, pray for one another, and let the Spirit of reconciliation do what only He can do in order to put His glorious power on display to a broken culture. Then even the hermits will know how good He is.