With all of us spending more time at home than usual, tensions might also be running a little higher than usual.
You might be in quarantine relationship danger if:
The Comedy Central roasting crew shows up to record a day in your home
Your cat has became your favorite family member
You’ve considered how to build an octagon cage in the living room to settle things once and for all
Your wife claims to be starting your garden, but has dug a six foot deep hole
You’ve hidden the good snacks throughout the house
You’ve went to Zillow to find a bigger house
Your students, I mean kids, are now on permanent janitor duty
You’ve began to notice the rate of your child’s blinking
You’ve wondered how to poison your spouse and have it look like a coronavirus case
You find yourself taking a trip to the bathroom just to get away from your family
Last week, we learned about how God intentionally created us with unique personalities. His intent was to draw us closer together through relationships as our weaknesses and strengths and talents compliment each other in unity through diversity.
We were challenged from Romans 15 to accept one another as Jesus has accepted us and to look for ways to help and serve one another.
Not only within the walls of our homes, but everywhere we go in life, we will encounter people with different personalities from our own. These intentional differences intended to draw us together, instead, cause conflict.
Today, we’ll continue our message series, “Bless This Home” as we learn how to resolve this conflict.
This week, we turn to Hebrews 12 for some awesome advice on how to resolve conflict that arises in our relationships with others both inside and outside of our homes.
Today, we’re specifically addressing the conflict between personality differences and not conflict that arises due to sinful attitudes or behaviors. Next week, we’re going to deal more specifically with how to handle that situation.
What we’re dealing with today are conflicts that arise which aren’t truly black and white, Biblically-defined sin, moral issues.
Not all conflict that we have is a result of someone sinning against us or wronging us in some way. Not all conflict is a moral failure on our part or theirs.
In fact, this is really the first thing that we need to objectively be aware of when it comes to responding to conflict. Is this conflict a result of sin? Did I sin against this person or have they sinned against me in some way?
Unless we’re consistently living in contradiction to how God has called us to live, or we are in a very unhealthy relationship, this usually isn’t the case.
More often than not, the conflicts that we find ourselves in are not the result of moral failure of anyone, but simply because of our unique differences.
It is again important to remember that our unique personalities, talents, and perspectives are intentional and purposed by God and therefore, so is the tension and conflict that arises from it.
To a degree, conflict is healthy. It means that in our relationships, we are being ourselves and allowing others to be themselves. Occasional conflict is a healthy sign in any relationship.
However, how we choose to respond to that conflict can either make or break those relationships. How we handle that conflict can be toxic or healthy in our relationships.
Conflict in our relationships due to personality differences can actually serve to grow and mature us and draw us closer to others if we handle it well.
If we don’t train ourselves to handle this type of conflict well, we’ll begin distancing ourselves from others. We’ll find ourselves always feeling like a victim at the hand of others; defensive and embittered. We’ll find ourselves jumping in and out of friendships, jobs, churches, and other relationships as a result. This is a warning sign that we’re not handling conflict the way that God has intended us to.
Conflict can actually end in understanding and togetherness. It does not have to end in division and hurt and strife. However, if we don’t respond to personality conflict correctly, it can tangle and trip us up. The enemy can use conflict to weigh us down with bitterness or guilt or shame when God intends for it to bring freedom and compassion and understanding.
One of the greatest opportunities for the light of Christ to shine through our lives and to bring others into a firsthand, personal encounter with Jesus can be found in how we respond to conflict. Think about some of the greatest miracles recorded in the scriptures and the times when people were drawn to Jesus the most through His ministry. These occurred most frequently through the presence of conflict.
So, how do we resolve conflict in a healthy way that leads to closer relationships, less strife, and more peace?
We begin in Hebrews chapter 12:
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
We want God’s blessings in our homes. We want more peace and less drama. We want to do what is right by God and others. Long story short, it’s going to take some time and a lot of perseverance learning how to resolve conflict with others in a healthy way. We may even have to pick up our cross from time to time to follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Consider Jesus. He was God in the flesh, perfect and sinless. However, He dealt with conflict often. Sometimes it was the sin of others against Him. Like the cross, for example. However, He also frequently dealt with conflict that arose just from the personality differences with His disciples.
We’ll learn to handle conflict with different people different ways. There is no detailed 3-step, one-size-fits all plan in how to respond to conflict in your relationships. Your personality is different from mine and the way that you interact with someone will be different from the way that I do. Therefore, you will handle conflict differently with them than I would.
Jesus defended the adulterer, confronting all those ready to stone her to death causing them to drop those stones. He also made a whip, flipped some tables, and forcibly drove people out of the temple. He also asked, “How long do I have to put up with you?” For sure, He dealt with conflict in many different ways depending on the person and the circumstances.
Sometimes being right doesn’t make you right and it certainly doesn’t make the relationship right. Jesus, who was completely right, became wrong and took on our every wrong in order to make our relationship right. At times, that required Him to boldly confront religious people and at times, that required Him to keep his mouth shut.
Have that same perseverance and attitude in your relationship with others that Jesus has for you. Don’t grow weary and don’t lose heart. If the conflict is just the result of differences between you and not an issue of sin, stick in there. Hang on through the conflict because the relationship is worth it!
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
Live without regrets. The blessing of God can be forfeited by our choices. Life and death, blessing and curses, have been set before us and it is our choice to decide which we will choose in our relationships.
Not even Jesus could live at peace with everyone, so don’t feel like there is something wrong with you if you cannot resolve conflict with some individuals. However, it takes two people to fight. As much as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone. Don’t allow bitterness to grow up in your heart.
Avoid toxic behaviors that hurt and divide people like sexual immorality. Given the choice between a bowl of soup or a blessing, don’t take the soup! It may sound funny, but this literally happened and we all too often do the same. In other words, don’t settle for less. Don’t settle for anything less than what God has for you! Don’t take the soup just to satisfy your immediate wants and sacrifice the long-term blessing.
Don’t find joy in being right and proving others wrong. Mourn at the wedge that you drove through the heart of your relationship with them. Rejoice in the times that your love for others covers their sin and puts right relationship before being right.
Let God define your value system. He valued healthy relationships with sinful people like you and I worth sacrificing even His own Son! He became wrong to make things right.
It takes two people to fight, but only one to put the fight to an end. Be that person. Be the peacemaker. Be the reconciler. These are the ministries that God has literally called His people to in the scriptures.
Here is our reality and where conflict is often resolved. It often starts and ends right here, right inside of us. God’s word teaches us that all of the issues of life flow from our heart.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
When we are at peace inwardly, we can establish peace externally. This is how Jesus was able to take a nap while the boat He was in was sinking and how He could end the storm raging all around Him causing fear and conflict among in His disciples with just the word, “Peace, be still!”
Only a right relationship with God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit can enable us to respond this way to conflict. Internal peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and nothing that we can force to possess on our own. We need the Prince of Peace to rule and reign in our own lives before we can be truly at peace with those around us.
If we find ourselves often in conflict with those around us, it may be more symptomatic of our own internal condition than how others are acting.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
When conflict arises, we need to stop and test ourselves first. Sometimes, we just need to call a time-out and walk away from the conflict until we’re able to respond and not react to the conflict. We need to be at peace inwardly before we can look at our conflicts objectively and not emotionally-fueled and subjectively.
Unfortunately, we often take our internal battles out on those we love most. We do and say things that wound and leave life-long scars in others just because of a struggle that we are dealing with internally. This should not be.
On the flip side of this, those who love us most also know best how to stir up conflict with us. They know exactly what buttons to push and how to get us on the offensive.
Especially when it comes to our family, we need to stop and realize that we need them. God intentionally created that person and placed them in your life. To simply say this to someone can diffuse conflict and build relationship no matter how sharp the disagreement might be. “I need you.”
You are a neat freak and I’m like Pigpen leaving messes everywhere I go. I need you to help me to be more organized. I get caught up in conversation, losing track of time. I need you to help me stay on schedule.
Together, choosing to work cooperatively, our differences can build each of us up. We can offer to compliment each other instead of choosing to react in explosive anger and bitterness that results when we choose conflict. We always have a choice.
Next week, we’ll learn how to respond to conflict that results from when someone sins against us. This week, we end with some more advice given by James.
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
This simple approach leads conflict toward understanding and away from division. When conflict arises, DEAL with it!
Conflict is not the problem, it exists by God’s own design and intent. How we manage the conflict is the problem. Remember this acronym borrowed from Deb Dearmond and posted by Focus on the Family (https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/4-steps-to-deal-with-conflict-in-your-marriage/)
Don’t take the bait. No matter how much they try, be the peacemaker, not the fighter.
Explain the impact of the behavior and express your needs and expectations using “I” statements.
Ask questions to draw them into dialogue to gain understanding.
Let go of the need to manage their behavior, manage your own. Your response is your responsibility.
We’re better together. Our differences were intended to compliment each other, not divide each other. When conflict arises as a result of our personality differences, let’s DEAL with it. As a result, our relationships will be healthier, our lives more at peace, and God will be able to “Bless This Home.”