Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Glorifying God through conflict

Is it possible to glorify God through conflict?

Ken Sande’s premise in The Peacemaker, is that Christians, being reconciled to God by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, are called to respond to conflict in a way that is very different from the way the world deals with conflict. From that belief, comes the Peacemakers Pledge which commits to responding to conflict according to four principles (all helpfully beginning with “G”)
1. Glorify God
2. Get the log out of your eye
3. Gently restore
4. Go and be reconciled

This week we will consider the first of these principles so I ask you: Do you believe it is possible to glorify God through conflict?

I don’t know about you, but in a situation where I am mistreated or opposed, my instinctive reaction is to justify my behavior and do what I can to get my own way but this certainly doesn’t glorify God. According to Sande, it is possible to glorify God in conflict by focusing on God’s goodness, rather than on ourselves. This is the key to resolving conflict constructively and glorifying God in the process. As we remember God’s mercy towards us in Jesus, we can approach conflict with a new attitude.

How do you respond to conflict?
Are you an avoider of conflict (Sande calls you a “peacefaker”). Maybe because you believe conflict in the church is wrong and should be avoided at all cost or maybe conflict just scares you. Or do you love the opportunity to “take on” an issue or person (Sande calls you a “peacebreaker”). Maybe you are a defender of others rights or just like a good argument.

I have to admit that when I first read this book I was horrified to identify myself as a “peacebreaker”. But through this revelation and a broken relationship with my son and sister, God began a work in me, which he continues to this day, to understand this sinful behaviour and to re-shape my response to conflict. God wants us to respond to conflict with peacemaking skills and the rest of the The Peacemaker, focuses on what these are.

There are many causes of conflict in our personal lives and in our churches: misunderstandings, differences in priorities and expectations, competition over limited resources and sinful attitudes so the sooner we adjust to the fact that conflict will occur in our lives and focus on how we are going to respond when it does happen, the better.

How can we glorify God in conflict?
We glorify God in conflict when we see conflict as an opportunity to serve others in love and to grow in Christlikeness. We cannot control the outcome of conflict because this depends often on the behaviour of others, but we can control our own response. We glorify God when, in response to God’s mercy and love to us in Jesus, we follow the example of Jesus and seek the good of others, relying on his guidance and strength (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1)

God delights in us being instruments of peace in the midst of conflict (Romans 12:18) and by our actions in such situations we show others, that there really is a God.

Finally, Sande finishes each chapter of the book with some helpful questions to apply to a current conflict. What a challenge to think about what good God might bring out of a current conflict if we respond to it in a way that glorifies Him?

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