“I’m right and you know it!” rings out across the living room. The whole situation started off simple enough but now lines have been drawn and pride is at stake. This battle won’t end soon.
We like to think there isn’t conflict in our homes and closest relationships. We imagine living life in perpetual bliss. Then without warning, conflict pokes its ugly nose into an otherwise wonderful day.
These situations shouldn’t surprise us or leave us feeling “less than Christian.” Far too often we quickly sweep them under the rug or avoid it altogether. Sadly, in many cases the source of the conflict is never addressed and the wound only festers.
In Dave Harvey’s excellent book When Sinners Say I Do: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage he lists four ways to put our beliefs into practice in conflict.
In humility, SUSPECT yourself first
Harvey argues that we should be regularly suspicious of ourselves for two simple reasons. First, our hearts play a clear role in our behavior. Second, our hearts tend to oppose God and his ways (see Jeremiah 17:9).
Unfortunately this is the road less traveled in most marriages. Rather than humbly admitting our struggles we deceive ourselves and attempt to make our stand on our own righteousness.
In integrity, INSPECT yourself
So often we automatically assume we need to fix the other person. Consider the words of Jesus.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).
Most conflict involves wrongdoing on both parts. How would your struggles be different if both parties took Jesus’ words seriously?
Admit that circumstances only REVEAL existing sin
I understand the desire to be honest. However, that can’t be an excuse to unload on the other person. That’s just blame shifting and mean. God often uses tense circumstances to reveal the nastiness in our hearts. Consider the ways Jesus responded in conflict. There was no door-slamming or name-calling. Remember Jesus’ words:
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45).
That’s true in conflict as well. I feel less self-righteous when I think about the ways I have responded to conflict recently.
FOCUS on undeserved grace, not unmet needs
My needs aren’t being met! If you’ve thought that – you’re not alone. Marriage counselors hear those words on a daily basis. Scripture however offers a different source of our relational problems.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God (James 4:1-2).
According to James, it’s not our needs, but renegade desires that cause the issues and lead to irreconcilable differences. What if we chose to focus on the grace God has given us rather than our desires? If we look close enough, we might see that He’s been gracious enough to show us the reality of our problem and provide the solution.
Join us as we continue our sermon series Picture Perfect: When grace frames a family. For additional resources check out the sermon series webpage here.
Next week: Picture Perfect – When grace frames parenting