Angry Birds and Harsh Words: Why Conflict Happens and How to Deal with it

Fights.  Fights everywhere.

Everyone is fighting with everyone else.  Fighting is prevalent from the fights that take place on a global stage between major world powers down to the fights that take place on the playground between second grade boys.  Conflict is almost as old as the world itself.  Is it just a fact of life that we must resign ourselves to?  Is it something that we just have to deal with and there’s no hope?  Today, I’d like to look at conflict from a biblical perspective and look at some ways to deal with it.

What Causes Conflict?

If we are to ever arrive at a solution to conflict, we must first intimately understand what causes conflict.  For the answer to this question, I would point you to James 4:1-3 which says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

The source of conflict is clear in this passage.  Conflict isn’t something external; it’s something inside every one of us.  The source of conflict is my passions: the things that I love and that I long for.  This is the way it is for everyone everywhere, and since we don’t all want the same things that means we’re going to come into conflict more often than not.  This leads to murder, fighting, and quarreling.

How Do I Deal with Conflict?

#1: It’s always safe to assume that you’re the problem.

James goes on to use some pretty strong language in the next few verses of chapter 4.  He calls us “adulterous people”.  In essence, James accuses us, people are supposed to be the bride of Christ, of having an affair with the world.  Why?  Because in all of my fighting and bickering the focus is on me.  I’m focused on what I can get and why I am most important.  In my total depravity, I fail consistently on thinking about anyone else, much less Christ.  However, when we truly are Christ-focused and humble before Him, James says that it is then that our conflict with our fellow believers, who also should be Christ-focused, will cease.  After all, if we both have the same focus, what then is there to fight over?  It’s always safe to do a self-examination and look at your own heart, whenever you encounter conflict.

#2: Listen.

Yes.  It’s that simple.  One of the primary reasons fights get crazily out of hand is that one or both of the parties involved aren’t willing to listen.  James, a master of conflict resolution, encourages believers to be “quick to listen” and “slow to speak”, two things that don’t come naturally.  Listening communicates a desire to learn and to understand the other person, a very selfless response that is rooted in the humility that God loves.

#3: Expect conflict to happen.

Expect to come into conflict with people.  They’re depraved.  You’re depraved.  We’re all depraved.  Even with the Holy Spirit’s sanctification in our lives, we still will mess up and fall prey to the flesh and its passions.  Expect to come in conflict with your fellow brothers and sisters in the faith and be ready so that when conflicts do arise you are prepared to show grace and mercy that mirrors the grace and mercy that has been shown to you by Christ.  You can expect conflict to arise between you and other believers and you can especially expect it to arise between you and unbelievers.  The picture Jesus painted in Matthew 10 was this:“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”  Not a pleasant picture.  If you and the person you’re having conflict with are both Christ-focused conflicts are less likely to arise, but if both of you have different focuses how can you expect to be united?

So recap:
1. Your selfish passions cause your conflicts.

2. Do heart checks regularly.

3. Be ready to listen.

4. Expect conflicts to happen and show grace and mercy.

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