Is Conflict Biblical?
by William H. Kuntz
Conflict. Everywhere we look in our post-modern world we see it. On television, at the movies, in our communities, in our homes, even in our churches. But what does the Bible say about it? We can find numerous conflicts described in both the Old and New Testaments: wars, murder, fighting of every imaginable variety, and confrontational dialog abounding! But, did God feel about all of this conflict, and was it His will or intention for it to occur?
These are not easy questions, and we are wise to acknowledge that there is much about God and His designs that we don't understand. Just as God was displeased when Adam and Eve disobeyed his command not to eat from that one special tree in the Garden of Eden, God was also angry and disappointed when Cain murdered his brother Abel. Yet there are many examples in the Bible of violence, destruction, and aggression which God apparently sanctioned. The Old Testament is full of battles and military conflicts that God directed the Israelites, his chosen people, to enter into. So... we must be careful not to assume that all conflict is wrong or that God is a pacifist.
We know, however, that Jesus Christ, God's Son lived a life full of peace and that his primary mission was to reconcile Man to God and to redeem us from our sin. He then passed on to us the ministry of reconciliation. I believe this includes reconciling individuals to their families, restoring marriages, and even helping church groups find unity as part of God's community -- as well as presenting the Gospel to unbelievers.
So, as we think about how God views conflict, and what our response should be to the many conflicts we see around us, perhaps we would do well to consider conflict as both an inevitable aspect of life in our fallen world and an opportunity for ministry. It is in the most difficult situations of life that we often find the greatest opportunity for growth. God is skilled, it seems, at turning problems into solutions and turmoil into positive change. Conflict is sometimes both a blessing and a curse - an opportunity to draw close to God in prayer, to be shaped more into Christ's likeness, but also a dangerous crossroad where Satan lurks, ready to lure us into temptation and away from God's peace.
It is my prayer and hope that together we will discover what the Bible teaches about dealing with conflict and learn to apply this knowledge to our daily lives. A study of biblical conflict resolution will probably not change us instantly into powerful peacemakers or miracle workers, but it will hopefully be a beginning. God, after all, is a God of new beginnings. He takes us where we are and loves us unconditionally. He reveals himself to us in stages, when we are ready to let him in, and he molds us into the fullness of his Son, gradually and gently - sometimes by allowing us in small ways to share in Christ's suffering. When we become more like Christ I believe we will be able to say with Him of those who do us harm: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
Responding to aggression and dealing with conflict can require a whole repertoire of attitudes and social skills, but more than anything else it requires a willingness to let the hurt and the pain, which others have inflicted on us, end with us. There may be times when we need to confront our attackers or to defend our beliefs. There will probably be opportunities to correct others with God's law, gently, and to share the Gospel. There will most likely be situations that require us to reveal our hurts or to express our anger in appropriate ways. But assuredly, there will be times when we will be called to suffer with Christ the disdain and unjust treatment of others. Often it will be the wounds inflicted by our Christian brothers and sisters, and even members of our own family, that are the deepest and hardest to bear. Our closest friends usually have the most power to hurt us, but they are also the stones that God uses to sharpen the metal of our souls.