Christians and Conflict (Psalm 120:7) | Jared Betts

The Inevitability of Conflict

I often find myself relating to the Psalmist when he says in Psalm 69:4:

“Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head.”

As we can see in the text this morning he states:

“I am for peace, but when I speak,
They are for war.”

It is within the words of the Psalmist here that we are reminded of the inevitability of conflict for the Christian. We see that there are times when conflict will force itself upon us no matter our disposition toward peace.

The simple question I want us to answer this morning is this: How should we, who are for peace, live and think among individuals who are for war? How do we conduct ourselves in the midst of conflict?

Being Wise in the Midst of Conflict

On the most basic level, we know that the Scripture instructs to be mindful of how we walk in every circumstance knowing that the One who is ever living is always watching, and it is Him to whom we will have to give an account of our words and deeds.

Philippians 1:27, therefore, teaches us to conduct ourselves “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Ephesians 4:1-3 teaches us that because of our position in Jesus Christ, which He proposed before the world was, we should:

“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Paul taught Timothy saying in 2 Timothy 2:22-25:

22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”

These portions of Scripture call us to be wise in the midst of conflict. They require us to be people who not only possess an intimate knowledge of the Proverbs, but actively apply the knowledge and wisdom they provide.

How should we, who are for peace, live and think among individuals who are for war?

  1. Understand that you need to be in control of yourself.

Proverbs 25:28 says:

Like a city that is broken into and without walls
Is a man who has no control over his spirit.”

Proverbs 26:17:

Like one who takes a dog by the ears
Is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.”

Our anger will never achieve God’s purpose. Proverbs 15:1 says:

“A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverbs 15:18:

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
But the slow to anger calms a dispute.”

Proverbs 29:11:

“A fool always loses his temper,
But a wise man holds it back.”

It is no wonder that James instructed the church saying:

19 Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”

Proverbs 15:28:

“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”

Proverbs 18:13:

“He who gives an answer before he hears,
It is folly and shame to him.”

Understand that the only person you can control is you, so strive to have control over your spirit. Be wise in the midst of conflict.

  • Learn when to disengage with unreasonable people.

There are some people in this life that do not care about reasoning. Proverbs 29:9 says:

“When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man,
The foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.”

Do not waste your time casting your pearls before such people because all they will do is trample underfoot whatever you say and attempt to attack you in the process. You are not required by God to expend your energy on such people. Wisdom tells you to disengage with such fools.

Nehemiah was disciplined in this. Nehemiah 6:1-4:

“Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates, then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they were planning to harm me. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” They sent messages to me four times in this manner, and I answered them in the same way.”

  • Lose sight of yourself.

What I mean by this is give up caring about people’s perception of you. If you have a clear conscience before God, it does not matter what people think.

Realize that proud and arrogant people will seek to malign your character and may even go to great lengths to do great harm to your person.

We need to know when to develop the ability to correct a person’s perception of us, and when to relinquish ourselves to the fact that no amount of reason will persuade a person otherwise. We need to be content in the fact that God knows the truth, and it is Him alone that we are going to have to give an account of our lives.

It was Charles Spurgeon that once said:

“The more prominent you are in Christ’s service, the more certain are you to be the butt of calumny [slander]. I have long ago said farewell to my character. I lost it in the earlier days of my ministry by being a little more zealous than suited a slumbering age. And I have never been able to regain it except in the sight of Him who judges all the earth, and in the hearts of those who love me for my work’s sake.”

  • Realize that vengeance is God’s.

Romans 12:17-19 says:

17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.”

  • Look to Christ who has given Himself as an example to follow in the face of adversity.

Peter says in 1 Peter 2:21-25:

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”

Christ Will Build His Church

Finally, we should not lose heart when conflict arises in our life because we know that there is nothing in this life which comes upon us which has not first made its way through the hand of God who is sovereignly working all things together after the council of His own will.[1]

He is building His church. He is the One who gives and takes away. He is the One who prunes people both individually and corporately as a body. He does it all for the good of His people and the glory of Himself.

What this means is that we should be able to look at conflict that comes upon us and joyfully say that God is causing all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.[2] The question is: Do we truly believe that God is sovereignly orchestrating all things in our life for our good and His glory?

Let us strive to be at peace with all people so long as it is within our power. If when we speak, they are for war, we exercise self-control like our Lord, entrust ourselves to the One who judges righteously, and rejoice in the trial knowing that Christ is working in it for our perfection and His praise.

[1] Ephesians 1:11

[2] Romans 8:28

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