Have you heard these words lately? They seem to be more prevalent lately because of tensions that are happening in our country due to politics, issues that divide us, and our freedom of speech as Americans. How do we handle conflict when we are faced with it? Do we handle it in a godly way?
God’s people are not immune to conflict. There were conflicts in the past, and they will continue. In fact, we are told that these trials will produce endurance (James 1:2-3). We can grow spiritually by learning from conflict, and be made stronger for the next time we face adversity. In all situations, we should strive to “conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)
After Jesus was born, Joseph faced conflict from Herod, who wanted to put Jesus to death. Joseph was warned in a dream by God to get up and flee immediately (Matthew 2:12-15). We have all heard of the “fight or flight” instinct that we have, and here Joseph is clearly told to get up and go! There will be times when the best option is to get away from the conflict. It is evident that there was no amount of reasoning that Joseph could have done to save the life of his child, he needed to get away from Herod.
Recently, my husband and I had a situation happen to us where we chose “flight.” We were in a restaurant eating with friends and celebrating a birthday. A woman from a nearby table loudly told us that what we were talking about offended her, and we needed to stop. (She added that we were “Not cool!”) Well, when we saw that there was alcohol involved, we decided to be sure to keep our conversation to a lower level, and not engage this woman in a discussion. We felt this was not the time or place to reason with her.
How do we know when to stand up for a cause? Mark 8:38 tells us, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Certainly, if our God is the “cause” being discussed, then we should never back away from the discussion. In Acts 5:40-42, we read of the disciples “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer for His name.”
We should not only be ready to speak the Truth, but pray for situations to present themselves to us, and boldness to speak in His name. In Acts 4:19-31, the disciples had been admonished for healing a man and told to no longer preach about Jesus. I love their prayerful response, “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence while Thou dost extend Thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Thy holy servant Jesus,” (verses 29-30).
Be emboldened by Paul and Silas in Acts 16:16-33 also. They had been condemned for preaching, yet God used them here in an opportunity to teach the jailor! They could have sulked at being locked up, but instead they were singing and praising God, then after they were released from their chains, did not run away but used the time to preach the Gospel and baptize the jailor and his household.
This same boldness took place with a preacher in Cameroon, Africa. While on campaign in one of the nearby villages, a man named Vincent was taken with a bunch of other young men who had caused a riot. Even though he was unjustly put in prison, he used the opportunity to teach others in the prison, and now that he has been released, he goes back to continue a prison ministry there.
In yet another example of conflict, we see that sometimes law enforcement, or local authorities need to handle the situation. In Acts 19:23-41 we read of the riot concerning idols for the temple of Artemis. When the crowd is shouting (this theater can hold up to 60,000 people!) and many of them did not know why they had come there in the first place, this is not a safe environment to speak to people. The town clerk was brought in and the assembly was dismissed. Note in verse 30 that when Paul wanted to go in and talk, the disciples would not let him. As sisters in Christ, we need to watch out for each other, and if our sisters could be in a dangerous situation, warn them and keep them from harm.
Please know that I am not saying that we should not, as Christian women, make our voices heard. We can use opportunities like writing our congress men and women, voting for candidates that believe in conservative causes, go to rallies, sign petitions, attend town meetings, etc. All these outlets are ways we can express our opinions, still in a respectful way.
What should Christians ultimately be KNOWN for?
Romans 13:1-7 reminds us to be in subjection to governing authorities. Give our respect for those that God has allowed to be put in office. Give respect for the position they hold. Do not speak evil of them, even if we don’t agree with their policies, and most of all, pray for them.
Proverbs 15:1 is so important! “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” We can speak in such a way that we invite conversation instead of hindering it. Who wants to talk with someone who is screaming at them?
Christians should be known as peacemakers also, like Matthew 5:9 tells us. Romans 12:17-21 speaks of the concept of never paying back evil to anyone. My kids heard this a lot when they were little. “Are you trying to be a peacemaker in the house, or are you stirring up trouble?!” When there is a conflict going on around us, are we the one to go in and find peace, or do we make the situation worse?
Romans 14:19, “So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” The word “pursue” here means “to run after, to move rapidly and decisively toward an object.” As women of God, we need to purpose in our hearts to seek ways to make peace, find a godly resolution to the conflict.
And finally, 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” What “aroma” do you give off when you enter a room? Are you the “fragrance of Christ” that you need to be? What a beautiful image this verse gives of Christians who want to reflect their Lord and Savior!
Sisters, let’s be known as those who spread kindness, peace, and give a gentle answer. To quote the well-known song, “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me!”
By Robin Martin
Robin and her husband, Randy, work with the Lord’s church in Rosemount, Minnesota. They are blessed to have 7 children and 10 grandchildren. She is ever grateful for the grace of God and His undying love.