Illustration by Chloee De Leon
There obviously is no bad answer to the question, but for me I would have to say it is Prince of Peace. While the old song “What the world needs now is love sweet love” is certainly appropriate, I doubt you or anyone else would deny our great need for peace in these troublesome times in which we live.
Even a limited awareness of the headlines is enough to convince anyone that the world’s population is deeply divided and in serious conflict. Jesus warned us as recorded in Matthew 24:6 and 7 that in the last days we would “hear of wars and rumors of wars” and that “nations will go to war against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms.” Perhaps that has been true in previous eras, but it sure sounds like our day and age, Amen?
And unfortunately, conflict is not limited to nations and kingdoms. Families, workplaces and even churches experience conflict almost more as the norm rather than the exception. To many people conflict is a scary word. According to one survey I saw, 67% of Americans say they dread conflict. While I can’t prove it, I have reason to believe that number is low and that some of the other 33% may have lied.
Conflict, unfortunately, is a normal component of life as we know it on this planet. Conflict, when handled well, can result in positive outcomes. Sadly, most of us have painful memories of times when we didn’t handle conflict well and it caused us pain or resulted in a loss. Perhaps that loss was an important relationship, or a job, or an opportunity. Whatever the loss the memories can linger for years, even decades. That might help to explain why most people hold a dim view of conflict and do all they can to avoid it at all costs.
Please believe me when I tell you trying to avoid conflict is a mistake on two levels. For one, you simply cannot do it. Conflict, you may have learned, has a way of weaving itself into life, often at totally unexpected moments. The second reason you should not attempt to avoid conflict is that it typically makes a situation worse, not better. It is analogous to ignoring a medical warning sign hoping the pain or discomfort will go away on its own. It may at times go away, but we have all heard stories of people who delayed addressing their condition until it was too late, and absent a miracle nothing could be done to help. As with physical health, the sooner you address a conflict situation the higher your chances of a constructive outcome.
Before we look at some productive ways to manage conflict, let’s look at two main reasons it occurs so regularly. One reason is that we have an enemy named satan (his name does not deserve to be capitalized). We read in 1 Peter, James and other places in Scripture that he is a “roaring lion seeking who he may devour.” Trust me, satan hates every one of us and he will wreak havoc and seek to cause disruption just for the sadistic fun of it.
I heard of a Christian lady who had something nice to say about everyone. A friend challenged her to think of something nice to say about the devil. After pausing for thought, she said, “Well, he’s a hard worker.” That’s cute, but not one bit funny. He is a hard and dedicated worker who seeks to hurt the heart of God. One of the best ways he can do that is to get God’s children to turn against each other and treat each other in negative and malicious ways. Please never forget the teaching we find in Ephesians 6:12 that our battles are not supposed to be against each other, but against our common enemy.
A second reason we see so much conflict is that we are all selfish, self-centered individuals. Since you are reading this column, I will assume you have given your heart to Christ and accepted Him as Lord of your life, or you are at least contemplating making that decision. If the latter, please know it will be the single best decision you will ever make.
When you decided to accept Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf you became a new creature, the old was now dead and the new had come (see 1 Corinthians 5:17). Am I the only who reads that verse and wonders if somehow the “old man” did not get the memo that he is supposed to be dead?
For me, life is a daily battle to put the enemy in his place and the only way I know how to do that is to put Christ in His place. When I do that, my life is filled with love, joy, peace, etc. (see Galatians 5:22, 23). When I truly experience His presence, I am totally willing to die to self that He might live in and through me (Galatians 2:20). With Christ on the throne of my heart, I can live in true humility, and with humility comes a whole bunch of benefits.
We read in Proverbs 11:2 that while pride leads to disgrace, wisdom comes with humility. I sure need and want more wisdom, how about you?
In Luke 14 we read that if we exalt ourselves, we will be humbled, but if we humble ourselves, we will be exalted. The Bible is abundantly clear that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (see James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5)
Even secular society is catching on to the health and wellness benefits of living a life of humility. Do a search for the benefits of humility and you will find an abundance of articles on the subject. Don’t you just love it when academics stumble upon some great truth that is in the Bible, but they claim to have discovered it on their own?
I promised earlier to address some ways to productively manage conflict. My strongest recommendation is that you prevent it from occurring when possible. Note I did not say avoid conflict, but rather seek to prevent it from happening in the first place. While this cannot, and in fact should not, happen in all cases, many conflicts can and should be prevented.
Humility, you might well imagine, can go a long way toward reducing the amount of conflict you have to face with others. You have likely heard the expression, “What would Jesus do?” I personally have a problem with that thought since I obviously am not Jesus. “What would Jesus have me do?” seems to work better for me, but even better still is to ask myself, “How would a humble person handle this situation?” or “What would humility lead me to do right now?”
By God’s grace and with His help, I’m working on forming the habit of asking those questions whenever I encounter someone or some situation that might cause me to speak or act in a manner I likely would later regret. Though it is a work in progress, I have already experienced several situations where my blood pressure remained low and my interactions more peaceful simply because I paused and asked those questions and responded appropriately.
One more way to experience less conflict in your life is to practice the wisdom we find in Philippians 2:1–5, Ephesians 4:1–6, and Romans 12:16–18. If I had the space, I would write those out for you, but you will be better served to look them up, meditate on them for a while, and ask God to help you put them into practice.
Though mediation has helped to support my family for over three decades, I truly wish it were not necessary for such an occupation to exist. That is doubly true for church members, but alas, the need does not seem to be going away. To that end, I’m pleased to let you know that a new ministry is being formed called the Institute for Biblical Peacemakers. Charles Brown (formerly of Adventist Reconciliation Ministries) and I have partnered together to help create this ministry. We were smart enough to invite several others who have experience in peacemaking to be on our board of advisors and soon any Seventh-day Adventist who wants to know how to help individuals work out their differences in a productive manner, or who wants to know how to help churches on the verge of splitting avoid such an outcome, will be able to do so.
For now, please know that while peace will not always come easily, it is, by God’s grace and practice, usually attainable and certainly worth pursuing.
Ron Price is the author of several books, including “Play Nice in the Sandbox at Church.”
Illustration by Chloee De Leon