The Heart Of Conflict


I have been teaching a class on Resolving Conflict based on the book The Peacemaker by Ken Sande.  The material is wonderful and the class has been very good.  As I have been reading and studying conflict, there are some insights that I have found very helpful.  I will share a few here, hoping this will help people understand why they have conflict in their lives.

In James 4:1-3 it says:

What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

What an amazing portion of Scripture, as we look into the root of why we have conflict in our lives.  Jesus talked about this in Matthew 15:19:  “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”    Ken Sande says “These passages describe the root cause of conflict: unmet desires in our hearts.  I would add to that the emotion of fear, as we fear our desires will not be met or we fear a certain outcome.

Some desires we have are unhealthy, like revenge, lust, greed, jealously.  Some of the desires we have can be good, like a happy marriage, a loving spouse, respectful children, a raise a work, a promotion, for people to respect you, a new iPad or a growing church.  The problem is when someone or something blocks us from having these desires, conflict happens.  Sande shares that there are basically two options at this point; God’s way or our way.

God’s way:

  • Trust God and seek your fulfillment in Him – “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”  Psalm 73:25.  When we see ourselves as God sees us and completely trust Him for all things, He will give us what we need to overcome anything that comes our way.
  • Ask God to help you continue to grow and mature no matter what the other person does“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-4
  • Continue to love the other person who is blocking your desire, pray for God’s sanctifying work in his or her life, and wait for the Lord to open the door for progress at a later time – “We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command:  Whoever loves God must love his brother.”  1John 4:19-21
  • By choosing God’s way, He promises to bless you and, no matter what the other person does, to use your difficult situation to conform you to the likeness of Christ – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  Romans 8:28-29

Our Way:

  • We demand – When we see something as being essential to our fulfillment and well-being, it moves from being a desire to a demand.
  • We judge – When a person demands something of another and that person does not listen, we can quickly judge them.  We judge others by criticizing, nit-picking, nagging, attacking and condemning.  This can also quickly lead to feeling superior, condemning, bitter or resentful.
  • We Punish – Whether deliberately or unconsciously, we will find ways to hurt or punish people so that they will give in to our desires.  It may be through hurtful words, using guilt or shame, stomping and slamming, ignoring, withholding love or respect or even physical abuse.  Inflicting pain on others is one of the surest signs that an unhealthy desire is ruling our hearts.

So here are a few questions to ponder:

  • How am I punishing others?
  • How am I judging others?
  • What am I demanding to have?
  • What is the root desire of that demand?
  • What am I preoccupied with?  The first thing on my mind in the morning.
  • How would I fill in this blank?:  “If only _______, then I would be happy, fulfilled, and secure.”
  • Where do I put my trust?
  • What or Who do I fear?
  • When a certain desire is not met, do I feel frustration, anxiety, resentment, bitterness, anger, or depression?
  • How can you cultivate a more passionate love for and worship of God?

Take some time to answer these questions honestly.  Ask God to reveal areas where you have gone your way instead of His way.

The Art of Confrontation


Conflict is all around us, none of us can escape conflict.  We try to avoid it, we try to minimize it, we try to attack it but we should resolve it.  Usually the way to reach resolution is through confrontation.  In a conflict situation the best way to obtain peace is to start by confronting the issue.  The problem is for most of us the idea of confronting is not something we are good at and we often do it in the wrong way.  This will usually cause the conflict to get worse.  Jesus was very good at confrontation.  He gave us some clear examples of how to do it.  One of those times is in John 8:48-59.  Jesus is having a showdown with some of the leader’s of the Jews.  Here are four steps Jesus used to get to the heart of the issue:

  1. He was clear and direct – Often times when we confront we are not able to be clear, because our emotions are clouding our thinking.  The best way to confront someone is by being as clear and direct as possible.  This should not be done in a condescending way or in an aggressive attacking way.
  2. He did not draw attention to himself – He did not get all emotional and throw a temper tantrum.  He didn’t puff himself up and try to make himself look good or look smarter.
  3. He laid out the issues and asked for a decision – Many times we don’t lay out all the cards, or if we do, we don’t ask for a decision.  If the person needs more time to process and think, give them time but come back to the real issues and how to resolve them.
  4. He trusted God to justify and reveal the truth – Sometimes we can’t completely resolve a situation, but we should always try.  We must trust that God is going to continue to work in this situation as long we are being obedient to owning our part of the conflict and confronting in a loving way with the right motives.

Here are some more takeaways on the right way to confront:

  1. Clarify the desired relationship you wish to have
  2. Make sure you have the right motives, speak the truth in love
  3. Define the unacceptable behavior
  4. Highlight your values and priorities, what’s important to you?
  5. List the conduct that illustrate your point – be specific
  6. Share the possible consequences if no resolution can be reached
  7. Offer hope for a new future – reconciliation is the goal

Resolving conflict is never easy, but always worth the effort.

Spiritual Leadership


Leadership has been a passion of mine for a long time.  The ability to lead well makes all the difference in any organization.  That is why a leader can never stop growing.  We all have different styles of leading, and the best leaders are able to use different styles of leading in different situations.  I happen to lead at a church and so there is a spiritual element to the way in which I lead.  Spiritual leadership is much different than the way most leaders lead.  Here are some insights on how a spiritual leader leads well:

  1. To Gain influence a spiritual leader loves and cares for people.
  2. To build confidence a spiritual leader depends on and trusts God.
  3. To acquire authority a spiritual leader serves the people around them.
  4. To grow an organization a spiritual leader develops and mentors people.
  5. A Spiritual leaders vision and passion comes from having an eternal perspective.
  6. Success for a spiritual leader is obeying the Lord.
  7. The heart of a spiritual leader is love for God and people.

Leading well is not about the things you accomplish but the people that you influence and the legacy you leave behind.  Lead and serve well.