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God’s position on conflicts

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Conflicts mark the beginning of destruction, murder and many evil deeds
(File Photo) Conflicts mark the beginning of destruction, murder and many evil deeds

A CONFLICT may be defined as a confrontation between differing expectations, purposes, goals, values or desires.

By Bishop Colin Nyathi

It may be between any two groups or individuals. It may manifest in a violent or non-violent action toward the other party. These differences usually centre on scarce resources.

Since time immemorial, God has discouraged men from conflict. (Read Romans 12:18, 1 Corinthians 14:33, Romans 12:18, Ephesians 4:3, Romans 15:33). He made it clear in the above exhortations that peace does not come on a silver platter. By using the word “endeavouring” in Ephesians 4:33, He emphasised that peace requires some effort which may even be met with resistance. The church of God has had her fair share of conflicts.

As early as the fourth chapter of Genesis, we notice the conflict between Cain and his brother Abel, leading to the murder of the latter (Abel).

Abraham had his fair share of conflicts when his followers had a bitter quarrel with those of his nephew Lot. Isaac’s children also had conflicts with those of Abimelech. Jacob had a number of conflicts with his senior brother Esau. Joseph had conflicts with his brothers because of his dreams.

The disciples of Jesus had to be rebuked on a number of occasions for wrestling over their respective positions in God’s kingdom. The apostles of the New Testament had a number of conflicts bordering on doctrine, resources and position. Throughout church history, we see an unaccountable number of conflicts notable among which is the Martin Luther-led reformation.

Seven effects of conflict
Conflicts mark the beginning of destruction, murder and many evil deeds. Indeed the brother of our Lord said this clearly in his epistle. James 3:16 reads: “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” Parties engaged in conflict often experience more trouble than they imagine at the beginning of the conflict.

Conflicts hinder prayers
Peter was emphatic that conflicts hinder the prayers of saints. 1 Peter 3:7 reads: “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honour to the wife, as to the weaker vessel and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”

This is in line with the exhortation from our Lord that saints need to be reconciled to each other before offering prayers and sacrifices at the altar. Mathew 5:23 and 24 states: “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Conflicts give place to the devil
The devil’s plans thrive best in an atmosphere of confusion. This is why Paul urged the saints to avoid giving place to the devil. Ephesians 4:27 reads: “. . . nor give place to the devil.” Our Lord Jesus made it clear that the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy. Conflict is one sure way of welcoming the devil into your family, church or ministry.

Conflicts destroy the weak
Conflicts are obviously destructive. There is no doubt that they have a more profound effect on the weaker ones in church. Paul, therefore, cautioned the stronger saints in the Roman and Corinthian churches to take note of this reality. Romans 14:1 states: “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.”

Romans 15:1 reads: “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”
Many saints who quit churches when leaders are at loggerheads hardly recover as stable saints. In physical warfare, it is often the women and children who suffer the most. As the saying goes, when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

Conflicts are a bad witness to unbelievers
Our Lord projected the saints as the salt and light of the world. Love was to be our banner. John 13:35 reads: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” One sure way of distorting this honourable image of the church is to engage in conflicts.

Conflicts stall growth
One of the main reasons why David, the progenitor of our Lord Jesus Christ, did not build the temple was the fact that he was a man of war.

Not only had he killed many people, but his empire was always at the risk of being attacked by his opponents. On the other hand, God strengthened the hand of his son Solomon who enjoyed peace all around him.

I Kings 5:3 says: “You know how my father David could not build a house for the name of the Lord his God because of the wars which were fought against him on every side, until the Lord put his foes under the soles of his feet.”

Conflicts have the effect of enforcing the “pull-him-down” (Phd) or “crab” syndrome. Most people in conflicts do not wish their opponents well in life. They, therefore, devise schemes and programmes to bring down others who are progressing. The crab syndrome derives it’s name from the story of a man who owned two sets of crabs, some in an open container and others in a closed bottle.
When he was asked why one was opened, he replied: “I do not need to seal to stop them from coming out. These crabs will pull each other down for as long as you can imagine. None of them will ever get to the top. On other hand, those in the sealed bottle are in such a hurry to get on with their lives. They will scatter if the lid is off.” The story speaks for itself. Wherever there is conflict, progress is either slow or non-existent.

Conflicts destroy gifts
Whenever there is a conflict, the parties lose the benefit of the gifts and blessings of each other. Ephesians 4:16 says: “. . . from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Paul urged all Christians to share in spiritual gifts. A Christian who lives without the spiritual input of others around him or her is unlikely to grow properly.

Conflicts cause emotional trauma
Conflicts tend to put the parties in a state of fear and mistrust.
Quite often, parties are uncomfortable about the presence of other parties. Sometimes, this discomfort brings undue pressure and suspicion among parties. Eventually, simple actions are misconstrued to aggravate the conflict situation.

Kinds of conflict
In the body of Christ, conflicts occur in various forms at different sections of operation.

Executive conflicts
These occur among the top hierarchy of a church or ministry. In many churches, conflicts occur among leaders over four common issues namely:
Vision,
Resources,
Doctrine,
Position,
Strife over vision.

Vision is dynamic. From time to time, different leaders give thought to reviewing their vision. In the process, many such leaders encounter difficulties, not from the rank and file, but from other leaders. Apostle Paul had a difficult time convincing the other Jewish apostles about his apostleship to the Gentiles. Galatians 2:8 states: “. . . (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles).”

Strife over limited resources
One of the earliest major conflicts in the church was caused by the uneven allocation of resources. Acts 6:1 reads: “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.”

Strife over doctrine
Another major conflict among the early apostles centred on doctrine.
Acts 15:5 and 6 reads: “But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.’ Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.”

Strife over position and privilege
In Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians, he defended his apostleship boldly. It is obvious that his position was in question by some other apostles. In 2 Corinthians 12:11 and 12, Paul states: “I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.”

Imported conflicts
Imported conflicts occur when members of a ministry carry over an existing conflict into the ministry. Such conflicts may exist in families, schools, business, tribes or even races.

Departmental conflicts
There is hardly a ministry that does not have departmental conflicts, eg when the choir as a department has a conflict with ushers over their rightful sitting area in the church for instance, we have a departmental conflict.

Interpersonal conflict
Interpersonal conflicts occur between individuals in the ministry. There are several reasons why individuals may disagree. As the Apostle Paul outlined in Galatians 5:19: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness.”

Conflicts are a reflection of the desires of the flesh. The higher the spiritual maturity of the members of a church, the less interpersonal conflicts one is likely to see. One unfortunate thing about interpersonal conflicts is their potential to affect other innocent members of the body.

Absalom, the son of David, engaged in a revengeful murder of his brother Amnon in solidarity with his sister Tamar. Such acts of revenge could set a long trail of it’s kind.

Personal causes of conflicts
Personal factors which easily provoke conflicts in ministry include pride, ambition, intolerance, insecurity, greed, over-spiritualisation, personality clashes and unresolved issues.

Pride
The scriptures affirm that pride goes before a fall. When iniquity was found in Lucifer, one of the manifestations of his pride was a rebellion he organised in heaven. Isaiah 14:12 reads: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!”

It’s very difficult to control the leader or follower who is obsessed with the pride of life.

Ambition
Ambition in itself is not bad. It turns bad when ambitious people trample on the rights and privileges of others in order to achieve their aim. The two rebellious sons of David, Adonijah and Absolom, demonstrated this trait in their bid to annex King David’s throne (2 Samuel 15). Absalom was motivated by his beauty and fame with the people. Quite often, charismatic and vocal leaders are easy channels of this kind of conflict.

Greed
Closely linked to pride and ambition is the cancer of greed. Proverbs 15:27 states: “He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.”

In demanding more than their legal share, greedy people trespass the resources of other persons.
Once the afflicted person reacts, a conflict is likely to evolve. Greed also involves the craving for power and influence in the church.

To be continued … Don’t miss out next week’s edition

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