Conflict Revolution: Am I Buying a Used Car or Building a Relationship?
In the current series, Conflict Revolution, Pastor Rick talked this past week of an adventure buying a used car. Often that “adventure” is riddled with conflict and many of us, me included, need to steel ourselves for it. As a recovering conflict-avoider, I don’t look forward to situations such as those. In fact, the advent of places like CarSense and Auto Lenders has been an absolute miracle. No haggling? I’m there! Traditional car buying starts with me going in thinking I’m going to get what I need and I’m suspicious of anything the salesperson says or does because they have the same attitude: we’re both out for our OWN good.
That’s no way to build a relationship. Pastor Jeff coined a phrase that says, “Conflict is an opportunity to make IT better.” What is IT? I think IT is relationship. Like Rick mentioned, I too grew up in a home where I was not given good teaching on how to handle conflict. In fact, I was pretty much left to my own devices, which is never good. So, I learned either to totally avoid it, or wade into it with guns blazing. As I’ve matured, I’m learning that both approaches are very self-focused and destructive. The former only puts a temporary lid on the conflict. I say temporary because it’s still there, just stuffed into a corner. The lid will pop off eventually and likely put it in a place where it doesn’t belong.
The latter, totally disrespects the “other,” whomever that may be. The attitude with the “guns blazing” approach is that I have something to say and you need to hear it. I’m going to get my needs met, my point made regardless of what you may think or feel.
Jesus on the other hand, set many great examples for us on how to handle conflict well. From being willing to tell someone they are errant in their ways in a way that doesn’t belittle the person, to turning the other cheek and forgiving others even when it’s unmerited. Even to the point of remaining silent when the other falsely accuses you, praying for them instead because they “know not what they are doing.”
The narrow road toward conflict requires work if it is to be handled well. It requires putting away my needs in favor of the other. It involves being able to listen and understand. It involves putting the relationship first. Colossians 3:13 says, Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. What a beautiful reminder. God forgave us all via His grace. A great lyric says it well to me, from the song “Reckless Love” by Bethel Music, “I couldn't earn it, I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away.”
That is the ultimate example of selflessness. That is the standard for which we need to strive. I often fall short, way short. But, the more I keep that in mind as I find myself in conflict, the better I will become. A concept I take with me now is that Jesus wants me/us to just sit with him, get to know him, watch how he handled life and relationships. Then, as I/we do that via worship, reading scripture and seeking to understand it, discussion, research etc., I/we will start to do those things more like He does. Not perfect, not all the time, but by constantly “seeking to be conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.”
Conflict is nothing to be avoided; it’s an opportunity to make it better.