There are some things in life we all face. One of those things is conflict. It is in our families, friendships, communities, and churches. I have observed and noticed this reality in my own life. It all begs the question, “How do we deal with and confront the conflicts in our lives and relationships”? The Lord has directed me to an answer from His Word in James 4:1-12. I come back again and again to this passage and pray the Lord may work it in my heart so I can apply it to my life. I specifically touch on these three areas:
1) The Source of the Conflicts (vv. 1-5)
The ultimate source of the conflicts I face is not the other person but my own heart. Do not misunderstand me; I am not saying the other person never bears any responsibility. We live in a fallen and sinful world so that means we will sin against others and, yes, others will sin against us. Two more items worth clarifying: not all conflict is bad and not all desires are bad. Conflict can prove fruitful and desires can be glorifying to God just as long as things do not find a place above our devotion to God. Back to the source of the conflict, we bear the responsibility for how we respond to possible conflicts. When our desires and passions are not satisfied, we escalate to conflict. When we do not get our way, we sin, we do not go to God, or we go to God with the wrong motives (4:2). The result is we care more about our selfish desires than God’s desires. We do not put Him first but put Him in the backseat. We commit spiritual adultery (4:4)! So the way I pray here is by confessing to the Lord my heart, the selfishness and the idolatrous desires, and asking Him to work on my heart that I may desire what He desires and may not allow secondary things in my life to become primary.
2) The Solution to the Conflicts (vv. 6-10)
If we now what the problem is, then it is crucial we find out the solution. What we find out is the solution to the conflicts is the gospel of God’s grace. The gospel shows us we are sinners and that we can be saved only by grace because of the person and work of Jesus Christ. We can be brought near to God and He to us because of the gospel. The gospel of grace enables us, by the Holy Spirit, to submit to God and resist the devil (4:7). The presence of repentance (4:8-9) and humility (4:6, 10) in our actions and affections display the truth we have received the solution. We will not be so hard-pressed to always be right and always win the argument but will care more about the person who has been made in the image of God (see James 3:8-12). The manner in which I pray on this point goes something like: Lord, thank you for the gospel. I know everyday I need your grace. I have been saved by your grace through the gospel of Jesus Christ. May the truth of who You are and what You have done never leave my heart. May Your Spirit empower and enable me to repent when I sin and when I wrong respond in conflict and in life and may I have the humility to recognize it. May I care more about the person You have created in Your image than about winning the argument.
3) The Stance in the Conflicts (vv. 11-12)
While we could stop at the solution, James goes on to reveal to us what our stance in the conflict needs to be. In short, our stance is to obey God, not “play” God. We do not approach our relationships or conflicts as if we are in the position of God. We are not the ultimate judge and we certainly do not judge by our opinions but by God’s standard, the Bible. God is the one who is in authority over all, not us. Our role is obey Him, loving our brothers and sisters in Christs, our neighbors, and even our enemies. Here, the prayer involves repenting and confessing to the Lord where I have tried to usurp His authority and play the judge. I ask Him to help me obey His Word and to love the people He has put in my life. I pray for my stance to be obedience to Him. When my stance is obedience to God, I rightly deal with the problem and hold firm to the solution.
- How do your handle the conflicts in your lives and relationships-with God’s Word or your word?
- How does understanding the source, solution, and stance help you confront conflicts as a Christian?
- Resolve this year to pray through these three areas when you know you will be facing conflict.