Conflict is unavoidable. Yes, it can be delayed, but inevitably the friction will lead to sparks. Emotions will spike, words will trade like blows, and relationships that were once cordial, quickly become strained. Every person, sooner or later, discovers that navigating through life includes a few scrapes.
Some people seem energized by the possibility of conflict. Megalomaniacal, they think their best interests are served in the demise of others. Nobody likes this sort—nor should they. They are bullies.
The vast majority of people fall into the opposite extreme. They would happily walk over hot coals just to avoid conflict. The very thought of stern talk reduces them to bundles of sweating anxiety. Experts at defensive living, these harmonizers choose their steps carefully so as to avoid any confrontation.
Neither course is wise. Chasing after conflict is foolhardy—so is avoidance. We live in a community that cherishes varying expectations, traditions, and values and consequently, we will have conflict. Unsurprisingly, we will disagree on how life should be lived. Sometimes the things that divide us are a matter of preference and there is no benefit in raising objections. So even when we know (with every fiber in our being) that men should not wear skinny jeans, we should still our mouths and keep the peace.
Some disagreements are more substantial and require us to speak up (Gal 2:11). When clothing choices raise concerns, not on account of fashion, but because of modesty something should be said. When God’s truths and commandments are assaulted, we are obligated to say that this behavior is unrighteous. We may be condemned for being judgmental, prudish, antiquated and unkind, but we know that kindness is found in loving action. Let us love one another enough to look one another in the eye, point at sin, and cry ‘foul’!
Before you brace yourself, let me offer a couple of reminders to help you frame your confrontation in a way that honors God and accomplishes much:
- Consider your audience. Those who have no allegiance to Christ can’t be expected to conform to His statutes. This is not to say that we don’t correct their unrighteous choices, but we mustn’t demand that they return to a standard that they have never held. Yes, let us lift the Law of God before their eyes so that they know that they need a savior, but cut out the exasperation. They don’t ‘get it’ because they don’t have Him. Christians who have succumbed to temptation should receive more straightforward speech. They know better and must lovingly, emphatically be led back into obedience.
- Consider your tone. Conflict need not become hostility. We can speak against offensive life-choices without charging the conversation with animosity and disdain. There are no extra points for being a jerk, we win when love and holiness are accomplished. There are occasions when the stakes are high and sharp words are appropriate. Jesus was occasionally brusque in his encounters, as was Paul. The emphasis is on ‘occasionally’. Aim your words at healing and not hurting.
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:23–26, ESV)