Responding to Conflict

Responding to Conflict

Phil 4:1-3

“I urge Euodia and urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”

 

          One of the myths people have is that Christians should never have conflict.  While it is true that we should be characterized within the church by love and unity, the reality is that we are still affected by sin.  Consequently, we still have differences of opinion that lead to conflict even within the church.  As he is writing to the believers in Philippi, Paul addresses a problem within the church.  We do not know the nature of the disagreement, only that Euodia and Syntyche were in the middle of a disagreement affecting the whole congregation. Paul felt it necessary to address them specifically and publically in the letter.  This suggests that the conflict affected the entire congregation and that the issue was well-known in the church.  

When individuals have a conflict that continues to escalate, it often can lead to people taking sides and ultimately dividing the church family. Significantly, these individuals that Paul identifies have been significant partners in the ministry.  They were mature Christians who had allowed their disagreement to intensify without resolution.  As a result, they needed others to help them resolve the issue.  Often, when we are in a conflict, we need others to help guide us to resolution by helping us regain perspective.

Furthermore, Paul does not identify the nature of the disagreement nor point out who is at fault.  When conflicts arise, we often focus on the issues and personalities involved.  It is easy to blame others and protest our innocence. However, when we have conflict the critical issue is not who is right or wrong but what is our perspective and attitude.

          Instead of focusing on the issue that causes the rift, Paul focuses on the responsibility to forgive and live in harmony.  Paul encourages them to “think the same in Christ.”  In other words, he encourages them to reorient their focus from the issue and the disagreement to their unity because of Christ. The term focuses on a complete reorientation and attitude toward life. Instead of focusing on what has led to their disagreement, Paul challenges them to focus on their life in union with Christ so that they exemplify the attitude of Christ is grounded in the attitude of a servant.  

Conflict arises when we focus on our rights and our desires and is antithetical to the attitude of forgiveness and servitude.  We want our rights and perspectives to be honored, and when we feel they are not, we become angry and bitter.  In contrast, servants have no rights and cannot demand what they want.  They live only to serve the master. When this becomes our attitude, there are no longer grounds for conflict, for we are no longer concerned about our rights and desires.  

Conflicts surface because we are motivated by pride and self-interest.  We become offended when we feel that we have been slighted and mistreated.  Yet to restore our relationship with God, Christ set aside His rights and was willing to suffer the disgrace and humiliation of the cross to serve others.  Instead of demanding that His self-interests be upheld, He suffered for the interests of others.  Instead of demanding retribution and justice, Christ offered grace and forgiveness.  This grace was unconditionally offered.  When we are in conflict, instead of demanding our interests be honored, we can set them aside because of our relationship with Christ.  Our identity is not found in the honor we receive from others but in our position and relationship with Christ.

Consequently, we can forgive and overlook the faults of others regardless of what they have done to us.  If you are bitter towards others, look inward at yourself instead of looking outward at others and what they have done.  Be willing to set aside your rights in order to forgive and love the person who offended you.  In doing so we then reflect Christ to the world. 

 

 

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