Conflict as Mission

I am hearing a lot of commentary in the face of the restrictions that have come with COVID-19 pandemic about how the church, how can we, be the salt and light of the earth through this time and reach out with the gospel? I am glad to be hearing this.

I have heard many good suggestions from praying for each of your neighbours as you do your daily walk around the block to organising open door or front yard dinners for neighbours to socialise and connect whilst remaining at home. Into this mix of suggestions, I would like to offer another, do conflict well!

Tensions at home as opportunities for God to work

With increased time at home with family or flat mates and restrictions to activities that you maybe use to unwind and refresh it is highly likely that frustrations will spill over into our relationships.

Have you ever considered the idea that God wants to use these moments to make himself known? That he wants to use your conflict for his glory and your joy! In fact, conflict may be the very vehicle through which God will answer your prayers for those who you are seeking to reach and serve with the love of Jesus.

Can conflict be part of God’s good work?

So often we think of conflict as something to be avoided or something that needs to be navigated so we can get on with the good work that God has prepared in advance for us to do. We think, “surely conflict is not part of that good work, right?” The good work is running church ministries, being part of mission teams, participating in our reach out events, caring for those in need and advocating for justice. It is not dealing with conflict! If conflict is there, it means that something is going wrong.

If this has been your posture can I challenge you to maybe reconsider this thinking? I want to suggest that giving your energy, time and resources to responding to conflict well is part of the good work that God has prepared in advance for you to do. Far from a distraction, doing conflict well is part of your ministry, and potentially a strategic part of your ministry.

How God can use conflict

I believe that God can use conflict for his glory, your joy and his mission. The reason I think this is because this is the message we find in Scripture. Let me give you two examples. The first comes from well-known verses for those familiar with PeaceWise, 1 Cor 10:31-11:1. These verses say that in everything we do, including conflict we have the opportunity to glorify God, serve others and grow to be like Christ.

However, snuck in the middle of these verses, Paul also points out that the reason he asks people to take on this posture is so many might be saved (v33). Paul encourages this posture because he sees that through conflict people can actually come to know Christ! The second example comes from John 17:21-23. These words record Jesus’s final prayer, which is directed towards you and me. He prays for unity and the reason he gives is, “so that” the world would believe and know that God loves them (v21,23). This is extraordinary! Doing conflict well presents us the opportunity to show God’s love and make Christ known.

Conflict is generally pretty tough; it causes us stress and unease; it makes us uncomfortable. But this doesn’t make it bad, something to be avoided or relegated to “something that has to be dealt with” so you can get on with what you want to or should be doing.

Conflict is worth your time, energy and resources because by responding to conflict well we can show God’s love to others and make Christ known.  You never know, your next opportunity to share the hope you have found in Jesus Christ with someone may come about because they witnessed you responding to a difficult relational conflict well!

What now?

If you would like to think further of how to do conflict well consider taking the time that COVID-19 has brought to read through Resolving Everyday Conflict.

You may also like to take up PeaceWise’s free offer of conflict coaching and prayer support to help you do conflict well at this tough time.

This article was written by Wayne Forward.

Wayne has a diverse work back ground across Mental Health Nursing and Christian Ministry in which he has worked in a variety of leadership and training roles. He has formal studies in Nursing, Theology, Coaching & Training and is currently undertaking master’s studies in missional leadership. He currently works with Pioneers Australia and is also a member of the PeaceWise Board.

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