By Jocelyn Lee, Editorial/Marketing Intern
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5–6).
Culture of Peace is a book that acknowledges that conflict hurts. Whenever we disagree with others or get into a fight that threatens our relationships, the whole process can leave us feeling tired and weary. Often, it feels though conflict is a burden we just have to tolerate or persevere through in order to get to the better seasons of our relationships.
However, Culture of Peace also discusses how conflict might be enormously beneficial. The various authors reveal that since the highest call of all Christians is to glorify God by imitating Christ, conflict presents a unique opportunity to be more like him. Jesus was the ultimate mediator—resolving the conflict of sin that kept God and humans apart. Therefore with every conflict we encounter, we have the opportunity to imitate Christ’s actions by resolving the conflict in a God-glorifying way.
This is a central lesson in Culture of Peace: imitating Christ’s resolution of our conflict with God on the cross will enable us as humans to strengthen our character and faith in him. Here is a look into some of Culture of Peace’s insights that reveal unique ways conflict can be beneficial.
1. Conflict Allows Us to Glorify God
Imagine if everyone was kind to you. It would be pretty easy to be kind back to them, right? It would not demonstrate much character to be kind to someone whom you are at peace with; in fact, it would probably be expected. However, if you show others the love of Christ even in the midst of a conflict with them, you are demonstrating his redeeming love more strongly than if you simply reciprocate a kind action. As Ken Sande and Gary Friesen put it in Culture of Peace:
When we are in the midst of conflict, we have an opportunity to show what Jesus has done for us, and to reflect the love and kindness of Christ in the way we treat those who have wronged us. The more Jesus’ grace and character are revealed in us, the more God is honored and praised (1 Pet. 2:12).
Conflict allows us to demonstrate the forgiveness, love, and wisdom of God. Without something to forgive, we wouldn’t be able to demonstrate that also God forgave us. Without someone who is hard to love, we wouldn’t be able to demonstrate that God first loved us when we were still sinners. Conflict enables us to have a stronger testimony for God and demonstrate to all observers that the way God deals with conflict is different than the way the world does.
2. Conflict Allows Us to Strengthen Our Relationships with Others
Relationships are the cornerstone of society. In fact, that is all that a society is: a network of individual relationships. Although conflicts seem to be the things that most often strain relationships, it is also what can take the strain off of relationships. Culture of Peace discusses how, through a conflict,
God may use us to identify and lift a burden in [someone else’s] life. All too frequently, a conflict has less to do with stated issues and more to do with unresolved problems in the other’s life. When people lash out, it is often a symptom of deeper problems. Instead of harshly confronting them—matching outburst for outburst or getting defensive—we can look for ways to help others lift the burdens that are beyond their ability to lift.
Conflicts can be an indicator that the other person needs help with personal issues they are battling. If a friend never bothered you whenever they were dealing with a heavy burden, you might never know that they needed help. Giving them grace to lash out because they are struggling with something probably unrelated to you reflects our gratefulness toward God. He was patient with us though we sinned against him time and time again, and we are better for it, so being patient and understanding with those in your life with whom you are in conflict could breed a better relationship.
3. Conflict Allows Us to Strengthen Our Own Character and Faith
Perhaps the person who can benefit most from conflict is you. Like it or not, humans are flawed. Your integrity could always be stronger, your faith could always go deeper, and you could always use more self-awareness and wisdom. Luckily, conflict presents the unique opportunity to address these issues. Sande and Friesen point out how
[God] will also use conflict to show us our sinful habits and attitudes and help us to change. Prominent among the habits and attitudes we have seen in our own lives are pride, a tendency to put on appearances, an unwillingness to forgive, and a critical tongue. Conflict has a way of bringing these sins to the surface, giving us the opportunity to confess them to our forgiving God.
In 99% of conflicts, you will have at least part of the fault. Whether a small or large part, there is still some contribution you probably made. By addressing your part of the conflict, you are able to receive forgiveness from God and often the other person. Without the conflict to bring these issues to light, you might have gone a lot longer being blind to the ways sin was afflicting your life. Although painful, strengthening one’s character and faith by repenting of sin and dealing with one’s flaws is worth it so that we may become more like Christ.
Of course, these 3 opportunities that conflict presents are just that: opportunities. One can only glorify God, build relationships with others, and practice self-improvement if the biblical response to conflict is taken. That is why Culture of Peace was written, to give practical advice on how to turn conflict into peace. Think about your own life. Which relationships could you apply the insights of Culture of Peace to? As imitators of Christ, we have the opportunity to make the world more beautiful than if it were conflict-free. We have the opportunity to point others to Christ. What will you do with this opportunity?
Jocelyn Lee is an Editorial/Marketing Intern at Hendrickson Publishers. She recently graduated as co-valedictorian from high school and will soon start pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree from Regent University. In her free time you can find her changing her major every other day and listening to the same three musicals on repeat.
Making peace can be challenging, but God has graciously given us clear and helpful truths that are effective in any conflict between people. This practical and handy booklet offers four distinct ways to help a culture of peace flourish in your office, church, and home: Biblical Peacemaking: Building Real Relationships by Ken Sande and Gary Friesen, God’s Search and Rescue Plan: Church Discipline by David V. Edling, Words That Cut: Learning to Take Criticism in Light of the Gospel by Rev. Alfred Poirier, and Judging Others: The Danger of Playing God by Ken Sande.
For more information about Culture of Peace, visit our website!