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3 Healthy Ways to Handle Conflict

Written by Madeline Twooney, Germany

A few Sundays ago, an acquaintance of mine from church pulled me aside before the morning service to talk to me about a weakness in my character. She thought that l was too occupied with accommodating other’s needs in church, that I neglected my own needs. In her opinion, l could do with standing up for myself more.

l smiled and muttered some vague thanks for her concern.

But in the back of my mind, l was fuming—absolutely fuming. I found her words condescending and her intervention inappropriate. I was not a frightened, insecure person. While I am fallen and flawed like everyone else, l believe that God has gifted me with a kind and generous heart that is always seeking to help others—I’ve always looked at that as an asset.

To this day, my acquaintance doesn’t know how l feel. I opted out of negatively responding to avoid an unnecessary storm.

And yet I wonder. . .was avoiding conflict by ignoring her confrontation the correct thing to do?

As the body of Christ, we need to be able to respond to conflict within the church and in our lives in a healthy way that does the following:

  • Gives us peace as individuals
  • Promotes love
  • Lifts us up as a body of believers that can serve God both in the church and out in the world

So, how do we do that?

The apostle Paul approaches this dilemma in his epistle to the Christians in Colossae. Because of false teachings, the church was suffering from severe division. In Colossians 3:13-15, Paul shows us three principles that we can use today to help us respond to conflict.

 

1. Forgive Others As God Forgives Us

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

The act of forgiveness is of such great importance to Paul, that the word is used three times in this Bible passage. Not only are we called to forgive others, we need to strive to forgive them in the same way God has forgiven us.

This means that whatever harm the other person might have caused us, we do not hold it against them. This also means blotting out any bitterness or anger we may feel towards them. Forgiving as the Lord forgives not only frees the person who wronged us—it liberates us as well.

My acquaintance has an impression of me that may be untrue. But that’s ok. I know who l am, and God knows who l am. Irrespective of what prompted her to push her opinion on me, l am practicing every day to forgive in a way that frees us both.

 

2. Put on Love

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:14)

Jesus commands us to love one another (John 13:34-35). However, how do we love someone we have a conflict with? In that case, we need to make a conscious decision to love them—to accept them for who they are, warts and all, and recognize that they are a work in progress, just like we are. We need to put on love.

Loving someone with whom we are in conflict is easier when we understand the motives for their actions. My acquaintance had good intentions in mind, so showing her anything but love would only promote confusion and hurt in her heart.

That doesn’t mean that l shouldn’t talk to her openly about her actions and their effect on me—l can, and l might at some point in the future. However, if l confront her, l need to do it from a place of love, not from hurt or accusation.

God is love. When we were still His enemy, He loved us (Ephesians 2:4-5). If His love can unify us with Him, shouldn’t we be sharing this love with others?

 

3. Let Peace into Our Hearts

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace (Colossians 3:15)

Being in conflict is stressful and takes up a lot of our mental energy. Why would anyone choose to live that way, when we have the option to receive the peace Christ offers (John 14:27)?

Choosing to accept Jesus’ peace has been a great blessing for me in my situation. It isn’t always easy to apply, but it helps to think of how much inner turmoil and stress l am avoiding in my life by simply trusting Jesus to work things out in His perfect timing. With that in mind, choosing peace is a better option!

The church is of great importance to Jesus. For it to function well, He requires us to be at peace. So, if you are holding tightly to an issue or a conflict today, could you let it go for Jesus’ sake?

 

It would be nice to say that conflict is something that can be avoided. Unfortunately, we are imperfect people living in a broken world—a prime breeding ground for discord and strife.

How comforting it is, then, to know that we have a perfect God who loves us in our brokenness, and guides us to respond or deal with these conflicts in a Christlike manner, through His love and teachings!

The Day I Broke A Promise to My Husband

Written By Dawn Ong, Singapore

“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26b).

This verse was close to our hearts as my husband and I went through pre-marital counseling. We promised each other that we would not allow anger to fester overnight, that we would make up and forgive each other before the day was over.

I broke that promise not too long ago.

 

The Disagreement

It was a lazy weekend. My husband and I wanted to run some errands without the children. We started to squabble due to a minor dispute—whether or not we should let the kids watch TV while we were out.

I did not want the children glued to the screen. My husband insisted that we needed something to entertain the kids so we could leave in peace, and the helper could have an easier time. I said no. He said yes.

Our voices grew louder and louder, in front of the kids. They were either glued to their program, oblivious to the heated atmosphere, or they did not know who to side with, and kept silent.

I grabbed the remote control and turned the TV off in a huff, with major protest from the kids. My husband and I were still disagreeing as we stepped out of the house together. I was fuming, and wanted to speak up for my cause. He cut me off mid-sentence, not wanting to listen to my rationale. Of course, that left me seething.

I remained indignant throughout the evening and allowed animosity to permeate the air. I made sure he knew I was mad at him—ignoring him when he asked for my opinion, walking far in front of him with a stomp in my steps, making no eye contact, giving one-word answers, and other childish manners imaginable.

I nursed the thought that he should apologize, since he was the one who shut me off in the first place. I continued to sin in anger, with an unforgiving heart.

As we lay in bed that night, I told him I was still annoyed with him, and left it at that, rolling away from him. I did not hear an ounce of apology. I went to bed mad and disappointed. I couldn’t sleep that night and was still grumpy the next morning.

 

The Next Day

Still upset, I raised the issue the next day. My frustration surprised my husband, as he thought we had reached an understanding. Before I had turned away the night before, he had gently told me, “Sleep on it. We will talk about this when you are less angry.”

I fumed over the fact that he did not care to make up—except I learned that he did. In my frustration, I hadn’t heard him, and allowed anger to linger through the night. I had given the devil a foothold.

We had made a promise during marriage counseling, and I broke it.

In the case of what we had argued about, there was no right and wrong. It was simply a matter of different perspectives. But I had allowed harsh words to strain the relationship, and in my anger, I had sinned.

My husband said he was trying to reach out to me the entire evening. He thought he was being extra nice to me, and was gentle with his words. But I was blinded by resentment, and insisted on an apology. When I did not receive one, that’s all I could focus on.

On my part, I assumed my unhappiness was obvious through my actions. But my husband was unaware of my infuriation, and I didn’t voice my concerns to him until the end of the day. It was a matter of communication. We had not let each other in on our respective thoughts and feelings.

 

Moving Forward

When we finally talked things through openly, we realized that we were both wrong. He was annoyed that I had shut off the TV in anger. I was upset that he did not hear me out. But instead of taking necessary steps towards reconciliation, we had allowed our evening to be taken captive by anger.

If I could do this over, I would have taken time to calm down before anger took over. I could have allowed the kids to watch TV, while explaining my rationale calmly to my husband. He, on the other hand, could have listened to my justifications patiently.

I apologized for switching off the TV in a frustrated fit—both to my husband, and my children. My husband shared his regret for not being proactive in listening to me. We made up, in front of the children, as we shared our marriage counselor’s words, and the promise we made to each other.

I am reminded once again, exactly why anger can be so dangerous. If we ignore it, anger can become like a knife—plunging deep into our relationships, cutting the ties that bond us. When unresolved, it consumes us, blinding us to reason and logic. Anger leaves us prone to let hurtful words spew from our lips, and for our hearts to be filled with soreness.

Paul was wise when he gave the Ephesians these words. They have been proven true time and time again.

“’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27).

Moving From Guilt to Freedom

Written By Deborah Lee, Singapore

My heart was tense. I kept remembering the recent conversation with my former church leader. I had explained to her my decision to leave for a new church,* and apologized for letting her down.

But she was visibly upset, and directed hurtful, accusing words at me. After that conversation, I tried texting her once a week, but her reply was always short— “I’m fine. Thank you.” The last time I texted her, she stopped replying altogether.

This leader had been a great help to me during my discipleship journey. I remember when she first brought me to the church five years ago. I was facing some complex family issues then, and she was one of the persons who directed me to God and showered me with love.

I grew spiritually in that church. I was grateful for the comfort they provided, and I made a promise to stay faithful to the church and to eventually bring my family there for worship. But that never happened, and now with my departure, it won’t be happening at all.

I felt helpless, and God seemed so far away. I was so consumed by that feeling of helplessness that I woke up one Sunday morning, and didn’t feel like worshipping God. But I figured I should at least go to church and listen to the sermon, so I eventually dragged myself out of bed.

 

The Bondage That Held Me

As the worship leader led us to begin singing the song “No Longer Slaves,” I remember praying, “Lord, show me what is hindering me. I just want to worship you.”

God brought to light my guilt over leaving my previous church. While it was not necessarily wrong for me to leave, I felt guilty for not fulfilling my promise to my former church leader.

I had also raised my voice during the discussion with my church leader. I was defensive and somewhat bitter as I explained my reasons for leaving. Hence, I was guilty also for taking offense instead of seeking peace (1 Peter 3:11, Matthew 5:9). I should have answered with gentleness and respect (Proverbs 15:1), thus keeping a clear conscience. Instead, I sinned, and in turn, led my church leader further into sin also.

As we continued singing, I became immersed in the lyrics: I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God. . . We’ve been liberated from our bondage, we are the sons and daughters, let us sing our freedom. . .

I found myself lifting up my hands as we sang. Tears filled my eyes as I recalled how the Lord had rescued me again and again in the past. Though I have faced many tough situations, the Lord has always carried me and walked me through my darkest moments.

At the end of the song, I felt as if God were speaking into my heart, “Don’t hold onto the guilt of leaving anymore. Look at My redemptive work on the cross. Lay down your burden; I will carry it. You are no longer a slave. You are mine. Be set free.”

 

Where Freedom Is Found

As I shared my worship experience with a trusted friend, she pointed me to Romans 8:1-4. If we are in Christ, there is no condemnation; the Spirit is life-giving and sets us free from the power of sin and death. No matter what mistake we have made, Christ has died to set us free from condemnation. As long as we put our faith in Him, His sacrifice on the cross justifies us. No human work can do or undo this justification.

When we live according to the Spirit by faith, we can repent, experience Christ’s forgiveness, and move on by His grace even if the person we have wounded has not yet forgiven us. Our flesh is weak. We do things we should not. But there is power at the cross. At the same place where God freely offers forgiveness when we ask, there is a redemptive work that empowers us to live differently—to let go of guilt, and focus on leading a life worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every way and bearing fruit in His kingdom (Colossians 1:10-12).

Through the worship on Sunday morning, God taught me to focus on the power of His cross—even in our confusion and brokenness, it brings both healing and direction for a way forward.

Though my former church leader has yet to forgive me, I know that God already has. Because I am set free from the guilt, I can now pray without hindrance for my church leader to also find healing at the redemptive work on the cross. I continue to pray for the eventual reconciliation of our relationship.

 

* I do not encourage changing churches lightly. No church is perfect, and generally we should remain in our home church and seek to grow spiritually there, encouraging and supporting one another to grow in Christ. However, if you do feel led to move on to a new church, it should be done only after careful consideration, a period of prayer, seeking the Lord through reading His Word, and counsel from mature Christian mentors or church elders.

3 Things to Focus on When You’re Single

Are you tired of questions about your relationship status? Or has a relationship you thought would last recently come to an end? Have you just spent the summer watching everyone else get married, and find yourself asking God, “Why am I still single?”

Whether you’ve been praying for a partner for a long time and find singleness to be difficult or painful, have recently become single, or have no interest whatsoever in dating, there are a few things you can focus on during this season:

 

1. Focus on Your Relationship with God

We know from God’s word, that investing in knowing God more is the most important thing we can do with our time. After all, we are commanded to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

Generally, we have more flexibility in our schedules when we are single. This gives us the opportunity to focus on loving God in creative ways that might not be as feasible in other stages of life.

Ask yourself, are there any unique ways that you might be able to spend time with God? Maybe you could go off the grid for a week and seek the Lord in a quiet, serene place. Or, evaluate your schedule, and add a break in your day to spend time with God—even if it means working later in the evening. If you have the capacity to take a Bible class online or at a local seminary, why not go for it?

Look around you and be open to breaking up the norm to spend time with God!

 

2. Focus on Reaching Out to Others

We are all members of God’s household, whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female—and we might even add—single or dating (Galatians 3:28). Whatever our relationship status, God has called us into His family.

Most of us don’t need much encouragement to spend time with our peers. But our family of God also includes older folks, young families, empty nesters, and others. What would it look like to invest in their lives as well (Galatians 6:10)?

Could we offer to watch the young couple’s kids for a couple hours to give them a break, or help an older widower with some simple housework while hearing the amazing stories of how God has worked in his life?

Could we invite the empty nesters out for dinner, and maybe get their perspective on our challenges at work? Perhaps this could also be a time to learn from other couples and encourage them as they seek to grow in their relationship and Christlikeness.

It might take a bit of courage to approach someone we don’t usually talk to at church. It might take a second or a third invitation before we get a response. But God has blessed us with such a diverse family for a reason! Let’s reach out!

 

3. Focus on Enjoying This Season

It can be so hard being single, especially if we’re hoping for a boyfriend/girlfriend, and ultimately, marriage. But instead of focusing on all that we’re missing out on, maybe we can try focusing on the things that bring us joy in this season of life.

Maybe we are able to pursue a career we enjoy. Maybe there are unique opportunities for our gifts at church. Maybe we are blessed with a close circle of friends, going through life with us. Or maybe we get to try out a new hobby.

As the wise author of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13)

Can you count three things you enjoy about life right now? Thank God for those gifts. And make sure to revisit them in the coming weeks, months, and years.

 

Ultimately, we don’t know how long this season will last or what the future holds. But we can look for ways to make the most of it, celebrating what God has for us in the time, relationships, and blessings before us today!