Do You Experience Sudden Conflict over Minor Issues?
Conflict often erupts unexpectedly. A minor misunderstanding can lead to a caustic response with further back and forth. Before you know it, strife fills the air. Relationships are often strained and families destroyed over minor issues that escalate out of control.
I can’t stand to be in the midst of such a clash, but more often than I’d like to admit, I’m partly to blame for the escalation. It happens before I realize it. If someone pushes against me, I tend to push back. Pushing back increases the conflict.
The Lord called us to be peacemakers. With that in mind, years ago, I posted on the refrigerator a small cross-stitched reminder saying “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Pr. 15:1). I hoped it would help me control my responses when I was challenged or offended.
At the time I couldn’t tell that it helped me control my tongue, but it did keep me aware of the need. Consequently, I think the Lord has shown me a key to solving the problem. Maybe it will help prevent such conflicts as well helping to de-escalate once tensions are flaring.
In 1 Samuel 17 when David’s eldest brother, Eliab, heard David ask what the reward would be for killing Goliath, he became very angry. He asked why David came to the battle and suggested that David had deserted the sheep to come. He also accused him of being proud and insolent (1 Sam. 17:26-28). Eliab challenged David in front of other soldiers.
The normal response to such an attack would be to push back, to defend yourself, and set the record straight. Eliab’s comments were a textbook set-up for strife, but that didn’t happen. Instead, David’s response eventually led to David being taken before King Saul.
David simply asked Eliab, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause (or question)?” (1 Sam. 17:29) .David knew he was innocent of the charges, but he didn’t try to defend himself. Neither did he blame Eliab or try to tear him down. He didn’t push back.
Instead, he asked, “What have I done?” The literal translation of “Is there not a cause or question?” is , “Is it not a word?” or “Do we not have a word?”
David was referring to God’s word that He would be their provision and protection. In Genesis 15:1, God told Abraham, “I am your shield and your exceeding great reward.”
But David didn’t even wait for an answer. He then changed the subject and asked someone else what would happen to the one who killed Goliath.Those around him heard David’s comments as statements of faith.
He had experienced God as his shield. While watching the sheep, he had killed a lion and a bear. Because Goliath was uncircumcised—not in covenant with God—David knew God would protect him and give him victory. His confidence in the Lord also gave him peace when his big brother attacked. He didn’t let it distract him from the important matter at hand.
To David, it wasn’t about him. He was not deterred from the truth that God would deliver Israel from Goliath because Goliath was challenging the children of God.
When we stand up and fight for ourselves (or our opinion, the truth, etc.), we proceed into the fray on the assumption that it’s about us. We react as if we have to protect our reputation or have to fix what we perceive as the problem. Conflict within us—which leads to pushing back—is caused by our self-centeredness. Basically, we’re thinking too highly of ourselves—and possibly denying God and His commitment to be our shield and reward/provision.
Our efforts to have a soft answer will continue to fail as long as we see Self as the solution. In Philippians 2:3 Paul said, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Likewise, when I had, “A soft answer turns away wrath” on the refrigerator, I was relying on Self-control to solve the problem.
Our normal vision is limited to our own perspective. We need the Lord’s help to look out for the interests of others and not have selfish ambition. We need to choose to humble ourselves, but we can’t change our hearts. We need God in all of life, even in learning to be lowly of mind so that we “esteem others better than” ourselves.
The answer is humility. Humility doesn’t elevate self. Humility trusts the fix to the Lord, and trusts Him to be our shield and our reward.
We have the perfect example to follow. Paul says it well.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Phil 2:5-8).
Jesus humbled Himself. He gave up equality and reputation and chose instead to be a bondservant.
Are you tired of conflict and tension over minor issues? The answer is humility.
Jesus said we’re to take up our cross daily to follow Him (Lu. 9:23).. In other words, we take up an instrument of death. We die. Every day. We die to self-defense, and selfish ambition. When we are dead to self, it is not difficult to consider others as more important than we are
The good news is, as we die to self, the conflicts will decrease.
The really good news is that the Almighty God will reward us accordingly.
Because Jesus humbled Himself, “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, . . . and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11)
If our goal is peace instead of conflict, and we choose to follow Jesus’ example to reach that goal, we won’t be exalted like Jesus, but our reward will be greater than we can imagine.