conflicts can get ugly; watch how you enter


Written by Jamaal Bell

Jamaal is a MDiv and Clinical Counseling student at Ashland Theological Seminary. The editor of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity's blog He served four years in the U.S. Navy from 1999-2003. He earned his Bachelor's Degree in journalism and public relations at Ball State University. Jamaal's writing interests are devotionals, theology, and social justice. He also loves to do video devotionals targeted to teens, however, applicable to anyone.

December 17, 2011


I’ve noticed in my life that sometimes I don’t enter conflicts well. Even if I have good intentions, many times I enter conflict primarily to elevate my pain or hurt without acknowledging the other person’s pain or hurt. What about you?

I don’t think we do this on purpose. It can be difficult to think of the other person and what God has done for them when we are wronged. It’s easy to recognize our pain over others because we are living in it. Its hard in the midst of our pain to step outside of ourselves and thank God for his grace and thank Him for what he has done for us and the other person we’re in conflict with.

Before you enter conflict, do you thank God for the person who may have cause pain in your life?  Do you tell that person that you pray for them?

How do you thank God for the grace He has given that person? And in broken relationships, how hard is it to trust that God is with you and He will see it through?

Can you answer these questions confidently; especially, if you are going through a difficult marriage, difficult relationships with friends or family? There is no easy fix, conflicts can get ugly, dirty, and in some cases abusing.

How do we enter conflict? Do we enter conflict like Paul did with the Corinthians? Do we enter conflicts with the primary reason to elevate pain or to reconcile a relationship? Do we enter conflicts for self or for the other person? In 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 I think Paul exhibits how we should enter conflicts.

How does Paul enter conflict with the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:3-9)?

Paul wrote to the Corinthians to correct their sinful practices and false doctrine. Some of the immediate issues he addressed were pride, immorality, marriage, conflicts with neighbors, religious practices among other issues.

But before he dives deep into the issues that are corrupting and dividing their church.  He greets them. However, it’s the way he greeted them that strikes me.  Lets look at scripture:

1 Corinthians 1:3-9: NIV

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given to you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called your into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

What did Paul do?

First he gave a standard greeting acknowledging God in Jesus is the giver of grace and peace. (v.3)

He then assured them that he prays for them. (v.4)

Then he identified a number of blessings they’ve received from God, which specifically for the Corinthians, it was revelation and knowledge. (v.5) — Chapter 12-14 Paul speaks about their gifts.

And that those gifts prove that Christ is among them. (v.6) 

He then assured them to not be satisfied with their gifts but await Christ’s return. (v.7-8)

Finally, that Christ is with them and God the father is faithful and called them into fellowship (v. 9).

What did Paul show here? 

Paul exhibited grace, incredible gratitude, and humble confidence in God in the midst of a crisis.

How are you approaching conflict?  How has your conflict resolution started?

  • Did you enter stating that you love God and God loves them?
  • Did you enter with grace, gratitude and confidence?
  • Did you enter affirming grace and peace?
  • Did you enter thanking God for something positive in the person’s life that you are in conflict with?
  • Did you enter appreciating what God has done for them already?
  • Did you enter with the confidence that God is with us and that He will see the conflict through?

I’m not excluded from these questions.  Many of us don’t approach conflict as Paul does in 1 Corinthians chapter one. I think sometimes we allow our emotions to control our behavior when we enter conflicts. We enter with emotions first as opposed to a joyful attitude, with knowledge of God, and with the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

  • We enter conflicts, with a selfish goal of being right.
  • We enter conflicts, to fix a situation so that we feel better.
  • We enter conflicts, with the attitude that the other person is wrong and we are right.
  • We enter conflicts, failing to acknowledge the good in the person while only highlighting the bad.
  • We enter conflicts, because we may have suffered abuse and we want to elevate the pain and hurt.

It’s not wrong to enter conflict to start the healing process or to rid ourselves of pain.  However, sometimes we allow our pain and hurt to overshadow our joy and confidence that God is with us.  Sometimes we enter conflict without acknowledging or asking about the other person’s pain and hurt

Sometime we enter conflicts, feeling that, God can’t reconcile our friendships, our relationships with our family members, or our marriage.  We say to ourselves, it over, I’ve done everything that I can and its hopeless.

Entering conflicts for self gain can leave us angry, bitter and nonchalant making us vulnerable to sin.

In this advent season, I wanted to highlight that Christ is with us in our conflicts.  He gave us the Holy Spirit to aid in ministering our conflicts.  By God’s grace, we have pastors and counselors who fear the Lord and wish to help us in our conflicts. However, we must change our attitude and behavior as we enter.

Jesus had a conflict with us… Our sin and our lack of faith.  How did he enter that conflict? With grace, love, confidence in the father, unselfishly, sacrificially, without anger, bitterness, or self gain.

I know this is easier said than done. I to have had difficulty remembering to apply this; but it doesn’t take away from the fact that I need to do it. We must tattoo Scripture like this on our heart so that these behaviors become habit. Furthermore, if we failed to enter conflict this way we should attempt to correct it. Meaning, YES, asking for forgiveness.

Are you willing to ask for forgiveness if you enter conflict the wrong way? I pray that we are all willing.

Remember how Jesus treated us in conflict. That is how we should treat others; regardless if its reciprocal.


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conflicts can get ugly; watch how you enter

by Jamaal Bell time to read: 6 min