Have you taken a little time to mull over the first couple of things we discussed about what Christian conflicts are supposed to look like? Ready for some more?
I know, this is heavy stuff. Behavior-changing, new-self type stuff. Remember, changing the way you approach life, changing your lifestyle, isn't about gaining salvation. We know that we only receive salvation through grace, not through anything that we can do ourselves. Dealing with conflicts in a Christian way doesn't get us to heaven.
But it does help us to grow. Maturing in Christ, becoming more like him, and sharing the amazing love he has for everyone, that's why we do the hard work of taking off our old selves and putting on the new.
"Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." -Ephesians 4:25-30When it comes to dealing with conflicts in a Christian way, we've already talked about two biggies- being truthful and authentic when issues arise, and allowing anger while avoiding sin.
The next point Paul makes is that thieves shouldn't steal anymore. At first, I didn't understand how this fit into the context, necessarily. But when we consider from where conflict comes, especially when it comes from within our own hearts, it starts making more sense. If we're constantly coveting more, envious of the possessions of others, we have trouble being content.
Now, I don't think that many of us are robbing banks or stealing from department stores (and if you are, Paul says to stop). We can steal in many other ways, though. I know that some days, I steal from my work. I take a break that's a little too long, or I check my personal e-mail at work. I can also steal from my husband, or from my home- I spend an evening checking out blogs or finding recipes rather than talk to Zeke about his day, or I avoid taking care of a chore and plop in front of the TV instead.
Don't get me wrong, I know that we need breaks. I know that social media isn't a bad thing. But when it becomes excessive or gets in the way of obligations and responsibilities, it's a problem.
As Christians, we have to be careful about our words. I'll admit, I don't do the best with this. We're only to build one another up. It's so easy, though, to gossip or to tear someone down, isn't it? So how do I go about changing my mouth?
"Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips."- Psalm 141:3Pray about it! I should ask God to guard my mouth. I think it's especially important to make a habit of praying before going in to a "hot zone"- coffee with a friend usually lead to you complaining about your husbands the whole time? Pray in the car.
"The good person our of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." -Luke 6:45I need to consider what finds its way into my spirit- because the words that come out of my mouth reveal the attitude of my heart. I think that self-talk is a big part of this. If I have lies bouncing around in my mind, or have a crooked attitude, my words will follow.
Hurtful words not only harm the people around us, but they also harm our relationship with God. We can grieve the Holy Spirit through what we say.
"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as Christ forgave you."- Ephesians 4:31-32Sidenote- Do you know what clamor is? I know I didn't. Clamor is when we talk about issues without wanting resolution- when we only want to gather a sympathetic crowd. My goodness, I'm a clamor-er. (Is that a word?) We should be approaching issues with the intent of solving them, of reconciling, of strengthening relationships- not to gain sympathy.
Conflict is an opportunity. We can either spiral downward into bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice, or we can see conflict as a chance to live out the gospel.
Conflicts look different when you're a Christian. As Christians, we should approach conflict with an attitude of truth and authenticity, without letting anger get the best of us, without an attitude of envy or greed. We should use words to build up, not tear down, even when we're dealing with conflict. Using our conflicts to live out the gospel is one way we can display Christ's love.