Naive people are shocked by it. Wise people try to avoid it. But, where human beings are conflict is unavoidable. We cannot always run and hide. Sometimes it hits us square in the face. So, we should not be shocked that it sometimes comes around, and be prepared for it when it does. When Jesus preached about his bringing conflict (Luke 12:49-56), he was on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified. We must also remember that although in our country converting to Christianity sometimes causes family division, in Muslim, Hindu and many other societies it almost always does. Conflict can be good for us. That’s why Jesus said that he came to bring fire, because like fire purifies metals conflict can purify us. A Christian who has seen many battles is deeper than one who has been mollycoddled.
Are we free of conflict in western Christianity because we live in freedom-loving countries or are we relatively free of conflict because our Christianity is watered down? Jesus promised conflict, a baptism of fire. When a church is in conflict we often assume it is because they are carnal Christians, more worldly minded than heavenly. While that is sometimes the case, it may not always be. The church is where the battle between evil and good begins. The church is the war room for the battle that we take to our neighborhoods. Not everyone wants to make peace with God. Not everyone wants to hear about Jesus. Not everyone wants to hear about a change of heart from evil to good. Sometimes, rather than stand up for Jesus, we make peace with the devil. That is failure.
While some conflict is unavoidable and possibly even necessary not all conflict is. For instance, the conflict between conservatives and liberals in the church is often just an argument over two sides of the same coin. Conservatives are concerned with righteous living, piety. Liberals are concerned with social justice, loving their neighbor in action. When it comes to the Gospel, conservatives are concerned with telling the good news, liberals are concerned with being the good news. Both are needed. We need to live moral lives AND seek justice for the poor. We need to both announce the good news of salvation in Jesus AND be the good news to those in need. Both conservatives and liberals have weaknesses. We cannot be self-righteous about our side of the coin, but realize that we can learn from each other.
A naturalist once picked up a cocoon and feeling sorry for the butterfly about to emerge he pulled out his pocket knife and slit the cocoon open. The butterfly which emerged was weak and unable to muster the strength to fly. So it is with our children. If we pamper them too much, they will grow up weak and unable to survive the trials of life. America became a great country because people had to struggle and build a country from the rough and hostile environment. Now so much of America lives in luxury with grocery shelves filled with food from afar. And we are a civilization in decline. We don’t have the toughness any longer. We are soft and spoiled. Perhaps that is why Jesus allows his church to go through conflict, to make us strong.
Conflict is not always avoidable. It is not always a sign of failure. Sometimes it can even be a sign of success. Good can come from conflict. It can make us more compassionate and help us to build endurance.