Part III: Conflict Management, Our Source of Authority!
Who’s Guiding Our Choices?
(This takes about 3.5 minutes to read—but it’s worth it!)
Conflict resolution (like many other issues) often boils down to a single issue—who is the supreme source of authority in our lives . . . the one who directs all our efforts to solve a problem? That’s not an easy question for many folks to answer, because they (or we!) hold on to their own “sovereignty” with a death grip . . . and they don’t like forfeiting it to anyone. On the other hand, if you believe that God has final authority, you quickly confront a second dilemma; am I willing to surrender my life to Jesus—whom God sent as the “radiance” of his glory and wisdom and “the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3).
It gets stickier . . . because if you believe that God sent Jesus to our planet with authority in all matters (Jesus says that explicitly in Matthew 28:18!), then nearly everything you know about resolving conflict must conform to a new standard. In that paradigm, Jesus wedges himself into every nook and cranny of your problem-solving method . . . and will enable you to apply his precepts in a new context. But, if you deny him that access, you’ll likely end up more miserable and conflicted than when you began!
Interestingly though, God’s Spirit never functions to limit the free will of men and women. If we don’t want to go his way (versus our way), we can have it our way. . . but there will always be consequences. That’s why there are so many “ifs” in Jesus’ vocabulary. He grants freedom of choice . . . including the freedom to reject everything he says. But Jesus is also firm, “If you love me, keep my commands“ (John 14:15). Simple and straight forward . . . but a choice!
Oswald Chambers tells us that “The hardest thing you will ever do in life is surrender your will to God’s authority.” Period! In the context of a relational conflict, it’s very likely you know the way out, but the solution often pivots on whether you or I choose to follow what Jesus plainly teaches. I wish the answer was different.
In all this, something must give. If we can’t pound a round Jesus into the square hole of today’s cultural thinking (or our own), then he must go onto the trash heap of authority figures we reject. Revisionist mallet blows and New Age chisels, however, change nothing in Christ; he’s made of the resilient Rock of Ages and he never bends to anyone’s personal standard. Jesus is the standard . . . and with that comes the unparalleled wisdom of God.
Dr. Martin Luther King, the great civil rights leader, knew this. Preaching from Matthew 5:43-53 (the Sermon on the Mount) on Christmas Day in 1954, he suggested three simple ways to follow Jesus’s teaching and resolve conflict. They’re worth repeating:
1) Notch-up your capacity to forgive. I often celebrate my forgiveness in Christ, yet sometimes I don’t extend it to others. Dr. King says to use forgiveness as a “catalyst to create an atmosphere for a fresh start and a new beginning.”
2) Recognize that the wrong you’ve suffered doesn’t necessarily represent the other person’s entire identity. Find some good in your adversary! Dr. King says everyone is “etched” with the image of God. Look for it . . . and view others through the lens of Christ’s love.
3) Avoid defeating your opponent; rather, befriend him and win his understanding. For many of us (especially men), such an attitude flows only through the power of God. Exercise the same restraint, compassion, and patience of Christ you have personally experienced.
Reflect for a final minute about the power of authority—the person (or entity) who guides your choices—and how difficult that can be if we don’t like the alternatives. Think about this too. If we diminish Jesus to simply a historic figure, a wise teacher but not the Son of God as he claimed to be—then his authority only rivals other smart and gifted thinkers . . . and he’s easily dismissed. In that case, the merits of the Sermon on the Mount have little authority over us. But Jesus claimed to share in the Deity of the Creator of the Universe. Now that’s another basket of fishes and loaves!
Who is your source of authority in life? If you don’t know, then the journey through life is not going to end well. If you choose Christ, well . . . don’t expect a jog down Easy Street. Jesus never promised that. But he did say, “In me you will have peace. But in this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
That’s good news!
“You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14)
 Kenneth Boa.,“Loving Your Way Through Conflict.” Reflections, June 2019.