We asked Ron Edmondson, author of Bible Studies For Life’s six session study, “When Relationships Collide” to offer some personal reflections as a pastor on the topic of conflict in relationships. Here are some of his thoughts. Ron Edmondson is a pastor, blogger, and church planter. He serves as senior pastor for Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky. He is passionate about helping people fully grasp the depth of God’s love and the power of His grace. Ron blogs at ronedmondson.com.
In the Bible Studies for Life study, “When Relationships Collide”, we look at some Biblical stories that involve conflict. I am glad the Bible doesn’t shy away from conflict, but instead gives us examples of people who worked through their conflict to make relationships better. In the process of writing this study, I was reminded that there are some common reasons for conflict in relationships. Sometimes those issues involve sin in our life, and other times they deal simply with the fact that we are wired differently. Understanding the cause for conflict can actually help us deal with it in healthier ways.
Here are five reasons relationships collide:
- Selfishness – In the study, we look at the story of Lot and Abram in the division of land. Lot wanted the best of the land. Rather than cause a problem, Abram gave into Lot, avoiding what could have been serious conflict between their camps. Reading the story reminds me of times I have let what I want get in the way of doing what is best. I’ve also allowed selfishness to determine how I treat others. You’ve probably never done that, but I have. Learning to be less selfish can many times eliminate unnecessary conflict.
- Pride – Have you ever been afraid to admit you could be wrong and someone else may actually be right? Wow! That’s tough, isn’t it? Pride produces a lot of conflict. There is a story in 1 Samuel involving David and an arrogant leader named Nabal. David had provided kindness to Nabal, but because of pride and foolishness, Nabal refused to return the favor. Their conflict could have ended in bloodshed if not for the wisdom of Nabal’s wife.
- Jealousy – When we are envious of others we allow conflict to disrupt healthy relationships. There is an example of this type conflict in the relationship that existed between King Saul and David. Saul’s jealousy of David kept him of accepting David’s popularity and promised future as king. While it could have been a healthy transition of power, jealousy caused things to end badly for Saul.
- Misunderstandings – One of the more common causes of conflict in relationships is when there are miscommunications of expectations or misunderstandings. Mary and Martha’s conflict when Jesus visited their home is a good example. Had they been clear with each other before Jesus arrived, they might have avoided the tension when Martha wanted to be in the kitchen and Mary wanted to be with Jesus. Healthy communication promotes healthy relationships.
- Wounds – The deepest source of conflict often develops from the wounds a person has received from another person. When a parent abandons a child or a spouse cheats, conflict is inevitable. Sibling rivalries can breakdown healthy relationships. Words misspoken can wound a soul and cripple a bond between the best of friends. When conflict develops over a wound delivered by another person it is the hardest to resolve. The story of Joseph, having been sold into slavery by his brothers, granting forgiveness to them and restoring the relationship is a brilliant picture of grace! One ingredient needed in every healthy relationship is grace.
Conflict in relationships is normal. Learning the cause can often help in discovering the solution. Don’t shy away from conflict, but seek to uncover it’s root cause and you will find it easier to pray about, deal with, and hopefully resolve.