At first glance interpersonal conflict may seem to be the result of practical issues such as poor communication and differences in perspective. Certainly, more often than not, a lack in conflict resolution skills can yield a truckload of unnecessary pain and confusion. Let’s face it; there are times when we simply don’t have a clue about how to resolve a difficult issue.
My personal experience is that many young people are seriously lacking in such skills because they have not seen them modeled well in the older generations. Avoiding an issue or sending a text (or drawing swords) often proves to be much easier than a mature face to face, heart to heart discussion. Easier for sure, but not at all effective!
Upon taking a deeper look, we can quickly see that for conflict to be perpetuated other factors almost always enter into play. Why do we so often avoid a healthy face to face discussion when emotions run high? Fear of losing control can be a significant motivating factor. We’re uncertain of how the other party might respond and afraid that we might not be able to articulate an effective response. In so many ways it’s about self-preservation!
Lurking not so far beneath the surface of our broken and damaged relationships is an ongoing clash of the kingdoms of the gods. On one hand we have the benevolent kingdom of God over which the Creator of the Universe rules. In opposition we find the kingdoms of gods, which often clash with one another as well. These kingdoms are ruled by a host of self-proclaimed deities; such conflicts have been raging almost since the beginning of time as we know it.
It all began in the Garden of Eden with the big lie. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they had a desire to be like God apart from God. In other words, being dependent subjects of His kingdom held little appeal; they wanted to be their own gods with their own kingdoms to rule.
One God–universal peace! Many gods–universal conflict!
As humans, we perpetuate conflict when we feel as though our kingdoms are being threatened in one way or another. We’re either upset/afraid of pain or loss, or we’re bent on extending our rule over the lives of others. A conflict may begin for a genuine, practical reason, but it’s the clash of the kingdoms of the gods that keeps the fires stoked with additional fuel.
At its core, Christianity puts all of us on the same page as subjects of God’s kingdom. Thus, our only lasting conflict should be against the kingdom of darkness. All too often, however, we establish our domains in the name of God only; in reality they serve as our own feudal states. Many of our ministries, for example, are characterized by the type of self-centeredness that appalls us when we see it in the lives of our people.
A pastor may seek to promote his church above the others in town, looking down with judgment and suspicion upon those who don’t share his superior doctrine. He may see church growth as a competition to be achieved at the expense of others. Like a basketball player fighting for a rebound, he seeks to reach souls in the name of God, but primarily for the benefit of his team.
I am ashamed to say that this type of sectarian attitude abounds within many of our Christian denominations. And while I don’t think it wise for all of us to morph into one uniform organization, I believe we err greatly in our attempts to build human kingdoms in the name of Christ. If our churches and ministries are sowing to the flesh, how in the world can we expect our people to bear the sweet and pleasant fruit of the Spirit?