Do you remember the Tasmanian Devil in the Warner Brothers cartoons from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s? I always found that whirling, frantic, and chaotic cartoon character to be extremely annoying. Everywhere the Tasmanian Devil went, there was trouble–and for one reason. . . because he was there.
It is very likely that you know a person who appears to have conflict everywhere she goes. Instead of preventing conflict, she seems to have a knack for always being in the thick of it. There is always a “problem” or “issue” with someone about something. To her, the conflict she experiences is often someone else’s fault, and not her own doing. At times, you may understand her plights, but other times you find yourself simply exhausted or annoyed, just like I was with the Tasmanian Devil. You begin to wonder, “Is all this conflict thrown upon her by others, or is she actually the source of it?” “Are other people always causing negative consequences in her life, or are her own selfish and foolish choices to blame?”
To be completely fair and honest, at times each of us (including myself) are like the crazed cartoon character, causing or compounding conflicts instead of preventing them. I am guilty of this even within the last couple hours! At the end of a sweet family movie night, I angrily responded to one of my children, and my response seemed to “come out of nowhere.” But did it really? No. It came straight from me–Tasmanian Devil Extrordinaire.
CHOICES HAVE CONSEQUENCES
Just like the Tasmanian Devil, we take ourselves everywhere we go. We cannot get away from ourselves or the choices we make. Our choices are our responsibility, and we must accept that they have consequences. As it says in Galatians 6:7, “A man will reap exactly what he plants.” Good choices . . . good consequences. Bad choices . . . bad consequences. Just as our lives and relationships are strengthened by our wise (God-honoring) choices, so our lives and relationships suffer from our foolish (self-serving) ones. “The person who makes a choice deserves the consequence for that choice. Just as your choices belong to you, so do your consequences. In other words, you are responsible for your own choices.” (Sande, The Young Peacemaker, 60).
I encourage you not to skim over the truth of that last paragraph too quickly. Ponder it it for a moment–you will reap exactly what you plant. Think about the choices that you are making in your relationships–what are your words like? Your attitude? Your actions? Are you promoting peace and preventing conflict, or are you sadly causing lasting negative consequences? Think about it.
CHOICES THAT PREVENT CONFLICT
Now, let’s consider what we need to do differently in order to prevent conflict with others, knowing that “the wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways” (Proverbs 14:8). In The Young Peacemaker, Corlette Sande gives biblical advice for making wise choices to promote peace and prevent conflict (68-69). To prevent conflict:
1. Seek Godly Advice. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). Are you facing a possible conflict? Ask for advice, accountability, and prayer from people who you know will direct you to answers from God’s Word, and not merely their own opinions.
2. Make Right Choices. “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Prayerfully consider the choices in your situation. Consider the possible consequences to those choices. Choose an option that you can support biblically, even if it appears impractical or difficult.
3. Do What is Right. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). It is one thing to think right, and it is another thing to then do right. Take courage in knowing that God will not direct you to do anything that He won’t give you the grace and power to accomplish. Move forward in obedience, and trust Him with the outcome.
4. Obey Those in Authority Over You. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). “Slaves, be obedient to your masters” (Ephesians 6:5). “Obey your leaders [pastors/elders] and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account” (Hebrews 17:11). “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). Obey those who have authority over you–such as parents, husband, employer, church elders, or government (unless any are directing you to oppose God’s Word). God often directs us through our circumstances, including the guidelines or limits that have been set upon us by our authorities. Trust the Lord that He has ultimate, sovereign authority in your situation, and then obey your authorities as unto Him.
5. Speak and Act Respectfully to Everyone. “Do not let any unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Finally, to prevent conflict, speak and treat others with respect and kindness. Do not insist on your way with manipulation or intimidation. Even if you strongly disagree with others, approach them with grace and humility, and you will find that “he who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23).
Remember, we take ourselves wherever we go. If we ourselves are a source of conflict and turmoil, then that is exactly what we will have–no matter where we are or with whom we are dealing. On the other hand, if we are a source of peace by making wise, biblical choices that prevent conflict, then we will be a blessing to others and will be living in the center of God’s will.
For “The Young Peacemaker” and resources from Peacemaker Ministries, click HERE.
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