Conflict happens. Communication breaks down! This is as certain as a dry day in an Arizona desert. It doesn't take much either:
- a critical comment
- a testy response
- an insensitive attitude
- a roll of the eyes
Before you know it anger boils, tempers escalate, words fly like poison-tipped arrows, feelings erupt or get stuffed deep down inside. The result? Relationships suffer.
If you are frustrated with a frigid friendship or languishing through the silent treatment, it doesn't have to stay that way. Paul's words to the church in Ephesus shows us what to do when communication breaks down. It starts by understanding what God has done for us:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility....I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, Ephesians 2:13-14; 4:1-2
Christians reconcile with others because they have been reconciled by God. It really is that simple. We give what we have been given.
That said, I want to acknowledge reconciliation is NOT easy AND God helps us. Looking a little deeper in Ephesians we discover six things we can do when communication breaks down.
Now, if you want this post to help you, first think of someone with whom you are at odds. Next, ask the Lord to show you which of the following needs to be the first item on your "TO DO" list today. Do it,
- Be eager for unity. Ephesians 4:1-16
God tells us we are to be "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (4:3). Here's the implication: Don't wait for the other person to make the first move toward resolution. You take the initiative! Pick up the phone or stop the person in the hallway, and ask, "Hey, can we talk?"
- Identify old patterns and replace them. Ephesians 4:14-17
In these verses Paul talks about "putting off" and "putting on." We need to shed old communication patterns faster than a baby blue polyester leisure suit. Innuendos, put-downs, sarcasms, biting remarks, and gossip all must go. Replaced by honesty, truthfulness, and compassion in a manner consistent with what God has shown us.
- Speak the truth. Ephesians 4:25
The secret here is to speak the whole truth, to "share the last 10%." Most of us share 90% of what we are thinking and feeling, but the last 10%--those words that are hard to express and difficult to receive--well, we shy away from that. So here's how to do it: Ask the other person, "May I share with you the last 10%?" Tell your side of the story, then listen carefully to theirs.
- Address the issue today. Ephesians 4:26-27
God says, "do not let the sun go down on your anger." Deal with it. Many treat conflict like a sleeping tiger. We're afraid to awaken the tiger for fear of its growl or bite. So we put it off until tomorrow. Not good! Address the issue today.
- No dumping allowed! Give grace.Ephesians 4:29-30
Now that you have mustered up the courage to talk, don't just dump on the other person. Paul says, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Christians are grace givers because we've been grace receivers. Giving grace is giving the benefit of the doubt, giving the other person time to think about what we've said, and giving kind words rather than raking someone over the coals.
- Forgive as you’ve been forgiven. Ephesians 4:31-32
Think about what it meant for Christ to forgive you. Dwell on that--for a long time if necessary. Christians forgive because we've been forgiven. How can I withhold forgiveness for someone's slight infraction when God has forgiven me my damnable sin? It really is unconscionable to hold a grudge.
Yes, conflict happens. Communication breaks down! But the grace and power of God is greater than any rift. And when the divide is healed we can say with the Psalmist (and mean it too):
Your God is a reconciler. What step of reconciliation does he want you to take today?