Guest Blog by Ash Narayan, Author of Loving Through Conflict
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, the apostle Paul begins to explore the Christian response to God’s gracious plan of salvation. In chapter 4 emerges the critical theme of unity. The Greek translation of the command to “keep the unity” (Eph. 4:3) suggests maintaining unity is a matter of utmost importance and urgency. As Christians, we are to spare no effort and make it a priority in our lives to maintain the unity of the Spirit. Such an exhortation also makes it plain that the unity of the Spirit is a reality that is to be demonstrated visibly. As Christians contribute to the unity of the church, we accomplish the blessings of salvation and respond to the divine purpose for eternal unity.
Love means unity is more important to you than being right, having your way, or getting what you want. Love provides the perfect platform for unity.
In one of His final prayers before His betrayal and arrest, Jesus emphasized the importance of unity when he declared to God the Father His desire that “they all be one” and that “they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:21, 23). Like Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4, Jesus ties the critical component of love in binding unity, “the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).
By contrast, uniformity in the context of conflicts suggests agreement or seeing things similarly. When the goal in conflict resolution is reaching an agreement or meeting of the minds, this becomes the parties’ primary motivation. While this is a laudable goal, we know from practical experience that this is not always possible. When we understand that the Bible teaches that some differences of opinions, perspectives, and desires are permissible and often beneficial, it amplifies the beauty of our diversity. God does not desire or demand uniformity but demands that we work with and embrace those we may be in disagreement with. Unity requires that we be loving through conflict.
Loving Through Conflict
By Ash Narayan
Politics, social justice, the COVID-19 pandemic, church ministry, and marriages are just a small sample of the myriad of issues causing division across the world today. Never before are Christians more divided on these issues and others. In addition, an emerging trend that has created tension and division among Christians is centered on ideology. Christianity’s fundamental beliefs and truths are no longer commonly accepted. Movements such as social justice and moral relativism dominate academia and the teaching and culture of the younger generation. These progressive movements are the cause of substantial conflict among Christians who steadfastly proclaim their love for the same God. While conflicts are inevitable and have existed since the Fall, what is troubling is how Christians are managing conflicts.
Conflicts, if left unresolved, rob us of the joy that healthy relationships bring. While conflict resolution is a laudable goal, many conflicts will be left unresolved. Accordingly, we need to address a different reality. As Christians, we need to learn to live well with each other in and through our conflicts. Jesus modeled essential principles such as compassion, kindness, empathy, humility, gentleness, and patience, all of which help us face conflict.
More importantly, Jesus is the conduit of God’s overflowing love. Love is relationship glue. When Christians love each other well with commitment and perseverance, they can avoid many of the conflicts illustrated. When any relationship experiences conflict, love can preserve, redefine, and strengthen the relationship, even if the underlying issue that caused the conflict is not resolved. God is all about relationships and wants to teach you how to be Loving Through Conflict.
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