Jesus & Conflict

Conflict drives the world around us. Opposing views, violation, competition, and offense peppers every relationship with challenges in each stage of life from birth to the grave. It’s not uncommon for a new believer in Jesus Christ to have incorrect assumptions about their role in conflict. Interestingly enough, even men and women who have served Jesus for many years and have studied Scripture in-depth are not immune to the same quandary. It’s uncomfortable. If we have chosen to make Jesus our example, what do His actions demonstrate for us? Was Jesus a pacifist?

You may be of the belief that the follower of Jesus is always called to “turn the other cheek.”[1] We imagine a conciliatory savior that gathers all into the circle of His grace as we sing Kumbaya together in perfect harmony. While there are certainly situations that call for us to turn the other cheek (namely when encountering an “evil person” as the passage says), we are also required to take into account the many scenarios where Jesus INCITED conflict by publicly denouncing the christ-jesus-cleansing-temple-john-2-vv-13-22Pharisees (deeply entrenched, uncontested leaders of the Jewish people) and physically drove the moneychangers and merchants out of the temple. He even went so far as to tell His disciples, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”[2] Teachings of Jesus like this one, by their very nature, inspire conflict within us. They cause us to question our values, priorities, and loyalties. It’s no wonder we would live at odds sometimes with the people around us. Jesus was the single, most intense, anti-establishment agent in all of history. If we’re truly following His example, we won’t be able to avoid some extremely harsh opposition. Our savior was pursued unto death for all that He represented and inspired. There are only two ways to handle our inevitable embroilment in controversy: will we avoid or will we confront? Is either the right way to manage conflict?

The culture around us shouts a message of tolerance and appeasement, pushing back at those who claim Jesus as their Lord. Mockers goad us by twisting Scripture and abusing the image of a Jesus that heals, holds children, and forgives His murderers while He hangs from a cross. We have to remember that the same Jesus who brought sight to the blind also called the Pharisees “blind fools.”[3] The same Jesus who was quick to tell repentant mendicants “your sins are forgiven” was also quick to accuse the “hypocrites” and warn of pending judgment (so tolerant, right?). [4] The same Jesus who nurtured and blessed children also issued a stern warning to His disciples that “if anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”[5] We have to comprehend the idea that the meekness of Jesus does not equal weakness. Rather, He, as the greatest power in the universe, operated under the control of the Holy Spirit to right the wrongs in our world.

With Jesus as our example, it’s time to move forward into a Biblical understanding of conflict resolution. Starting with a heart of forgiveness that loves people beyond the problems they represent to us, we must remember that we’re called to a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Lastly, when conflicts occur in the Body of Christ, we have to keep in mind that unity and love are not suggested values, they’re requirements. You may, on occasion, grit your teeth as you choose to love and work with your brothers and sisters in Christ but it’s our love for each other that sets us apart as Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35).

[1] Matthew 5:39

[2] Matthew 10:34-36

[3] Matthew 23:17

[4] Matthew 23:23

[5] Matthew 18:6


About Brittany

“If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." - Einstein
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