Conflict and the Gospel go together. You might think this is an odd pairing, but it’s an inescapable truth. I recently read an article by Winston Smith entitiled, “Getting the Big Picture of Relationships.”* This gospel conflict was highlighted by this article. Pastorally, I found this concept extremely helpful.
Conflict began in Genesis 3 when humanity sins against the Creator. There is a promise of an ultimate conflict in Genesis 3:15, where Jesus would go to battle against the devil and though he would be bruised, the devil would be defeated. Winston points out that conflict exists because of sin, which we all know. He also points out that the gospel enters into conflict for reconciliation. Sin makes conflict unavoidable. We cannot get away from it being in a broken world. Conflict exists between us and God, between one another, and within each one of us.
It is important then to view God’s activity in conflict. Jesus came and endured hostility from sinners (Hebrews 12:3), but also with the Father (Isaiah 53:10), in order to bring about our redemption. As Jesus is the ultimate display of love, we see that love will enter into conflict. Some love conflict, and so they look for opportunity to enter conflict wrongly. Some love the absence of conflict and avoid it at all costs. The gospel calls us to love God and thus be willing to fight against sin for God’s glory, and to love our neighbour, bringing us into godly conflict against sin with others for their good (Matthew 22:36-40).
Such conflict as Winston puts it “is a God ordained opportunity to participate in the triumph of God over sin. Biblically speaking, peace is not the absence of conflict, but the absence of sin. Until sin is completely destroyed, there will be conflict, not as a curse on man, but as a curse on Satan. It is a promise of redemption and a sign of God’s grace that Adam and his descendants are to be instrumental in the destruction of evil.”
Here in the U.K., the culture is an anti-conflict culture, which means anything goes. But conflict motivated by love and a desire for God’s glory and people’s joy is redemptively waging war on sin.
So let us love our Lord, and love our congregations.
*The Journal of Biblical Counseling: Volume 22, Number 3, Spring 2004 (Glenside, PA: The Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, 2004).