“Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ – the Message – have run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives.” Colossians 3:15, 16 (MSG)
How well do you handle conflict? Do you care enough to confront? Everyone experiences conflict in their relationships. The problem is that most of us have never learned the skills necessary to turn conflict into deeper connections – connections that take our relationships to the next level, building resilience and enabling us to face the challenges of life together. God’s Word offers practical counsel that teaches us how to fight fair and turn our conflict into connections. Whether it’s a marriage or business partnership, most relationships experience three rounds that either end in separation or resolution.
Round 1: The Unrealistic Expectation Round
This round is illustrated in the romantic love relationship described in Song of Solomon. It’s what I call “the honeymoon stage” where all that we can see is how similar we are and how perfect our partner is. To his bride, Solomon says,
“Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens.” Song of Solomon 2:2 (NIV)
And she replies:
“Oh, feed me with your love … for I am utterly lovesick. Ah, I hear him – my beloved! Here he comes, leaping upon the mountains and bounding over the hill.” Song of Solomon 2:5, 8 (LB)
It’s been said that, before marriage, all that a couple can see is how alike they are and, after marriage, all they can see is how different they have become! Before marriage, opposites attract. After marriage, opposites attack! Whenever we set up unrealistic expectations in a relationship whether it’s with our spouse, a business partnership or a close friend, we are going to be disappointed. Conflict occurs when the things we expected don’t happen or, worse, when the things we didn’t expect to happen do! This leads us to Round 2.
Round 2: The Reality Round
I find humor in the Bible often. Here’s an example: the same man, Solomon, who wrote about his bride being a lily among thorns, later wrote this:
“A nagging spouse is like the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet; You can’t turn it off, and you can’t get away from it.” Proverbs 27:15-16 (MSG)
What happened? REALITY! No one can possibly meet all our expectations. The same couple that was so lovesick are wondering what they ever had in common! The good news is that, with the right skills, we can learn how to fight fair and go to the next round without killing each other or tapping out.
Round 3: The Mature Relationship Round
In this round, we learn to celebrate our differences and discover how they can strengthen our relationship. We can develop a love that is not based on feelings but on a strong commitment that produces powerful feelings.
In Colossians, the Bible counsels us to let the peace of Christ keep us in tune with each other. It’s the key to harmony in our relationships with one another and with Him. Only when the Prince of Peace rules in our hearts can we stay in tune with Him and others in our lives. This doesn’t mean we are all playing the same instrument or even the same notes! We each maintain our own individuality and differences but learn to play in tune with one another so that we live our lives in harmony. Strange as it may seem, though, we have to fight for harmony. This week, we are going to learn the skills from God’s Word to fight fair and turn our conflict into deep and abiding connections!