conflict and the gospel

i have a sharp memory from my sophomore year of college: i was reading through my new training material for Youthworks, my upcoming summer job. the binder had an entire section dedicated to conflict--the good, the bad, the ugly. it talked about how to anticipate conflict, how to keep composure in conflict, how to reach a true better-than compromise, how to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel even in the midst of conflict.

it was like all the house lights suddenly came up. 

sophomore year was characterized by constant conflict. you know, best of times//worst of times. we had a great group of friends, we had tons of fun, we all lived in the same hall, and eventually we became an infected, seeping, ingrown toenail of sorts. girls fought over guys, guys fought over girls, the guys treated the girls with very little concern, the girls didn't give the guys much respect or space, and we played a lot of texas hold 'em and catchphrase in between all of the mess. 

and we were incredibly unpracticed at applying the gospel to our corporate mess.

when i read the training manual on conflict, i immediately discussed it with a few of the girls involved. it was a hard pill for all of us to swallow. we had to admit that we were doing something wrong. we had to give up our claims of rightness and our self-justifications. we had to repent of our selfish anger and these-are-my-rights mentality. and we had to extend grace to one other for our weaknesses.

bear one another's burdens, and this way you fulfill the law of Christ. galatians 6:2

oh, gospel. there you are.

you know, when we are accustomed to being ruled by worldly wisdom or carnal desires, the word of the cross becomes a stumbling block. the wisdom of God sounds like foolishness to our death-filled ears. we wrap our fists around all the so-called injustices we have suffered and we use them as weapons of vengeance. and you know what? we may even be "right." but, as a wise friend once told me, the gospel changes everything.

the gospel

even when i'm right. especially when i'm right.

what good is it to win every conflict by clever arguments or sheer force of personality if the gospel is trampled? there is no winner when the flesh determines the outcome, for there is only death in the way of the flesh.

but when conflict brings about truth spoken in love, when it brings reconciliation, when it brings healing, when it brings us to be satisfied in Christ instead of the world, when it exposes and expunges our sin, when it brings redemption ... then the gospel lives, and we with it.

so tonight i'm thinking about how to be diligent to preserve the bond of unity, which is love, between my brothers and sisters, even when we frustrate one another. it is certainly not easy, but it is definitely worth it.

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