You Cannot Completely Avoid Conflict. Rom 12:18
Implication, it may not be possible to completely avoid conflict, and it may be that you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, and you still can’t be at peace. That’s the stark realism of life in a fallen world. The difference between us and unbelievers isn’t that we don’t have conflicts, by the way. The difference is that we have the tools and Christ to resolve them differently.
All conflict is a result of sin.
Now, all conflict is ultimately the result of sin. It doesn’t mean only your sin. The first conflict was a conflict between God and man where man disobeyed God, and the garden was alienated from God, and he hid from God. Genesis 3:10. Scripture says, “We were enemies.” Romans 5:10. We were God’s enemy in conflict with him because of our sin. And now we’ve been reconciled to God through the death of his son. Much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. So God is the one who has taken initiative and done what is necessary to reconcile us to himself. We were formerly alienated, hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds. And of course, that’s the amazing thing about God’s reconciliation work is that the one who is completely innocent, did everything necessary to bring about the reconciliation. And if we could get that part right, we’d be great peacemakers.
But also, the conflicts among us are rooted in sin. In Genesis, after the conflict between God and man, there was quickly a conflict among men when the Lord accused Adam, the man said, “The woman whom you gave me to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” So there’s blame shifting and perhaps the beginning of the first human conflict, human marital conflict. James says, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?” Isn’t that a great question to have in the Bible, since people are always fighting? “Why do you fight?” he’s saying. I’ll tell you why. It’s the source. It’s the pleasures that wage war in your members you lust and you don’t have so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain so you fight and you quarrel. So, it is our sin that is behind our conflict. More to come.
Peace is sometimes out of your reach.
Sometimes, peace will be out of your reach, that you cannot make peace at the expense of truth and righteousness. There are some people who are willing to have peace at any price. There are some when you see, actually, some of the main denominations in our country. And heresy has crept in, and people have denied the virgin birth, and denied the deity of Christ and his miracles, or now some churches are wrestling with those who deny the justification is by faith alone. And you think of the example of Peter and Paul in Galatians two, and Paul says, when Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles, “I opposed him to his face.” Because Peter was implicitly denying the gospel by saying that to be accepted, you must be circumcised or you must be a Jew. And it was worth, one apostle standing up to another, to fight for truth, to fight for the gospel. So you can’t have peace at any price. We’ll talk later about church discipline. Church discipline generates conflict. If there’s a wolf among the sheep, if there’s loving in the lump, then the church has to do with the Bible says, even thought it may be painful. Jesus warned us to expect to be in conflict in the world. He said, “Do not think that I’ve come to bring peace but a sword.” Jesus himself is portrayed in the Bible as being a warrior. He is our David who came to slay Satan, Goliath, to slay sin and death, that he’s bound the strong man, that Satan is falling, and we will crush Satan under our feet. So there is conflict. Some of it is unavoidable.
There are some people with whom it is impossible to fully make peace. Some are unreasonable. The famous example of failed peace in history of the world is Neville Chamberlain who met with Hitler and gave Hitler all that Hitler wanted, and what did he say? We have peace in our time. That was the beginning note of World War II in which millions were killed. He was wrong. There are some people who were so wicked and unreasonable, no amount of talk or even appeasement will change or placate them. You can have a case in a marriage where one spouse seems to be willing to do whatever it takes to rescue the marriage, and the other spouse is determined to abandon the marriage. Paul talks about that in 1 Corinthian seven. If the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave. The brother or sister who is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. Saying I guess there’s a sense in which there’s peace, and the unbelieving one is gone. That’s not the ideal peace, is it? The ideal peace I you’re together. But sometimes that can’t happen.
The comforting news is that God does not hold you responsible for the failure of others. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Hebrew says “Pursue peace.” We’re to be chasers of peace. We’re to be peacemakers, peace seekers. But if the other person refuses, then your conscience can be cleared. You can’t completely avoid conflict, but you can avoid sin. Back to 1 Corinthians 10:13, conflict doesn’t mean you have to sin, even if the conflict isn’t successfully resolved. Something else we notice in scriptures. Sometimes when really sincere believers can reach an impasse where they can’t resolve it. That’s the nature of living in a fallen world. When you read in Acts 15, when Paul and Barnabas couldn’t agree about John and Mark going on the journey to visit the churches, and to move on in the mission. They had to go their separate ways. They didn’t destroy their relationship forever, but there are times when believers won’t see eye to eye, and it could be very sad. They parted to some degree at peace, but not ideally. So conflict is unavoidable. You will have conflict.