Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)
In getting a firm grasp on the meaning and implication of this passage, I’d like to spend a few minutes talking with you about some of the biblical principles we can learn about conflict, followed by a quick reflection on the ways we typically respond to conflict. That analysis will lead us to understand what Jesus means by “peacemakers” and being “sons of God.”
So, from Scripture, what can we learn about conflict? I want to highlight five things.
First, at its core, conflict is about broken relationships. Every conflict is about a broken relationship. In the Genesis account of creation, the Garden is essentially described as a paradise of perfect RELATIONSHIPS. As God speaks all of creation into being, and forms man with his breath and hands, we see an amazing picture of absolute relational harmony between God, man and the rest of creation. That community, however, was destroyed as Adam and Eve came to desire EQUALITY rather than community. You can read all about this in Genesis 1-3. But the world’s first conflict broke relationships over a desire for EQUALITY rather COMMUNITY. So from this passage, we see that conflict is, at its core, about RELATIONSHIPS.
Second, we see that conflict (especially conflict in the church) is SPIRITUAL. Paul writes in Ephesians 6:11-12 … “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Nevertheless, we need not point fingers at Satan as the only source of spiritual conflict in our churches. If only it were that easy and convenient.
Remember what James says in 4:1-4? “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this: that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” So from these passages we see that conflict, especially among believers, is SPIRITUAL in nature, and involves the work of Satan and our own lust for personal gratification.
Because conflict is RELATIONAL and SPIRITUAL, we have to thirdly conclude that conflict is INEVITABLE, because we are relational and spiritual people. Paul put it very succinctly in Galatians 5:17. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” In other words, while we can be disheartened or disappointed when conflict arises in a church, we should, by no means, be SURPRISED or SHOCKED. We are relational and spiritual beings with conflict raging inside of us between our flesh and the Spirit, and that conflict spilling out into our relationships. The conflict we experience in our life is not OPTIONAL … it is INEVITABLE.
The good news is that, even though conflict is INEVITABLE … it is also NECESSARY. According to the Bible, conflict is NECESSARY in order to achieve God’s redemptive purposes. Paul’s relationship with the Corinthian church was rife with conflict in large because church life in Corinth was rife with conflict. And Paul saw that some of the conflict had a purpose. In 1 Corinthians 11:18-19, he wrote, “I hear that when you come together as a church there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. Indeed, it is necessary that there be factions among you, so that those who are approved may be recognized among you.” So Paul recognized that the conflict was NECESSARY because it would be the means by which the truth would be known for the whole congregation.
This leads us to our fifth and final point about conflict, and that is this: conflict is an OPPORTUNITY for MAKING PEACE. Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Psalm 119:71 reads, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” Again and again we see through scripture that conflict is an OPPORTUNITY for God to MAKE PEACE among us.
Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.