In times of conflict, the best thing we can do is stop. We need to stop and think. We need to think about the love of God and being His child. We need to think about Jesus, our Savior, and His sacrifice for us. We need to humbly remember that if it were not for Christ, we have no hope. We need to stop and think about our calling as a believer in the gospel and how we are royal ambassadors. We need to stop and think about loving others.
In times of conflict, our emotions can take us on a ride to places we should not be going. The reason we become emotional is that conflict brings about the unpleasantness of getting hurt, frustrated, or lonely (and so much more). The frustration or hurt make us defensive. We attack. We Isolate ourselves. We escalate.
The acronym, S-T-O-P, can be used to help us remember what to do when we are in times of conflict. I like acronyms because they help me to remember concepts. The acronym S-T-O-P provides four truths to consider when we find ourselves in a conflict. I encourage us to memorize the four words of the acronym so that the next time we find ourselves in a conflict, we can give up control and turn control over to the Lord of lords.
In times of conflict, STOP, and remember these four words: Self, Talk, Obey, and Peace.
S – Self
Who is responsible for stopping conflict? Me. Who can easily have the conflict continue and keep putting fuel on the fire? Me. Who has already proven in life to be wrong? Me. Who needs a Savior because they are a sinner? Me, myself, and I.
If we are in a conflict, we have 100% control over how we are going to respond. The responsibility for 100% of our contribution to the conflict is on our shoulders. The sooner we take care of our self in a conflict situation, the quicker the conflict will come to an end.
Granted, there are some people in this world who are a walking conflict factory. Some people are abusive. Some people continually stir up strife. We can’t always stop from being in a conflict with them no matter how hard we try. But we ought to try. And that’s the point.
A conflict is not having things in order, but disorder. The Bible says that where selfish ambition exists, there is disorder and every evil thing (James 3:16). We need to recognize that we easily become lovers of self. We need to recognize that our sin nature, our old self, is being corrupted with the lusts of deceit (Ephesians 4:22). Our desires for power, position, possessions, and pleasure are inside us and waiting to be unleashed. We need to put aside our self and put on Christ.
When we put on Christ, we become humble. Our selfish desires get put aside. We are called to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. Instead, we are called to humility by regarding others as more important than ourselves. In most cases, in times of conflict, we are seeking personal interests, and not the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
Ask yourself, where does my “self” fit into this conflict. Start being interested in others.
T – Talk
Ninety-nine percent of conflict is the result of someone talking (FYI: I made up the statistic). Conflict arises when a person says hurtful words when they speak out of ignorance, and they seek to win an argument. Chapter 18 of Proverbs provides gems we need to memorize. In almost every conflict, we can point to one of these proverbs and see how the principle it speaks about is in play.
A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind. (Proverbs 18:2)
A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows. (Proverbs 18:6)
A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul. (Proverbs 18:7)
He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him. (Proverbs 18:13)
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)
Too often, we think we know better. We are intent on making sure the other person understands our position. We keep repeating our words until we finally pound what we know into the other person’s head. But, in trying to reveal our position without seeking to understand the other person, we become fools in the eyes of God. If we want to avoid conflict, we need to stop talking and start listening. Unless we can articulate the other person’s concern to the point where they say, “yes, that is what I want you to understand,” we need to be quiet and stop our foolish talk.
Too many times, we will give our opinion before we understand the situation. We might hear one side of the story, determine the action plan, and forge forward without knowing what is truly going on. It’s better to say, “tell me why you did that,” instead of saying, “you shouldn’t have done that.” It’s better to say, “help me understand what happened” instead of saying, “I can’t believe that happened.” The better approach is to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes before we speak.
If while we are speaking, the other person is starting to get red in the face, starting to clench their fists, or otherwise appear to be becoming angry, we may be the fool bringing about the anger (Proverbs 18:6). The words of a Christian are to be reconciliatory, kind, and loving and never causing strife. Our goal is to see the people we interact with become less angry, not angrier. [i]
Speak wisely. Listen wisely.
O – Obey
God does not call us to be people of conflict. Our calling is to be kind, patient, loving, and considerate. When we are people of conflict, we are not obeying God.
Our being a person who creates conflict begins at a very young age. Therefore, God needs to tell us, children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right (Ephesians 6:1). Our nature is to oppose and rebel. Our nature is that we allow sin to reign and to obey its lusts rather than to be submissive and gentle (Romans 6:12).
Obedience requires denying self. Obedience requires putting aside our interests for the sake of others. Obedience is often difficult because it is often unpleasant to our flesh. We must deny our flesh. The Bible says that Jesus learned obedience from the things which He suffered (Hebrew 5:8). He didn’t pursue personal interests. Obeying God by being humble, loving, kind, considerate, patient, and so forth is His priority.
When we do not pursue love, we are disobeying. When we do not seek to listen to others and understand them, we are disobedient to God. If we are not taking responsibility for how we are enabling the conflict to continue, we are disobeying God’s word.
Obey God’s call to love others.
P – Peace
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). It is good to be a peacemaker. The Apostle Paul tells us, if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people (Romans 12:18).
We need to ask ourselves, as much as it depends on me, may I bring peace to this conflict? How much will my seeking to be a peacemaker change this situation?
Often, situations of conflict result from our desire to be right. We desire to be understood. We desire for our way to be chosen. We desire to be known as right. When others say, “you are right,” we pump our fist and do a victory dance around the room.
Righteousness is a way of saying, “right-ness.” The righteous always think, speak, and do what is right. If we are wanting to be right, but we are in conflict, we are wrong. We might be right in our mind, but we are wrong in God’s eyes. Listen to the words of James, “And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18). When we seek to bring about peace, we are always right! Isn’t being right what we desire? If so, make peace.
What is the conclusion? It’s simple. Pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another (Romans 14:19).
Be a blessed peacemaker.
In times of conflict, the best thing we can do is STOP.
[i] We need to recognize there are situations when sharing the gospel may bring conflict, but this proverb is not speaking about those situations. The gospel is a sword that divides (Matthew 10:34). There are times when we need to conflict with others regarding matters of truth. We are not called to conflict with others in the church, at work, at the marketplace, etc.