Fight, Fight, Fight (Conflict)
No matter how great your friendship might be, there will be times you won't see eye to eye, and there will be conflict between the two of you. In the Bible, there were two guys who were the best of friends. Their names were Paul and Barnabas, and they were two of the greatest missionaries to ever live. They both loved God, they both served God, and they spent a ton of time together. They traveled from town to town proclaiming that Jesus had risen again from the dead, and if they would turn and repent of their sin, Jesus would come into their life, forgive them of their sin and prepare a place for them in heaven. Paul and Barnabas went on one adventure after another. They had each other's back, and they stood up for each other. They even went through tough times together as well. Read Acts 13:50, Acts 14:2-7, and Acts 14:19-20. Go ahead; I'll wait for you. Imagine yourself holding your friend in your arms after the Jews had dragged him out of the city and stoned him. Paul is covered with bruises and bleeding all over. Everyone thinks he is dead when all of a sudden he looks up at you and winks and says, "Let's go back into the city. I wasn't finished preaching. I have one more point in my sermon to make." They have traveled together and endured persecution together, so I'm certain they never fought with each other. Right? You can read about their battle royal in Acts 15:36-40. Paul and Barnabas had returned home from their travels, but they couldn't sit still long. They wanted to go on a second ministry trip. One snag, though. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them. Paul didn't. Paul said that the wimp had deserted them on the first trip (Acts 13:13), and he wouldn't have that kid do it again. Paul and Barnabas got so upset with each other over this that they split up.These two men were very godly, very tight, but very stubborn. Paul and Barnabas's friendship illustrates an important truth.
Conflict with friends is inevitable. Regardless of how close you are as friends, sooner or later, you will have a fight. It might be over a misunderstanding. It could be because you see a situation differently than your friend does. There are a million reasons people fight, so the question is: Will you fight fair? Are you a dirty fighter? Let's find out. A dirty fighter…Bites: A dirty fighter opens their mouth and lets their friend have it by criticizing (tell him how he did everything wrong), belittling them (making fun of them), and humiliating them (making them feel like they are dumb and stupid.) Kicks: When you kick someone, you want him to feel the pain. You tell your friend how they messed things up, how things can never be the same now. You kick them while they are down and pile on what a loser they are. Pulls hair: When you pull someone's hair, you have him at your mercy. You do this effectively by yanking on their emotions. Yelling, screaming, threatening them, and if that doesn't work, you can always use the silent treatment against them. Hitting below the belt: You take every cheap shot you can on them to inflict as much damage to them as possible. You want your friend to suffer. Using these tactics almost guarantees that you'll come out of the fight the winner. However, in winning the fight, you lost the war because you lost the friendship. When you have an attitude of "Win at any cost, even if I have to fight dirty," you ultimately lose the relationship – a high price to pay.
How do I fight fairly? A: Ask God to point out every area in your life where you are wrong. Confess anything the Lord shows you. B: Choose the right timing. Arguments can break out at awkward times. To fight by the rules, wait until both of you can give the time and attention necessary to talk things out, once both of you have calmed down. C: Select the right words. Think before you speak. You'll have to first listen to your friend when they speak to know the right words to say. Determine if your words will help or hinder you in working out the problem. D. Guard your tone of voice. You can say the right words the wrong way. If you project sarcasm or criticism in your voice, your friend will pick it up. E. Look at the other person's point of view. While your friend talks, listen carefully to understand where he is coming from. In viewing the conflict, put yourself in his place. When you do this, think of how he feels instead of how you feel or why you think he was wrong. F: Determine the solution. Make the solution practical and realistic. What will each of you do to fix this situation today and for the future? G. Confess any wrongdoing. During the fight, if you discover you have hurt your friend, immediately ask for forgiveness. Say, “I was wrong about _________________________. I can see how that hurt you. Will you forgive me?" H. Forgive any wrongdoing. Your friend may have hurt you. If so, forgive him, even if he doesn't ask you to. If he doesn't ask, verbalize your forgiveness of him to the Lord alone in prayer. I. Pray together. After the fight, pray together. Ask the Lord to let you learn from the conflict and grow closer together because of it. Paul and Barnabas must have eventually handled their conflict by fighting by the rules. Even though they didn't go on the trip together, the story has a happy ending. Paul had returned from his trip and had left on a third one. He was in prison alone, except for Luke. He knew he didn't have long to live. He wrote a letter to Timothy, asking him to come to visit. As he closed the letter, Paul also asked for John Mark to come. And then he paid one of the highest compliments a choleric can pay by saying, "John Mark is useful to me for service." Conflict is inevitable. How you handle it isn't. Fighting by the rules will help you make the best of friends even in conflict.
1. What are some ways that you handled conflict with someone else that didn't go so well?
2. How would you have handled that situation differently?
3. The longer you wait to get things right with another person, the harder it becomes to deal with the problem. What does Ephesians 4:26-27 tell us to do when we have a problem with someone else?
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