Conflict is unavoidable. The sooner one accepts that fact the better. Everyone, at some time or another, will be embroiled in conflict and hostility. Conflict may mean anything from harsh words to loss of property or life. Jesus was no stranger to conflict. He experienced conflict and spoke on the subject on many occasions. In our sermon today, we shall study Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” and pay special attention to the difference between peace-taking, peace-faking, and peacemaking.
A Peace-taker loves conflict. A peace-taker is someone who enjoys conflict, strife (Prov 16:28), gossip (Prov 18:8), and slander. They seek out the latest “news” and can’t wait to share it with others. Sometimes they enjoy hearing about the misfortunes of others because they enjoy misery. Other times they enjoy hearing about other people’s problems so that they can sit in judgment against them.
Conflict is an Opportunity. The reason a peace-taker loves conflict is because—they believe—conflict is an opportunity for them to feel better about themselves. The more they focus on the failures and shortcomings in others, the less they focus on their own failures and shortcomings. For example, if I spend my time focusing on “John’s” problems, I have less time to focus on my own. This distraction helps them to avoid their conscience. This response is selfish and the peace-taker is not blessed and is living in rebellion against God. The peace-taker needs to hear the words of Jesus: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matt 12:36).
A Peace-Faker hates conflict. A peace-faker is someone who does not enjoy conflict. Unlike the peace-taker, they seek to personally avoid conflict at all costs. Often they do not care that other people are involved in conflict, as long as it does not affect them personally. The peace-faker, when presented with gossip or slander, will usually do one of two things: 1) remain silent when gossip is shared and pretend not to hear it or 2) may join in with gossip in order to remain on “good terms” with the gossiper. As long as it does not affect them, the peace-faker is content. But, when they are personally involved in conflict they quickly run from it. Many times they have “green pasture” syndrome. They feel that if they can find a new location/job/etc. then the conflict will stop and they will be happy.
Conflict is devastating. The reason a peace-faker hates conflict is because conflict is devastating to their self-esteem. They want to project the image that they are good, everything in their life is fine, and that they have no problems. Conflict shatters that image. Instead of dealing with it, they flee. This response is selfish and the peace-faker is living in rebellion against God.
A Peace-Maker Hates Conflict. A peacemaker is someone who does not enjoy being involved in conflict. The reason a peacemaker hates conflict is because conflict separates friends and family from one another. The peacemaker understands that no one “wins” these conflicts. The lies, bitterness, resentment leave a trail of destruction that causes deep hurt in everyone involved. But they do not run from it; they seek to resolve the conflict biblically. When they sin against someone, they confess and ask forgiveness. When they are involved in conflict, they seek to reconcile. They do this in two stages: First, they remember God’s forgiveness of their sins and they ask God to help them love the other person. Second, they seek out the other person so that they can resolve the conflict in a Christ-honoring way. They strive to live at peace with all men (Heb 12:14).
Conflict is an Opportunity. The peacemaker hates conflict but sees it as an opportunity for the love of Christ to be displayed. They see this as an opportunity for relationships to heal and for God to be glorified. They see the hurt that conflict brings and the disrepute it brings to the name of Jesus. If people see Christians fighting they may say, “If that is what Christ brings, forget it!” They also see that reconciliation is a powerful witness for Christ. People see conflict healed and say, “Wow! If Christ can do that, I want to follow Him!”
I encourage you to resist the urge to think about which category other people fit into. Instead, ask God to help you identify which category you are currently in. If you are a peace-taker or a peace-faker, you demonstrate that you love conflict more than God and people. If you are a peacemaker, you demonstrate that you love God and others. Remember, only peacemakers are called sons of God because authentic Christians pursue peace and reconciliation. The fuel to pursue peace comes from the peace of God granted to them through Christ.
Conflict is unavoidable. The sooner one accepts that fact the better. Consider, however, that a sign of spiritual maturity is not how well you avoid conflict; but how you respond to conflict. Do you have any bitterness or resentment towards anyone? Do you have conflict that is unresolved? Do you believe Jesus is able to bring peace? Are you willing to work for it? Seek to be a peacemaker with all and reconcile today.