Jeremy Yeckley is a friend of Tim Madden, and a guest blogger from time to time on Maddening Theology. He works with Tabernacle Bible Church in Honesdale, Pa, and Foundations Christian Counseling across northeastern Pennsylvania, and around the country. He is a gifted counselor, communicator, and leader. You can read part 1 to this series here.
Do you believe conflict is a problem? There are many helpful techniques for resolving conflict, but most of them ultimately fail because they start with a faulty belief about conflict. Even professional collaborative techniques like Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, Restorative Practices, or Win-win Solutions operate on the faulty belief that conflict is a problem. As long as conflict is viewed as a problem the greatest possible outcome will be a temporary means to solve that problem.
Our greatest efforts still prove limited and insufficient to address the wait and impact of conflict. This is largely based on the fact we are by nature part of the conflict and not the peace. Changing our belief about conflict starts with knowing the truth and purpose behind conflict.
It might be a comfort to know that the Bible does not credit humanity with the origin of conflict. The introduction of a serpent in the Garden of Eden is the first character that appears to be in opposition to God’s command and authority (Genesis 3:1). Through the snake’s deception, he leads Eve into doubt and eventually willful sin (v. 1-7). The serpent’s actions seem to allude to a conflict between him and God that has existed prior to the fall of Eve and Adam.
Through the actions of the serpent we see sin enter into creation and the birth of conflict for humanity. God’s response to the serpent also seems to indicate fault lied primarily with the serpent. God makes the serpent the recipient of the eternal curse with no hope. Eve or Adam, on the other hand, were the recipients of temporary curses, with eternal hope (v. 14-15). Therefore sin is the origin of conflict and plays a vital role in creating ongoing conflict.
Interestingly, Eve and Adam both have unique experiences of conflict through their individual roles (v. 16, 17-19), but there also appears to be a unique consequence that will impact future personal relationships between men and women (v. 16). This unique relational conflict between the sexes presents a general picture of conflict between women and men that will replay throughout history.
Women will now desire to usurp the authority of men and rule over men, but men will respond back harshly and sometimes use their physical strength to govern over women (Mappes, A Biblical and Theological Overview of Women in Ministry 3). This is far from the picture of unity and peace that God had intended for personal relationships in Genesis 2.
God quickly enters the dynamics as the scene of conflict unfolds. Adam and Eve appear to be avoiding God and trying to hide their current reality from Him (v. 7, 8). When God directly confronts the conflict, they turn to blame shifting (v. 12, 13). Trying to avoid conflict or blame shifting proves to be an unsuccessful approach for addressing the conflict at hand. God directly and comprehensively addresses the issue of conflict and all the parties involved in the conflict. The serpent is summoned and confronted by God (v. 14).
Each character involved is addressed and the remaining verses in Genesis outline how the impact of sin will increase conflict for everyone present including God (v. 15, 23). The theme of conflict only grows through the book of Genesis and into the rest of Scripture.
There is a lot we can learn about conflict in just the first few chapters of the Bible. It is critical not to downplay the role of sin in conflict. God does not avoid addressing the conflict. It is in His nature to confront all sin and to cover that sin with forgiveness. Christians should not try to hide or run from conflict.
We are called to follow in God’s example when we are addressing sin in our lives and the life of other Christians. In the next blog post we will look at a number of factors God demonstrates in confronting conflict that leads to hope and lasting peace.
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