by Christopher Harbin

Responding to Conflict
Christopher B. Harbin
Num 11:4-15; Ps 116:1-10; Mark 9:38-50; James 5:13-20

Conflict is inevitable. What is not inevitable is how we respond to it. We may murmur or complain when things do not happen as we want them to. We may fight in secret, hiding in our cowardice. It may be that we take our concerns before God, knowing that only God is faithful to hear us and offer us redemption and restoration. It may be that we find healing in God and God's grace in desperate times--a renewed focus on the will of God. It may be that we fight to get our way, elevate our position, and place ourselves at advantage against the account of others. Our concern should be, how does God wants us to respond?

We have many options. Some flee conflict. Others attack. Still others seek perhaps subtler ways to manipulate others. In the text of Numbers, the Hebrews were complaining about God and about Moses. They did not come before God asking for anything. They were seeking neither help nor solutions. They simply came complaining about God and God's servant Moses. Their complaint was strong enough to change Moses' attitude. He also began to complain. They complained of little things that had no real importance. They did not lack food to eat. They were simply angry with the shape of God's provision. They wanted to take the reins and control the details of God's provision. They wanted to define how God should act. Life was not to their liking and they wanted to force God to do their will.

This was not a healthy way to act. It was, however, a very natural way of responding to the conflict at hand. They were not happy, so they complained about everything and about God. They would not submit their lives to God's will. They wanted to be in control. They wanted the authority to make demands, without accepting responsibility for their actions.

The psalmist takes another direction. He says he loves God for having heard his petitions. His life was mired in conflict ...

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