“But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”– Genesis 50: 19-21
Conflict does play a significant role in our lives. It is an inevitable experience in this world. The way conflict impacts our lives depends on how we respond to it. It is an unfortunate reality, but conflict exists in everyone’s life whether we are Christian or not. God’s word shows how conflict impacted the world from the very beginning and conflict will occur at the end when He and Satan have their final battle. However, just because conflict exists does not mean that Christian values should be thrown away.
A prime example of conflict in scripture is the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50. Joseph is a young man who was given visions in his dreams of his future leadership. He knew it was from God and he shared it with his family. The dreams were not taken very seriously or very well, especially by his brothers, and this is where the conflict began. Joseph’s brothers became jealous and their hearts became filled with angry thoughts that caused them to lash out and attack.
They concocted a plan to murder Joseph and lie to cover up the murder. However, God put mercy into the heart of one of the brothers and saved Joseph from this disturbing plan. So, his brothers sold him into slavery (because that’s so much better) and Joseph went through several different trials while moving on in his life. As Joseph developed a closer relationship with God through his struggle he was able to move into a position of power and leadership.
Then a famine came upon the land and Jacob, Joseph’s father, sent Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to get the grain that had been stored up by the people due to Joseph’s wisdom and leadership. This created an opportunity for Joseph to attack back but, through God’s grace, he was able to control his desire to bring revenge on his brothers and “overlook the offense”. He gave love to his brothers and his father and made sure that they recognized that he had forgiven them for what they had done because he saw the big picture involved in everything that had taken place in his life.
Joseph’s reaction was due to his focus on God. His heart was rooted in faith and dependence on God’s wisdom. He never lost track of the dreams that God had given him. He trusted that God was going to come through with His promises even if it meant that he had to go through hard times in his life. It was a struggle, but he maintained a God-ward focus in his work and his life.
This perspective helped him make the right decision in regards to interacting with his brothers in the conflict resolution. He had the opportunity to ruin the lives of his brothers, but because he maintained a focus on God, his heart was filled with the grace of God. Alfred Poirier says, “At the root of conflict, we find not only inordinate desires but also despair and unbelief. We stop believing God can change us, let alone change the other party. We especially grow cold to the truth that grace effects change.” This could have been the attitude of Joseph, but in the end he chose to exhibit God’s grace to his brothers and therefore realized that the grace he bestowed upon them created change in their hearts. They now viewed him as more than a brother, but their leader. Keeping a God-ward perspective can help us resolve conflict in our lives. Trust Him and allow Him to work in and through us in order to handle the issue we are facing.
How do you react when you face conflict? Are there ways you can improve?
Poirier, Alfred The Peacemaking Pastor (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006.)