Thursday, January 10, 2008

Peacemaking for Families: Conflict in Marriage

These are my notes for my Bible class at the Contact Church of Christ for this Sunday:

*Conflict is simply a reality in life and in marriage. We do not always agree with our spouses. Sometimes our conflicts are minor disagreements; sometimes they are major disputes. In either case, Christ calls for his followers to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). In this lesson, we will explore our responses to conflict: escape responses, attack responses, and peacemaking responses.

*Escape responses are favored by peacefakers.

~We use escape responses to avoid rather than resolve conflict. "Escape responses are generally directed inward; they are usually all about 'me.' Escapers are looking for what is easy, convenient, or nonthreatening for themselves. They often dread confrontation. They are often more concerned about appearances than reality" (Ken Sande and Tom Raabe, Peacemaking for Families, p. 8).

~Denial is the usual escape response. We act like a problem does not exist. However, the problem usually gets worse.

~When denial does not work, we move to flight as an escape response. We may quit a job, find another church, or file for divorce to escape conflict. This usually does nothing to resolve conflict. However, in cases of extreme abuse, this response may be needed for protection. (For example, if your husband is sexually abusing your child, fleeing from him with the child would be a loving response intended to protect your child.)

~Suicide is the ultimate escape response. Obviously, this never makes peace or resolves conflict.

*Attack responses are favored by peacebreakers.

~"These responses are employed by those more interested in winning a fight than preserving a relationship. Conflict for these folks is an opportunity to assert rights, to control others, or to take advantage of their situation" (Peacemaking for Families, p. 9). Both the strong and the weak, the confident and the insecure, will use these responses to get what they want at the expense of harmonious relationships. Unlike peacefakers who see themselves as the problem, peacebreakers see you as the problem.

~Assault is the common attack response. Nagging, slander, threats, and other forms of verbal assault are typical. Sometimes physical violence is involved. These responses increase conflict in marriage. They do not resolve it.

~Litigation is another attack response. It could be over divorce, custody of children, or other matters. It does not bring healing to relationships in conflict.

~Murder is the most extreme form of an attack response. Obviously, this does not bring peace either. (See Matthew 5:21-22 for Jesus' warning about our murderous thoughts and words.)

*The way of Christ is peacemaking responses in our marriages.

~"This way is not about 'me,' as escaping is, nor about 'you,' as attacking is, but about 'us.' Rather than giving in to 'peacefaking' or 'peacebreaking,' this way is all about 'peacemaking'" (Peacemaking for Families, p. 10).

~Minor conflicts may be resolved by determining to overlook an offense and offer forgiveness (Proverbs 12:16; 17:14; 19:11).

~When more significant conflicts arise, discussion is the appropriate response (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15). Confess when you have been wrong. Confront with love.

~When a conflict involves money, property, or other rights, negotiation is appropriate. We need to see the needs of both sides and reach a satisfactory agreement (Philippians 2:4).

~Sometimes a peacemaking response requires assistance from other wise Christians. This takes both humility and courage. "First, you may seek individual counseling from a spiritually mature advisor who may be able to help you see ways that you can communicate more effectively with your spouse and still resolve your differences in private (Proverbs 13:10). Second, you and your spouse may seek joint counseling or mediation, which involves meeting together with one or more counselors who assist you in communicating and finding meaningful solutions to your differences (Matthew 18:16). Third, if your spouse won't respond to counseling and persists in sinful behavior that threatens your marriage, you may appeal to your church to exercise redemptive church discipline to promote repentance and restore your relationship (Matthew 18:17)" (Peacemaking for Families, p. 11).

*Using peacemaking responses to conflict, we can enjoy healthier, more stable, more secure, and more intimate marriages.

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