The fight is on—at every level. Strife is separating nation from nation, brother from sister and husband from wife. The conflict comes in varying degrees, from minor disagreements at the office to bomb-dropping border disputes between nations. But one thing is certain, if you live in this world, you’re going to have to deal with strife!
It isn’t something you can treat casually. Strife is a deadly enemy. Just look at what the Word says about it. James 3:16 says where strife is there is confusion and every evil work. Allowing strife to go unchecked or entering into it opens the door to every evil work.
As a born-again child of God, you are not only expected to avoid strife, you are expected to be a “peacemaker” (Matthew 5:9). But is it really possible to live in a world that’s so full of strife without being drawn into the conflict yourself?
That’s a question I used to ask myself a lot. My life used to be full of turmoil and conflict. As a boy, I fought over everything. Even as an adult, I’d look for opportunities to fight.
Even after I was born again, I could be pretty ornery. But then I fought with my tongue instead of my fist. I said cutting things that packed a more powerful punch than my fist ever had. Instead of slugging a man in the face, I hit him in the heart, which was much more devastating. A black eye will heal in just a few days, but a wounded spirit will fester and fester until someone reaches in with the love of God to heal it.
What I couldn’t understand was why I spoke more harshly to my family than to anyone else. It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t speak a kind word to them. I didn’t want to be so insensitive, but I couldn’t seem to help it. One day I realized that I could hardly remember the last time I had said something kind to my children. That was when I decided that I had to change some things. But how?
I asked the Lord, “How do I change a pattern of behavior that’s been part of me for so long?” I knew that Ephesians 4:29 said: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (KJV). Harsh words and criticism are certainly not edifying and gracious. I was willing to change, but I needed something more powerful that would overcome the words of strife and criticism.
I found that alternative in Ephesians 5:3-4: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks” (KJV). The alternative to speaking ugly things is thanksgiving.
I realized I couldn’t speak harshly and thank God at the same time. I couldn’t criticize those around me if I had a thankful attitude about them.
I immediately decided to put this principle to work. While rushing into my son’s room one day, ready to lambaste him about something he had done, I recognized my old behavior pattern. I just stopped and said to myself, The Word says this kind of behavior is out of place, so I am going to stop and thank God. I wasn’t nearly as angry after I spent a few minutes praising and thanking the Lord for him.
This approach will work in any situation where there is a temptation to tear into someone with cruel and unkind words. When someone crosses you on the job, at school, or wherever, instead of letting your mouth be filled with verbal abuse, fill it with praise to God. He is worthy of your praise! If you are thinking about how good God is, you can’t be talking about how bad others are! You’ll be so full of God’s love, there won’t be any room for strife. That’s the key to living without strife.