We’re in the middle of a 3-part series on what it looks like to truly build oneness and resolve conflict in marriage. Yesterday I said that submission doesn’t mean that we avoid conflict. Today I want to talk about peace.
Egypt and Israel. Technically they are at peace. They have a peace treaty. But Egyptians want that peace treaty torn up. An Israeli walking in Egypt would feel distinctly uncomfortable and threatened. Are they shooting at each other? No. But is there peace?
In contrast, let’s look at Canada (my own country) and the United States. We share a common culture and common agreement on basic things. We have trade agreements. We have military agreements. We’re friends. We have mutual understanding.
Psalm 34:14 says:
Seek peace and pursue it.
We are to seek peace, and that does not mean seeking an absence of conflict, like the Israelis and the Egyptians.
It means seeking a relationship where there is mutual goodwill and understanding–where you agree on basic things.
I think of the peace-absence of conflict dynamic similar to the heat-cold dynamic. Did you know that cold is not an actual “thing”? Cold is simply the absence of heat. Cold does not move; heat does. When you are cold, it is because you have lost heat. It’s not like hot and cold are equal forces, working against each other; hot and cold can only be understood in relation to heat itself.
Peace and lack of conflict is the same thing. The only real force is peace; lack of conflict is just the absence of peace. So you can’t “pursue lack of conflict”, for instance, because it’s not real. You can only pursue peace.
This verse, then, is not saying, “don’t fight”. It’s saying, “pursue mutual understanding and good will.”
I want to continue this for a moment and then we’ll see how this relates to marriage.
1 Corinthians 1:10 says (in the New Living Translation):
I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
What does it mean to be of one mind? It means to be united in thought and purpose. It does not simply mean that you don’t fight, or that you avoid conflict. It means that you have to be of ONE MIND.
The only way to be of one mind is to agree in Christ. If we are to be of one mind, then we must each try to discern what God wants for us, and agree in that. After all, Jesus Christ is the TRUTH; if we are to be of one mind, we are to be united in truth, under Him.
That’s why pursuing an absence of conflict strategy doesn’t work in marriage.
You’re not really agreeing with each other; you’re just agreeing not to disagree. For decades leading up to the Civil War, politicians were trying to avoid conflict. They came to all kinds of compromises regarding what states could have slaves, and what they would do with fugitive slaves or with new territories. And none of it worked because they were not united in truth; they weren’t of one mind. And the bloodshed that finally came was horrific.
So what is it that God asks us to do? He wants us seeking peace, which means seeking to build a close, intimate relationship where you are of one mind, united in thought and purpose. You understand each other. You feel intimate. You feel like one.
It is so much more than just avoiding conflict. And as I talked about yesterday, sometimes a faulty view of a woman’s role in marriage can delay, or even avoid, this “peace seeking” process. If we decide that our role, as wives, is to state our position but then say absolutely nothing ever again so that God can convict our husbands, then are we seeking peace? Are we attempting to become of one mind? Are we united in thought and purpose?
When Paul and Peter were not united in thought and purpose they called each other on it, they debated it, and in the end they made complete peace with one another. But that peace was only possible because they talked through the issues. Had one of them said, “you have the authority here, and so I am not going to say anything,” there would have been no peace.
That’s because sometimes the route to peace goes through conflict.
Sometimes the only way to feel intimate, and to feel as if you’re on the same side in marriage, and to feel united, is to have some conflict. Conflict is not a bad thing necessarily; no two people will agree on everything, and when two different personalities, with different backgrounds and different expectations–let alone different genders–join together in marriage, there will be some friction. There will be hurt feelings because we don’t feel loved. There will be fear because we’re not sure of the future. There will be disappointment.
Many people choose to swallow these emotions, thinking that in doing so they are respecting their husbands, or promoting peace. “If I say something, I’ll upset him, and I don’t want him to be upset, so I’ll just forgive and let it go.” That is not always the best route–and, in fact, I’d say that is rarely the best route. There are times we should just let things go, but I think a far healthier way of dealing with things is simply to learn how to have healthy conflict.
When I’m upset, and I talk to Keith about it, pretty nearly half the time, in talking it through, I realize that it was a misunderstanding, or that I was wrong, and it feels so much better to have gone over it and so gotten rid of my negative feelings. And we feel closer because we’ve talked something through. Conflict doesn’t mean that the other person sees it your way; quite often I end up seeing things his way! Or we both see it together a new way. Conflict simply means that we discuss the areas where we see things or feel things differently, and come to a new understanding. That’s a good thing!
I think we’re scared of the word “conflict”, thinking that it means two people yelling at each other. But conflict simply means two people coming together with opposing views. There’s nothing wrong with that. Then you just work through it. You don’t have to yell (and you shouldn’t); but you do have to acknowledge that we may not agree on everything. To many people that idea, in and of itself, is scary. And they don’t know where to go from there. But you must push through.
In fact, most conflict is just wrestling with each other to find the truth. That’s what Paul and Peter did, and it changed the church. Learning to express your feelings, to validate his feelings, to identify the real issue, to listen to each other, and to ask for and grant forgiveness are key things in a marriage. And too many marriages know nothing about these things because they are focused on lack of conflict, not peace.
How can you feel of “one mind” with someone who does not know your heart? If you are bottling up things, thinking that this makes you a better wife, you may be working directly against intimacy.
I am not saying you should nag, or that you should fight every chance you get, or every time you feel the slightest twinge of aggravation you should let him know. Of course not. Little things we can always let go. But if it is something important, seek peace. Seek being of one mind, united in thought and purpose in Christ. Seek intimacy.
Tomorrow I’ll give you a concrete example of how this might work in a real marriage, but for today, let me ask you: have you been pursuing peace, or pursuing lack of conflict? Have you been bottling things up, so that you feel further and further away from your husband? Do you avoid talking about real issues? Maybe what you need to learn is how to have constructive conflict, because absence of conflict very rarely brings true peace.
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