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When Friends Fight

And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.

Acts 15:39-40

Session Five: How to Rebuild Broken Trust

conflict happens

Some of us cringe when we hear the word “conflict.” Others of us rise to the challenge and yell, “Bring it on!” Sometimes conflict comes like a thief in the night; sometimes it festers like a cancerous infection taking over a body. Sometimes conflict is healthy, sometimes it isn’t. And if we allow it, conflict can destroy peace, harmony, and relationships like a loose bull in a china shop.

However, the bull of conflict is unavoidable. Misunderstandings, disagreements, and full-on verbal sparring will inevitably occur. We can choose to ignore the bull to our own detriment, but trust, bulls of conflict will show up. The question is, do we allow the bull to trample our friendships, unbridled, or do we patiently and carefully lead the bull through the china shop and out the door?

a scene in acts

A bull showed up during one of Paul’s missionary journeys.

Earlier in the book of Acts, John—whose other name is Mark according to Acts 12:12 (and who most likely authored of the Gospel of Mark)—started out as part of the mission team, but then decided that instead of going to Pamphylia, he would rather return to Jerusalem. Let us sit in Paul’s shoes for a moment. Picture yourself traveling city to city, preaching the gospel, planting churches under the threat of persecution, when suddenly, a team member decides to go back home; so he bails on the mission trip. And now that same person wants to tag along on another missionary journey.

Barnabas: Hey, we should totally take John Mark—
Paul: Excuse me?
Barnabas: Listen, I know that last time he bailed on the way to Pamphylia so he could go back home to his mom’s house in Jerusalem but—
Paul: Barny! The only thing I like flaky is my biscuits! If you think I’m taking that flighty mama’s boy anywhere with me, you must have forgotten that I used to be called Saul of Tarsus!

Okay, things probably didn’t go down quite like this, but there was most definitely a “sharp disagreement.” Paroxysmos is the word translated as “sharp disagreement,” which is a polite way to say that Paul and Barnabas didn’t just “agree to disagree”—they fought and decided to split up!

What’s great about this story is that we see in later parts of Scripture that the raging bull of conflict was tamed. In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul tells Timothy to bring Mark along to a church plant because he has become a great help in ministry. Somewhere between John Mark’s desertion and the letter to Timothy, the conflict between Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark was addressed and resolved. Conflict resolution isn’t always easy or quick but it strengthens relationships.

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Daily Question

How has conflict helped you to grow? How would you honestly handle conflict with a friend concerning another individual? How could you pursue Christlikeness in such a conflict?

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Comments (3)

I think sometimes you have to agree to disagree in order to move on in a friendship. If it’s a conflict mutual interest or person that causes strife, we need to discuss. Weigh out how to best approach it to protect feelings, reputation, the friendship, and above all speaking God’s truth about how to handle it. And that is the challenge— not truly knowing God’s will in the matter, but trusting that a resolution of some sort will arise in time and faithfulness. A friend of mine went through some rough years with her family and finances. A mutual friend and I would often discuss our grievances over this person’s husband and the choices he made, and our sadness at seeing her go through this. We knew that it had to be day by day. And all we could do was listen to her vent, and celebrate the small successes as they built up their life again. But we still would have the discussions and think “if only…”. That wasn’t really a conflict but indirectly toward her husband who was a friend and has taken us time to build up respect again. My husband still struggles with that respect toward The guy. I remind him that we need to still live them, love him, and see how he, and my friend have worked to get back to a place of happiness. And celebrate that instead of dwelling on the past hurts. That is hard sometimes though but God calls us to forgive and not dwell in anger.

Ive learned to stay in my lane and pray. I can listen. I can point my friend back to God and scripture.

Conflict has helped my relationship grow with my husband. At the very beginning of our relationship we struggled with on going conflict with his family. It was extremely difficult and emotionally. We found that it was really causing major issues in our relationship and our mental/emotional well-being. There was so much going on and it seemed like it was consuming our relationship. We worked so hard and fought through this storm together. I am so very proud of us on how we never gave up and found different ways to work through theses issues. Today when some of these issues give rise from his family members, its barely an issue for us. We have become pros at handling their drama. In fact, I feel like they don’t put up a fight with things as much because they know how strong we are. Its like they have moved on to a different target. Because we worked so hard together to get through these times, we have grown so strong and so close. We work together so well. I love that we got stronger, smarter, and closer through conflict!

How I handle conflict with a friend depends both on the the friend/relationship and the situation. If it is a close friend where we have an open dialogue, I would confront them or the situation by talking to them. I prefer face to face or over the phone so their is no communication error and also so I am not waiting in anxiety for a return text. I have found asking the person when they are free to talk works. Although it may seem more difficult to resolve in person, it is usually better/healthier. If the issue was something that I would like them to maybe have some time to think about what I have said or my thoughts then I would compose a text. Especially if I needed to clearly state my idea or thought. Sometimes I do better with writing things out especially if I am having a hard time finding the words. Also, if the person can be a challenge to get a word in edge wise I find it helpful to get my thoughts out through text or letter so then I can clearly state how I am feeling without losing track or getting interrupted. If the person is hard to approach, I may just let the problem fly ….if it wasn’t that big of a deal. This person and our relationship probably wouldn’t be a strong or close one because of that communication barrier. If I felt that we were ready for a closer relationship, I would take that risk and talk to them.

I can be christlikeness in conflict, by being honest with myself and the other person. My minimizing the drama and only talking over the situation for advice to another trusted person like my husband. Instead of going around and seeking advice from multiple people, one close person would definitely suffice and minimize drama. Also, remaining true to myself and my values through conflict. Reflecting on conflict and how I handled the situation, making changes and allowing for growth. Handling constructive feedback and allowing my friends to speak their hearts and minds as well.

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