Overcoming Conflict (part 2)

In part 1, we saw how James identifies the root cause of conflict in our relationships, namely our own selfishness (James 3: 16; 4:1-2). However, James doesn’t merely expose the problem—he points us to the solution.

We must replace selfishness with true wisdom, which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17; note the contrast in verse 15). This Scripture recommends several attitudes that enable us to overcome conflicts with others.

Purity comes first. In the Bible, this can refer both to cleanness and single-mindedness. Throughout his letter, James address the impossibility of dividing our loyalties between God and the world (James 1:8; 4:4, 8). If our heart is right with God, it will be right in our relationships with others.

Purity radiates a peaceful and gentle spirit. It may seem obvious, but to make peace we must desire peace (Matt. 5:9). We cannot “carry a chip on our shoulder” and raise our fists at everything. There are some things we just need to let go because they aren’t worth the trouble. And when something is important enough to bring up, we do so with careful consideration and humility (James 4:6).

Next, be “reasonable.” This word is translated “open to reason” (ESV) and paraphrased “allows discussion and is willing to yield to others” (TLB). Have you ever tried to argue with someone who just wouldn’t listen? Don’t be that person! Listening is key. As a rule, “be quick to hear and slow to speak” (James 1:19). Instead of wanting to be understood, hear the other person out first; this allows you to appreciate their thoughts and feelings before expressing your own.  

Additionally, we must be “full of mercy and good fruits.” Sometimes we will have to forgive the weaknesses of others. Has not God done the same for us? We are not perfect—neither are our spouses, children, brethren, or co-workers. So, as the golden rule says, we should apply the same degree of mercy to others that we wish them to show us (Matt. 7:12).

“Unwavering” does not mean unyielding to others, but joined with “without hypocrisy” conveys impartiality and sincerity. Harmony requires being fair and honest, especially in disagreement. Prejudices, false assumptions, selfish motives—though hidden now—will eventually surface and create division. Are we mindful of the unconscious attitudes we are developing today, if they are good or evil?

What a blessing to be at peace with others! But, like most everything good in life, it requires diligent work on our part. “And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18).