Ever had conflict in your family? Yeah, we have too.
Ever tried to pretend you don't have family conflict? Put on your happy face and smiled for the world, taking pains to give the impression that your family life is like a giant game of Candyland?
We've all done that too. The funny thing is, even though we try to hide it, we know that every family has conflict. But it's just as common to feel that conflict shouldn't happen, especially in happy Christian families. What if there's another way to look at it?
Conflict is a fact of life in a world full of imperfect people. And on its own, conflict is not a big problem. But the way we deal with conflict can be a big problem.
Conflict is an opportunity to fulfill God's calling for families. When we look at it that way, we don't have to fear it.
God's calling for families is the same calling he has for all individuals who follow Christ: We are supposed to represent him in our life here on Earth. This is the purpose of our lives. Because Jesus has bought our lives with his own, our lives no longer belong to us. We have something—Someone—much greater to live for.
The apostle Paul tells us about our calling in Ephesians 4:1–3: "I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace."
When we read verses like these, we often assume these relational principals apply only to people we don't live with, like people we go to church with, our bosses and coworkers, our neighbors, and those we see in the supermarket. But they apply to our family relationships as well. From your boring husband and your irresponsible kids, to your invasive father-in-law and your selfish siblings—they apply to everybody. These verses present a picture of the way our families should function.
When Paul wrote, "Live a life worthy of your calling," he was telling Christians to live up to the privilege we have to represent Christ on this planet. Each of us is called to do that, and our families are too. We've identified four different ways our family conflicts are a part of fulfilling our calling.