Who Else Is in the Room?
Spiritual warfare is a reality in the midst of personal conflict. So, recognizing that warfare is an initial step toward conflict resolution. Bring all the realities to the table: It is not just people themselves who are involved; Satan and his horde of demons take advantage of our many weaknesses and brokenness and will often use specific individuals to work up and sustain conflict within congregations.
If we recognize the existence of spiritual warfare . . .
1. We will resort to prayer more quickly and with greater faith, because we realize that more is at stake than our relationships. Satan and his demons are after the larger prize of crippling the gospel witness of each church. Capturing a congregation with internal conflict is effective and lasting.“Be sober-minded; be watchful,” Peter warned. “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8,9, English Standard Version).
2. We will feel a freedom, or a relief, that there is more involved than just people. It is true that someone is to blame for conflict. However, if we just look to people to find out who is wrong, we are not taking into account the full reality. Demons can be blamed and should be blamed—they often play a major role in our conflicts. Just acknowledging this releases some of the pressure.
3. We will see the limitation of our own resourcefulness to bring resolution and will turn to God (James 4:7). If spiritual powers are involved, then we need more than our tools and training in conflict resolution. Yes, we should use them. But we must not depend too much on our effectiveness in doing so, so that we are not “outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11, ESV).
4. We will deal with one another with greater humility, care and respect. All of us are susceptible to the powers of demons—their playing with our thoughts, attitudes and lives. We must rely upon God’s power and wisdom to bring solutions, not ourselves.
The challenge is making this known to people in the midst of their conflict and then dealing with it together. We’re not trying to avoid responsibility by saying, “The devil made me do it.” Rather, we’re recognizing the unseen spiritual realities of our conflicts and going on the offensive. When we recognize conflict, we might start by praying through these four points.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:10–13, ESV).