This past Sunday Pastor Rob told us about his experience as a playground “Conflict Manager” in fifth grade. Can’t you just picture him in his orange vest carrying around his clipboard? His story triggered my own memory of a talk I heard last year in London by management consultant Patrick Lencioni. Patrick’s book, Overcoming The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, has a great chapter on the value of conflict.
Let me explain. Patrick’s first concern in establishing a healthy team is building trust. But in that regard he notes, “When people who don’t trust one another engage in passionate debate, they are trying to win the argument. They aren’t usually listening…” And he says this conflict shouldn’t necessarily be eliminated, but it has to be managed to build a great team. His words got me thinking; could it be that when the spiritual fruit of peace is missing in our lives, it’s because we’re intent on having our own way – no matter what? Ouch!
Jesus never backed off when confronted with conflict, did he? Instead, we might say he stirred it up at times. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword…” he said when he sent his disciples out on the highways and bi-ways to experience first-hand the conflict that’s in the world (Matt. 10:34). However, in the beatitudes (Matt. 5:9) he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Hmmm…is this a contradiction? I don’t think so; more like a call to be pro-active in the peace process.
Engaging in “direct and unfiltered debate around issues” is what Patrick calls one of the hallmarks of a great team. And when you think about it, the Apostle Paul said much the same thing in his letter to the Colossians: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6).
To my way of thinking, we can’t make peace until we know peace – the Prince of Peace, Jesus. But once we know Him, we might just find no need for a clipboard! The orange vest would be fun to wear though, wouldn’t it?