It had all the ingredients for a major household conflict: two children, one candy bar.

It had all the ingredients for a major household conflict: two children, one candy bar.

My brother insisted that he should have it because he was older and larger and therefore required more energy. To him it was a logical argument, but I didn’t buy it.

I thought I should have it because I really liked candy. I was also pretty adept at playing the youngest child and only girl cards.

Fortunately our mother was on the scene and declared that either we would share it or neither of us would have it. “You’ll divide it in half,” she insisted.

My brother grabbed a knife and cut the candy into two unequal pieces. Quite pleased with himself, thinking we hadn’t noticed what he had done, he quickly reached for the larger of the two pieces. (In fairness, I should note that had I been allowed to use knives at the time, I would’ve done the same thing.)

Quoting directly from a page in the Motherhood Manual, our mother said, “Not so fast! You cut it, so your sister chooses.”

Every parent with more than one child has likely utilized this tactic. I thought our mother was a genius, especially since I got the larger piece of candy. My brother was not so happy, but we both learned something that day. And the next time there was only one candy bar in the house, we knew what we had to do. We even transferred our learning over time to other sources of potential conflict: the telephone, the television, the best chair in the den, the front seat of the car.

The everyday lives of families present us with both conflict and the opportunity to resolve it. Within families we have our first experiences in developing relationship and resolution skills that we carry with us into the broader community, including the church.

Although conflict has occurred in the church since its beginnings, we still seem surprised when we find it there. Unfortunately, the first thing we often do is assign blame. The situation quickly erodes from there, with people taking sides rather than seeking creative compromise.

Before we know it, things are out of control, people are angry and hurt and the church can no longer be the church.

It doesn’t have to go that far.

The steps to resolution are actually fairly simple: acknowledge the problem; involve all the parties in resolution; explore options; create new plans together. This biblical model for conflict resolution, gleaned from the early church’s experiences distributing food among widows, doesn’t work for us because we refuse to follow it. We’re more concerned with winning.

Yet we all lose when we allow conflict to send us to opposite sides of huge gulf. And the greatest losses of all occur within the kingdom of God.

Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.

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