Reciprocity: How conflict Defines and Refines Us

This is a guest post by Jim Van Yperen, director of Metanoia Ministries


There is reciprocal relationship between conflict and character. Each is necessary in defining and refining a leader. It is a simple truth, often ignored, that leadership, like silver, is proven in the white heat of crisis, not calm. Conflict “proves” us in ways that both measure and form. It reveals the dross and forms the metal of our character.

Margaret attended a church I served many years ago. Margaret had multiple sclerosis. Confined to a wheel chair for most of her adult life, Margaret’s body was contorted and misshapen. She spoke softly, often slurring her words in barely audible grunts. She drooled constantly and was in pain nearly all her waking hours. She had grounds for complaint. But Margaret did not complain. She loved Jesus and she never missed church. Every Sunday morning and evening, mid-week prayer meeting and special gathering, Margaret was always there, always in a neatly pressed dress.

One night, after I first arrived at the church, I led a dialog with a group of about 20 people from the church. I had asked people to tell me their favorite Bible verse or a passage from Scripture that was personally meaningful. Several people offered verses which I noted on a flip chart up front.

Whenever we work in conflicted churches we make a point to stay close to Scripture. God’s word is alive and active. It is powerful to bind us together as well as to reveal and judge our thoughts. (Heb 4:12) By starting with God’s Word, not our opinions, we remind ourselves of what we share and what we believe together. When people share their personal testimony we hear the salvation story anew. We remind ourselves and one another of God’s grace and forgiveness. Beyond this, it is hard to be angry at people that you are praying for or sharing Scripture with. After many people spoke, Margaret let me know she wanted to say something. Her friend interpreted her words for me.

"Margaret would like to share a verse, " the friend said.

Most of the people had recited their verse from memory or read it aloud from Scripture. Since Margaret could not speak, I read the verse for her:

"It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes." (Psalm 119:71, NASB)

Margaret smiled broadly and nodded her head. Her wheelchair was a testimony to grace.

People like Margaret bring clarity and perspective. We want instant answers. God shapes eternal purposes.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2Co 4:17)

One bright blue summer day a few years back I stood outside a demonstration tent at an arts and crafts fair, fascinated with a blacksmith working iron. These demonstration tents are set up for public education. Different craftspeople take turns practicing their craft publicly, describing how they work and answering questions. In this tent, the smith was big and burly, like you would imagine he should be. His arms were muscular and his apron black. He worked fast and seemingly carefree.

His task was forming a wrought iron lamp-stand, undoubtedly something he had made many times before. While he worked, he explained the process, how the iron must be heated to be twisted, then pounded evenly with a hammer against the anvil to mold the bends and curves of the lamp. Not too much heat. Not too much pounding.

Carefully and with precision, the smith pounded the iron and tapped the anvil — pound and tap, pound and tap. The tapping, he explained, provides the rhythm so the pounding is even. And with each tap the smith turns the iron slightly so the pounding does not weaken any one spot more than others.

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no-one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason." "Skin for skin!" Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face. The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life." (Job 2:3-6)

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (Lk 22:31-32)

Conflict is necessary for God’s redemptive purpose. Note: Satan had to ask permission to test Job and Peter.

Pounding may come, but only within God’s rhythm, and never beyond what you may bear. God holds us — and molds us — in His hands.

God uses conflict to shape and save. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20)

How is the conflict, hardship and suffering you are experiencing revealing and refining your character?

Metanoia Ministries provides innovative products and services to diagnose need, reconcile conflict, nurture one another community, and equip spiritual leaders with Christ-like competency and character.  Since 1994, we have served more than eighty-five churches in thirty-three different denominations.

For information visit

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