The Art of Conflict

The Art of Conflict – Message Four

Good couples have conflicts. It’s no optional—you’re marrying damaged goods. There are three types of couples that don’t:

  1. The ones that are dead.
  2. One mate has pummeled the other one down so much that they just roll over like a dog.
  3. The couple has gone their separate ways. They have their own lives, but share a mailbox.
The difference between a good couple and a bad couple? One fights clean and the other fights dirty. The Bible gives you a whole lot of information on how to fight, and how to defuse conflicts quickly.
 
Would you think in a book as racy and passionate as the Song of Solomon, you’re going to see the couple fight? You get one chapter on attraction. One chapter on intimacy. But you get two chapters on how to fight clean.
 
“I was asleep but my heart (Solomon) was awake. A voice! My beloved was knocking: ‘Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my perfect one! For my head is drenched with dew, my locks with the damp of the night.’” -5:2

What do you think this man was thinking about? Not the checkbook, I’ll tell you that. 

Sex is an oasis when you’ve been pushed and bullied by the world. When I walk through the door and turn the lights off, I’m in Eden with my wife.

“I have taken off my dress, how can I put it on again? I have washed my feet, how can I dirty them again?” -5:3

Direct Hebrew translation: I have a headache.

Her response to her husband is self-centered and self-willed. She’s not concerned about him, yet he has a right to be ministered to by his wife. We have a serious conflict–one of the mates has been sinned against by the other one.

“My beloved extended his hand through the opening, and my feelings were aroused for him. I arose to open to my beloved; and my hands dripped with myrrh, and my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt.” -5:4-5

This man, when he is turned down sexually by his wife, he didn’t push it. The Bible is full of verses about a woman’s role in the marriage. These verses are for your wife to obey, not for you to quote. Solomon goes no further than his wife lets him. He honors the bolt on the door. The very thing that sins against him, he covers with love.

We’ve come to the first principle on how to handle conflict: 

Do not react to your mate. Respond to God.

My wife is not my lord. My flesh is not my lord. The consensus I reach is not my lord. I must respond not in anger but in love. I must treat my wife tenderly. 

There’s not one place in the Bible that tells you to change your mate. You’re merely told to obey God and let God change your mate. That is the most freeing concept in marriage.

There’s a clear progression for unhealthy marriages: You have expectations. Those expectations are met with disappointment. You try to manipulate your mate. The manipulation doesn’t work.

When a couple goes through a divorce, the offending couple will try to intimidate the other one into anger and retribution. Every time. Because you always feel better hating a hateful person.

But when you respond with graciousness? The spouse says, “Wow. What a loving man.”

“I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned away and had gone! My heart went out to him as he spoke. I searched for him but I did not find him; I called him but he did not answer me. The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me, they struck me and wounded me; the guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me.” -5:6-7

God has taken it upon himself to discipline this mate. Understand that if you respond in love and graciousness, that doesn’t mean your mate will get away with it. Justice will come.

If you’ve got trouble in your marriage, and you wives are responding as a dripping faucet, and you husbands are responding in anger, then God can’t deal with your mate. At that point, He’d have to support and certify your anger and vengeance. He can’t discipline if you’ve tried to  discipline. Get out of the way, because God will do a better job overtime. He deals with mercy and restoration.

When your marriage is not right with your husband, you can’t expect any blessing outside your home. No area in the rest of your life will be fulfilled. If you get to the point where your marriage is shaky, stop everything immediately. You can’t skirt the issue. Don’t even go to church until you deal with it and get the marriage right at home.

“What kind of beloved is your beloved, O most beautiful among women? What kind of beloved is your beloved, that thus you adjure us? My beloved is dazzling and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand. His head is like gold, pure gold; his looks are like clusters of dates and black as a raven. His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in milk, and reposed in their setting. His cheeks are like a bed of balsam, banks of sweet-scented herbs; his lips are lilies dripping with liquid myrrh. His hands are rods of gold set with beryl; his abdomen is carved ivory inlaid with sapphires. His legs are pillars of alabaster set on pedestals of pure gold; his appearance is like Lebanon choice as the cedars. His mouth is full of sweetness. And he is wholly desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” -5:9-16

She says that he is noble, outstanding, handsome, sweet, precious, kind, and wonderful. Why? Because her husband showed through conflict the depth of his love and that is the most gracious and wonderful thing there is.

How do you know Jesus Christ is a kind, loving, marvelous bridegroom to you? Because when sin increases, grace abounds.

How do you know your wife is so wonderful? Because God lets you have conflict. It developed Solomon and brought them closer

We’ve come the the second principle on how to handle conflict:

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is non-manipulative. 

“Where has your beloved gone, O most beautiful among women? Where has your beloved turned, that we may seek him with you? My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of balsam, to pasture his flock in the gardens and gather lilies. I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine, he who pastures his flock among the lilies.” -6:1-3

A lot of couples, when they get angry, they stomp off. But the woman says, “I know where my mate is.” He’s not mad. He’s down pasturing his flock. She knows where to find him because nothing has changed. 

How do you know he’s so forgiving? “Because he is mine,” she says. His forgiveness is based on his marital covenant and committment. They became one flesh, so they’re going to work through their marriage.

This woman says, “My husband is so loving and so gentle.” Kind comes from kin—it means how you treat your family. Forgiveness is based on your committment and your kindness.

“You are as beautiful as Tirza, darling, as lovely as Jerusalem, as awesome as an army with banners.” -6:4

This man doesn’t think any less of his wife. He tells her she is as lovely as the holy place of Israel. He respects her so greatly. He is giving assurance to his mate.

So often we forgive, but we still hold it against that mate. We tell our mate that she isn’t as beautiful or as holy or as worthy of respect. Not so with Solomon. 

“Turn your eyes away from me, for they have confused me.” -6:5a

He is getting excited, so he needs her to look away. He’s not going to have her think that he’s forgiving her so he can get sex. He says, “There is no price tag on my forgiveness.”

“Your hair is like a flock of goats that have descended from Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of ewes which have come up from their washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost her young. Your temples are like a slice of pomegranate behind your veil.” -6:5b-7

We’ve heard these words before. Solomon repeats the words from their honeymoon. Why? Because he wants her to know, “Sugar, I love you just like I loved you on our honeymoon night. My love is completely forgiving, and I hold no account of wrong-suffering.”

You don’t speak about the things that hurt your mate. It’s finished. God puts your sin as far as the east from the west, and you must do the same. That is forgiveness.

Forgiveness is reconciliatory.

Conciliation means you’re now on friendly terms. Reconciliation means you’re conciliated back to where you used to be. It means you put your arm around someone and say “Don’t even worry. I love you just like you are.”

When God reconciled you, he didn’t make you a lower-class citizen. He made you a child of the Most High God.

“I went down to the orchard of nut trees to see the blossoms of the valley, to see whether the vine had budded or the pomegranates had bloomed. Before I was aware, my soul (Solomon) set me over the chariots of my noble people.” -6:11-12

Solomon raced off with her on a weekend away. He put her back higher than she had ever been before. He was reconciled to his wife. He looks at her and says, “You’re no less lovely.”

“Come back, come back, O Shulammite; Come back, come back, that we gaze at you! Why should you gaze at the Shulammite, as at the dance of the two companies?” -6:13

Solomon in the original language was Shulam. Shulammite is her title—she is the female side of Solomon. By their reconciliation, people saw their love as so intimate that they knew them as Shulam and his Shulammite. 

We see a parallel with Jesus Christ and Christians. Bridegroom and bride.

You know why you’d have a dance of two companies? If you were going to a marital feast. The conflict ends in happiness and he is exalting her higher than she’s ever been.

That’s what forgiveness does. You’re tender, you’re forgiving, you’re assuring, you’re non-historical, you’re reconciling. You have to trust God and learn to love each other as God loves you. That’s how you grow closer with your mate.

So. How do you fight clean?

1. You respond to God. Don’t react.

2. You forgive like God forgave you.

One day, our shepherd-king is going to come and take us away in his chariot. And the Christ is going to become one with the Christian. We’ll be forever with Him in the dance of two companies, and the marriage feast of the lamb.

We sinned against him, and the wage was a cross. God put myrrh on the bolt. God took my cross and he smeared it with the blood of Christ and he let me know that He’s a kind and wonderful God.

He has made a covenant with me. He’s been kind, and assuring, and reconciliatory. One day we’re going to go dance.

Now do you think I can’t love my mate? Give the blessing instead because you’ve been called to inherit a blessing.

Tommy Nelson is the pastor of Denton Bible Church and guest instructor at the Kanakuk Institute.

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