Summary: God’s conflict resolution plan for the family is centered in relationships of respect.
On his sixteenth birthday a son approached his father and said, "Dad, I’m sixteen now. When I get my license, can I drive the family car?" His dad looked at him and said, "Son, driving the car takes maturity, and first, you must prove that you are responsible enough. And one way you must do that is to bring up your grades. They are not acceptable. Second, you must read the Bible every day. And finally, you must get that hair cut; it looks outrageous." The son began the task of fulfilling his father’s requirements, knowing that the last might be impossible.
When his grades came out he went to his dad with a big smile. "Look, Dad, all A’s and B’s on my report card. Now can I drive the family car?" "Very good, son. You are one-third of the way there, but have you been reading the Bible?" the father replied. "Yes, Dad, every day," said the son. "Very good son. You are two-thirds of the way there. Now when are you going to get that hair cut?"
The son, thinking that he could out smart the father, responded, "Well, I don’t see why I should get my hair cut to drive the car. Jesus had long hair, didn’t he?" The father looked at his boy and said, "That’s right, son and Jesus walked everywhere he went."
Bruce Shelley, in a soon-to-be-published biography of Vernon Grounds, President Emeritus of Denver Seminary, tells of the occasion when an attorney, while working out in a gym, became friends with Dr. Grounds who was there lifting weights. The attorney’s marriage was crumbling. His wife wanted a divorce. And after a while he decided to talk with Vernon.
As the two discussed things, Vernon had him draw up a list of options on a piece of paper: 1. Stay in the marriage. 2. Separate temporarily. 3. Divorce. Then, since desperate events had driven the attorney to consult his new friend, Vernon urged him to add Number 4. Suicide. Then he said matter-of-factly, "And, of course, there is murder."
Not many things can shock a practicing trial lawyer, but this got his undivided attention. He began to object. "That never entered my mind." "Come now, Marty. You mean to tell me that a lawyer, who’s spent as much time in the courts as you have, does not know someone who will kill for money? Surely the thought has crossed your mind."
The attorney said later, "Vernon may as well have clubbed me with a baseball bat. He was right -- the name of such a person was instantly in my mind." "Write it down," he said. Then Vernon took the list and said, "Can we agree that, as Christians, murder is not a viable choice?" Marty nodded. "Can we also agree as Christians that self-murder, or suicide, is not a viable choice?" They went on to what were Christian alternatives. The whole exchange was so shocking that a decade later the attorney reflected, "I was in dire need of a serious dose of reality, and Vernon knew exactly how to deliver it."
In the newest issue of Sports Illustrated, Rick Reilly tells of John Elway’s downward spiral after retirement from pro football in 1999. His business ventures failed. His twin-sister, Jana, died of cancer, his father died of a heart attack and his wife of 18 years, Janet moved out of the house with their four children.
Reilly quotes Elway as saying, “My whole life I had a carrot to chase. For 16 years winning the Super Bowl was my carrot. Everything revolved around that. All of a sudden there’s no carrot anymore, and you start wondering what you’re going to do with your life. You play golf or you try business stuff, but it’s not even close. You end up spinning yourself like a tornado. And here was Janet, who sacrificed all those years, thinking she was finally going to get me to herself.”
Conflict in families is a reality in our time. No family is immune to conflict. Some conflict is mild and some of it is serious as we see in these three illustrations. And ironically, one of the places that we need to learn how to effectively resolve conflict is in our families.
As we continue in this series on conflict resolution, we take time this morning to look at several important ways to create an environment in our families that can make effective conflict resolution possible in our families. Family life is essential to our growth and development as responsible adults and as mature Christians. As we read in Genesis God designed us from the start to be raised, to be nurtured, and to be loved in families. The Psalmist backs this up as we read in Psalm 68:6 "God places the lonely in families."