What David Teaches Us About Conflict

by: Greg Wells

It’s the moment we all face.

For some, they will do everything but confront this moment. For others, they charge it with fists clenched, ready to make the first punch. In both situations, the moment becomes a catalyst for resentment or a battlefield of future moments just like this one. But no matter how you approach it, conflict is a moment that we will all inevitably face in ministry. 

Conflict causes us to shift in our chairs uncomfortably and makes our blood boil out of pure rage. Most of us have become accustomed to responding to conflict in only these two ways, and both responses are unhealthy. Just because we're Christians doesn't mean we are to sweep all conflict under the rug and not confront the moment at hand. It also doesn't mean we charge with our fists clenched ready to punch to prove our dominance, 'better' leadership, and verbal condescension into the moment to make sure we come out victorious.

Let’s be honest, if you're reading this, you have already had a moment of conflict that you have approached in one of the two ways we have already talked about.

For me, my habit at the beginning of my ministry years was to sweep the conflict under the rug. And the more conflict I swept under the rug, the bigger the pile became. It would build up until it exploded. At this point, when the conflict built up to this point it no longer affected only me and the person I was hiding conflict from. It affected my team, my family, and my relationship with God. Built-up conflict is poisonous, and when left untreated, it will spread and ultimately kill.

The good news is that there is a healthy way to approach conflict. David paints an incredible picture for us to replicate in 1 Samuel: 24. David has just been anointed to be the next king, defeated Goliath, and all of Israel is writing songs about him. He is also, at this point, in hiding from King Saul who wants to kill him. While David is hiding in a cave, Saul, unknowingly, comes in to pee. This is David’s moment! He could kill vulnerable Saul and become the King of Israel. Instead, he walks up behind Saul and cuts of the corner of his robe. He doesn’t kill Saul, but, hilariously, feels guilty about cutting his robe. David tells his group that this man, Saul, is the Lord’s anointed. Saul leaves the cave and David could just let him go without revealing his hiding spot. Here is where we see a moment of conflict approached in a healthy way. David follows Saul out of the cave and calls out to him, “My lord, the king!”. Saul turns to see David bowing to him. David speaks from his heart with open and honest communication to Saul about him seeking his harm. Saul listened and wept. He tells David that he would be a great king for Israel. He asked David to spare his family when he did sit on the throne and went home.

Here, David shows four points of healthy conflict resolution.

1: For Conflict with Leadership

Yes, there are probably times that we all would like to tell our boss that we would like to kill them. But when it comes to conflict with leadership, we must recognize the authority above us. David does not kill Saul in the cave because he says that he is the, “Lord’s anointed”. This means that Saul is in the place of leadership for a reason. In the same way as David, when we approach conflict with our leadership, remember they are above you for a reason.

2. For the Fist-Clenchers

What would happen if we entered into conflict by first bowing to the person we are experiencing conflict with? Maybe it doesn’t have to be that exact physical response, but it would help us become disciplined in entering conflict with humility. David bows before even speaking a word to Saul. When approaching conflict, let’s remember to enter with humility and with our hands open instead of domineering with fists clenched.

3. For the Rug Sweepers

David doesn’t hide in the cave after Saul leaves. Instead, he approaches Saul immediately. It may seem easier to sweep it under the rug, but be warned: you are choosing to leave your wounds untreated. David shows that is is best to face conflict head on and quickly. Yes, approaching conflict head on is awkward, hard, causes that tight feeling in your throat and trembling in your hands, but it also brings strength, hope, freedom, and healing.

4. For All of Us

It is important to note that David did not approach conflict head on using condescension or cynicism as a weapon. He was open and honest in his communication about the lies Saul was listening to or making up in his head. In response, Saul is open and honest about David being a great king. Resolution did not come from saying something that the other wanted to hear. Sometimes, we are afraid to share our true thoughts and feelings. The funny thing is that if we take the first step towards vulnerability through our open and honest communication, more than likely, the one we are in conflict with will take the same step.

We will all experience conflict, but it is up to us as Christians how we respond. We have an opportunity to replicate David’s actions that cause true healing and restoration.


About the author:

Greg Wells has been a church janitor, youth pastor, worship leader, and now serves as the Events Coordinator at Clayton King Ministries. He is married to his beautiful wife, Ashley, and has two boys and a baby due in February 2018!