Managing conflict in marriage is no easy task. Conflict is inevitable and even healthy in any relationship, but the different ways in which marriage partners approach it can make or break the relationship.

In the Bible, there are many examples of people handling conflict in various different ways. David was able to tolerate and soothe King Saul’s temper (1 Samuel 16:23), but he did not hesitate to confront Goliath boldly when it was needed. “Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head… and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel!” (1 Samuel 17:46, NLT). It is important to understand that David was representing God’s image in both instances.

When we look at occasions in the New Testament when Jesus had to manage conflict, we see that He also approached each situation differently, according to God’s will. When it came to keeping his Father’s name intact, Jesus did not shy away from confrontation. “Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves” (Matthew 21:12, NLT). But on another occasion when human souls were at stake, Jesus let it go. “But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent” (Matthew 27:12, NLT). ]

In marriage, we often see that partners have opposite temperamental tendencies. One partner may prefer to confront and sort out wrongful situations quickly and boldly, while the other one tends to let matters slide with greater tolerance. These differences can lead to great frustration for both spouses in a marriage relationship.

A spouse who deals with conflict in a direct manner may defend his/her style by quoting scriptures like Ephesians 4:26: “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.”. And the spouse who is uncomfortable with confrontation may find justification in the same chapter! Ephesians 4:31: “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Do you get frustrated when your spouse chooses not to confront wrongful behavior? Or do you sometimes find yourself hurt by your spouse’s direct confrontation? Are you able to see God’s image in your spouse at these moments?

Let us recognize God’s perfect righteousness when we are confronted with conflict in our marriages. Let us ask the Holy Spirit for divine discernment when we look for Christlike grace, truth, and love in our relationships. “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16, NLT).

Scripture readings:

1 Samuel 16:23

1 Samuel 17:45-47

Matthew 21:12-13

Matthew 27:11-14

Ephesians 4:1-16