Conflict has been described in this way: conflict = difference + tension
Elijah wants to lie on his bed and quietly read a book, Noah wants to play his electric guitar: difference. The boys share a room: tension. The resulting conflict could be handled well, bringing them closer together, or badly, driving them further apart.
To put it another way, conflict is an inevitable consequence of diversity in a universe experienced in time as well as space.
According to the opening verses of the Bible, conflict provides the raw material with which God works to form the world, and indeed universe, we live in. That is, God does not create out of nothing, but out of the experience of conflict. Light and darkness; sky and land and sea; different seasons; different possible forms of life, needing different environments: each part is calling out to be recognised, to not be overlooked.
While our response in the face of conflict is often to go on the defensive, or to go on the attack, or to withdraw emotionally or physically, God moves towards conflict with the intention of drawing-out something good – and not only good for the parties in immediate conflict, but good for the bigger picture, the wider creation.
God identifies god-self in particular ways – for example, as creator, redeemer, sustainer – and invites others to do the same: the sun to know his own identity, and the moon hers; creatures that fly, or swim, or crawl. Underlying concerns are drawn out; common ground brought to light; interdependence encouraged, participation enabled. And God creates human beings, to be like God, to share in God’s experience of and activity in the world.
What does it mean to be made and found in the likeness of a God who looks on conflict and sees in that conflict the necessary raw material for creating something unimaginably wonderful? What does it mean to be made and found in the likeness of a God who moves towards conflict, with a particular intention and hope?
Surely it means that we experience conflict not as a result of something that has gone wrong, in us and for us, but rather as something more fundamental and more positive?