The beginning of strife is like releasing water;
Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.
Here we have a Proverb that goes directly against popular ideas. Popular counsel is that if someone has wronged you, if your feelings are hurt, if you are annoyed with your sister, if you are mad at your husband – you need to let it out! Everyone says you will feel better. And you really might – for a minute, before you notice that you have flooded the house.
But there is a lot to be found in this verse. First, I’d like to point out the therefore. in the words of my father back at our junior high Bible studies – what’s the therefore there for? Well, for starters it is telling us that strife – this letting out of all the contention we can find, is not good. Therefore stop. Therefore do not. It is telling us that this kind of pressure releasing that is valued in our world is something that Scripture wants us to avoid.
Now – before you jump to the conclusion that God wants us to bottle up all of our problems, let’s talk about what it is that God is telling us to avoid. Contention. Contention comes from a Hebrew word that could refer to a wrestling match, or a law suit.
Now one common tie in both of these situations is that there is a clear winner and a clear loser. Contention is about winning, because it is a form of competition. I’ll say that you are not helping with the kids. You say that I’m not easy to live with either. I’ll bring up the laundry. You bring up the fact that I don’t like it when you have people over. Before you know it, everyone is running to mount their cases – putting files together for their petty attorneys. We want one of us to be the one who caused the problem, and one of us to be the innocent victim.
But this is not how Scripture tells us to deal with our conflicts. Phillipians 2 talks about unity in the context of pursuing the mind of Christ. Paul tells us to stop competing with each other – stop striving against each other, comparing ourselves with one another. Pursue instead the mind of Christ – which is in you! You have been saved – you can pursue, and can have, the attitude of your savior. Be like Him. Let His mind be in you.
Christians should seek to resolve conflict among themselves by pursuing the mind of Christ. The goal is fellowship and resolution. Not the ultimate discovery of whose family is worse, or who doesn’t work as hard as the other, or who is actually being self important. The mind of Christ seeks first sacrifice, forgiveness, service, and love.
I Corinthians 6 deals with Christians not taking each other to court – and here, in Proverbs, we see that we are forbidden taking each other to little court.
Petty coffee shop court. Ugly Facebook posts court. Letting it all out because I am too lazy to pursue the mind of Christ court. Stink eye at the husband until he dare asks what is wrong court. Hurt feelings court. Personal drama court. Being silent and sullen and difficult whilst you gather petty offenses for your upcoming lawsuit against the church people court.
Have people made unfeeling remarks about your infertility? Pursue the mind of Christ. Have people let their children be unkind to yours? Pursue the mind of Christ. Has your husband not been helping you out like you imagine he knows he should? Pursue the mind of Christ. Has your mother been critical? Pursue Christ. Has your father been absent? Pursue Christ.
Because this is the glorious truth – all contention among believers can be settled in Christ. Because in Christ, it is not our guilt that matters, it is His righteousness. If we find ourselves not wanting this – not wanting total forgiveness for others, then we know that contention is our goal.
So lay it down, and pursue the mind of Christ.