Most of us don’t like to deal with conflict—it can be messy. Yet Jesus encourages His people to not put off dealing with conflicts. We are told that to be reconciled to God we must first be reconciled to others:
“…leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny (Matthew 5:24-26).
For God knows that at the root of most conflicts is pride, and therefore, we must begin by checking our hearts to be sure we have no remnants of pride there.
“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
We might think we are safe if we’ve peered inside our hearts and found no pride there, but we aren’t done with the self-examination yet. Don’t miss the equally dangerous twin of pride–selfish motives.
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3).
Biblical Conflict Resolution
If we’ve passed these two tests, that is wonderful. But sadly, we can still be in conflict with someone in our church, with a co-laborer, a neighbor, or even a family member. Thankfully the Bible offers us a map for resolving conflicts. With each step a corresponding Bible verse is provided.
- First, seek to settle differences among yourselves (2 Cor. 13:11)
- Count to ten with an aim to heal (Proverbs 12:18)
- Take care of your own sins first (Matt. 7:5)
- Go and show your brother his fault (Matt. 18:15-17)
This last step shows us that first we must go to our brother or sister and address it one-on-one (or with a witness); then if still unresolved it should be taken to a small group, and finally before the whole church or a conflict resolution committee if the problem still remains.
The Ultimate Goal
Although it may feel like setting the record straight, righting a wrong, or outing evil is the goal of conflict resolution that is not God’s goal. It is helpful to remember that God’s goal in this is the same as it is in everything else—restoration.
“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).
This verse makes it clear that an essential part of conflict resolution is forgiveness. Forgiveness–restoration–healing–it’s that the essence of peacemaking?
Books to Help:
Unconditional? The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness by Brian Zahnd
The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande
The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution: A Practitioner’s Guide by Bernard Mayer
Cheri Cowell is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary and her latest book is 365 Devotions for Peace. To learn more about Cheri and her other books visit her website www.CheriCowell.com.