I am a Christian. However, I find it difficult to resolve conflicts with others. Often I try to ignore it. But conflicts happen again and again. I don’t know what to do? Could you help?
Below Article is by Stan Thomas, Forney, TX
Good question! You are not alone. Many have unsettled hearts and an absence of peace when it comes to conflicts. Does the Bible talk about conflict management? Of course, it does. Let us learn from the Bible regarding the topic.
What is conflict?
Google defines conflict as “a disagreement or argument” or “to clash.” This is true, and there cannot be an agreement or unity when there is conflict.
Why do we hate conflict, or why do we avoid conflict?
We hate conflict because when God created the world, He made it for us to be in the right relationship with Him and each other. The Bible says that God created us in His own image, and we know that God is three-in-one, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Because God is a being of unity, we too desire to have unity because we were made in His image. When we clash or have disagreed with God or each other, we hate it. We were created to live in unity.
Some of us may think, “Of course, I want to avoid conflict. Why would I want conflict in my life?” However, the truth is that we do have a conflict with someone, but we want to avoid addressing that conflict, and we want to avoid it. It may be with our brother, our sister, parents, and children, in-laws, church members, etc. We have conflict, and usually, sometime later, we drop it. We pretend it never happened. We avoid it. Some may think that we avoid it or dropped it because we forgave each other. Usually, this is not the case. Usually, the conflict stays in our hearts; it builds up hate and comes out again. We avoid conflict not because we have forgiven each other but because we are too prideful. We don’t want to humble ourselves and say sorry. We love to avoid conflict, and we believe the lie that we are maintaining peace. When we don’t address the conflict, it will come up again.
Imagine a fire. A big fire, maybe a forest fire. Many of us will run from the fire. We can pretend it does not exist and avoid it, but that fire is going to keep growing, and eventually, it will catch up to us. Unlike the person that runs from the fire, some firefighters will run towards the fire. Why? How can they run towards the conflict? Because they are equipped! They have tools to fight the fire. Their gear is fireproof, and they have extinguishers meant to get rid of the fire. Why do we avoid conflict? Because we are not ready or equipped to handle the conflict.
If we are called to peace, then how can we walk towards conflict?
We do not walk towards conflict to join or fuel it even more. We walk towards the conflict to resolve it. As I stated earlier, we love to maintain peace. If we have to maintain peace constantly, then maybe there is no peace at all. We do not want to be peace fakers or peace breakers. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” We cannot make peace out of peace. We make peace out of conflict, and we do this by being equipped to resolve conflict.
How can I be equipped or prepared to resolve conflict?
Let’s see what Jesus has to say about conflict resolution. Read Matthew 18:15-17.
First, Jesus says to go privately to the other person, the one who has offended you. Many times we think it is wise to first go to another person or maybe a group of friends even and talk about it before addressing it privately one-on-one. This is not wisdom, and this is not what Jesus has commanded. Most likely, what this is is gossip. Don’t trust in your earthly wisdom. Trust in the wisdom of Jesus.
What do I say when I go privately to address the conflict? When you address conflict, you need to make it clear. Say the words, “You hurt me by _____,” or, “you offended me by _____.” Keep it clear and simple. However, before you tell the other person how they offended you, there is a step that you need to take. This is the most important part of conflict resolution. Before you tell them how they offended you, you need to own up to your part. Before you take out the speck in your brother’s eye, remove the log in yours. Confess whatever part of the conflict you can, even if it is the smallest thing. Maybe it’s as small as having hateful thoughts towards the other person. Maybe you only have two percent out of the entire conflict. Okay, then own up to and confess 100% of that two percent. Just like addressing how the other person offended you, keep your apology simple and clear. Make sure that you are using “I statements.” Say, “Will you please forgive me for ____,” or, “I’m sorry that I hurt you by ___.” Many times we like to feel sorry and not actually apologize. We may say something like, “I’m sorry YOU felt this way…” We need to make sure that we are actually apologizing and owning up to our part. This is so important. Most of the time, before we can even get to the part where the other person hurt us, they will apologize as well.
Next, Jesus says that if they do not forgive you or don’t want to resolve the conflict when you go privately, bring in others. Take someone both of you know and do the same thing. Own up to your part and tell them how they have offended you. “I’m sorry that I hurt you by ____,” and, “You hurt me by ____.” Do this with others present. The best thing to do is to bring others who were present at the time of the conflict.
If the problem is still not resolved, then what do you do? Jesus says in verse 17 to bring the church in. What we can assume from this verse is that the conflict is between two believers. This is important because it shows that even Christians will have conflict, and that is okay because we are not perfect. We can also assume that if the conflict is with a nonbeliever, then this step will most likely be meaningless because they do not care about the church’s opinion. This is also very important because we see the final step to take if the conflict is still not resolved after involving the church. It says that if the other person still refuses to resolve the conflict, then treat them as a non-Christian or nonbeliever. Jesus specifically says, “as a pagan or corrupt tax collector.” So we’re supposed to hate them, right? Never talk to them and completely ignore them, right? Wrong! How do we treat nonbelievers? The same way Jesus did. How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors? He loved them! Matthew, the author of this gospel, was a tax collector himself, and Jesus chose him to be one of the twelve disciples! Just like Jesus, we should love them and pray for them.
By refusing to resolve conflict with the church’s guidance, they are saying that they do not want to be shepherded by the church. They are saying that they do not want to be under the authority of the elders and the church. They are saying that the church has no choice in their life and that they are okay with a split or conflict within the body of Christ, the church. Even though they are going this far, we still love them and pray for them.
When should I resolve conflict?
Read Matthew 5:23-24 and Ephesians 4:26-27. The answer is now! Go and resolve the conflict now! Do it with a sense of urgency. Paul is writing the letter to the Ephesians, and he is a little more generous than Jesus. Paul says that you have 12 hours to resolve your conflict. Do it before the sun goes down! Some of us understand clearly what the Word is saying, but do we really agree with it? Jesus says now, Paul says 12 hours, and we say, “give me a few years… or actually never.” Some of us have been holding onto conflict and hurt for years! Maybe even decades! And all 52 Sundays of the year, we come to church to worship God, and He’s saying that we should not be here. Resolve your conflict and come back. Stop giving God your sacrifices at the temple and resolve your conflict. Every time we go to church to worship God, we bring our conflict with us, and you know what else we bring with us? We come to church dragging the devil with us because, as Paul says, “anger gives a foothold to the devil.”
Maybe it sounds impossible or idealistic. Yeah, this all sounds great, but come on, this would only work in a perfect world. Some of you may be thinking about that certain someone you have a conflict with and may think it’s too complicated or that this whole conflict resolution thing doesn’t apply to my situation. I have one question for you who may be thinking this way. Do you honestly believe that the words of Jesus and the commandments of God do not apply to you? Sure it sounds impossible, but the impossible is normal in the Kingdom of God through Christ Jesus.
Why should I resolve conflict, or why should I forgive the person who hurt me?
It is not easy to forgive someone who hurt us. It is a lot easier to feel angry and not forgive. Interestingly in Matthew 18, after Jesus gives instructions for conflict resolution, he gives a parable, the parable of the unforgiving debtor. Read Matthew 18:21-35. Why should I forgive? Because God has forgiven me. There is a debt that I owe to God, and I cannot pay Him back. However, He has forgiven me and paid the debt for me. He paid the debt of my sins by sending His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for my sins. He loves us so that we will love each other, and He forgives us so that we will forgive each other. Loved people love people, and forgiven people forgive people. Remember that you are loved and forgiven.
I sincerely hope this articles gives you Biblical help with regard to your question-how to resolve conflicts.