Pastor's Corner: Wise conflict resolution
Last updated 5/30/2023 at 10:02am
If you desire to live in a world without conflict, then you are living in the wrong world. The sinful nature of humanity will lead to conflicts, disagreements, and divisions. “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident … hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions …”(Galatians 5:19-20). Conflict is a serious disagreement over a difference in opinion, purpose, or preference. Conflict may be caused by misunderstandings, poor communication, different values, goals, priorities, expectations, interests, opinions, preferences, competition, and sin. Resolving conflicts so all parties are benefitted, so that relationships strengthen, so that mutual goals are accomplished, and so peace is made is a Christian character quality and skill. Such is the goal and character of a peacemaker.
Conflict is caused by fleshly lusts that come out of the desires of fallen hearts (James 4:1-2). People have unmet desires and demands that conflict with someone else’s desires and demands, so conflict erupts. The cause of destructive or hurtful conflict may be rooted in a variety of sins: pride (Proverbs 13:10); anger (15:18); harsh words (15:1); impulsive reactions (25:8); being hasty and rushing (18:13); and getting involved in others business or conflicts when it will not help or was not asked for (26:17). Overall, it is vitally important for Christians to examine their own hearts to recognize any of these sins or unwise courses of action regarding conflict.
Everyone reacts to conflict in different ways, and there are three broad categories: escaping, attacking or making peace. The extreme ends are known as the fight or flight. Escaping may include denial of the problem and literally running away. Attacking may include verbal attacks, physical assault, slandering another’s reputation or appealing to authorities. What is the appropriate biblical response to conflict?
Making peace (Matthew 5:9; Romans 12:18). When conflict arises, the Bible has the principles necessary to resolve conflicts and to bring about peace, insofar as it depends on the Christian.
The wise Christian wants to first understand the dynamics of conflict. Clarify the main issues, desires, and sins in the conflict. What are your wants and desires? What are your demands? Are you considering the other person’s wants, preferences and goals as well? What may be the sin in your heart that is causing you to cling to these desires above being humble, forgiving, generous or deferring to let the other person have what they want? Jesus’ words against hypocritical judgment guide us to examine and evaluate our own hearts (Matt 7:1-5).
Peacemaking and resolving conflict are part of who we are supposed to be as children of God: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Peace occurs when the decision is made to work out differences, to forgive and to reconcile. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense”(Proverbs 19:11). Further steps of peacemaking involve reconciliation (Matt 5:23-24); negotiation (Phillipians 2:4); mediation (Matthew 18:16; Proverbs 15:22); arbitration (1 Corinthians 6:4); and accountability (Matthew 18:17). Remember, the goal of resolving conflicts is to achieve the best possible outcome and to maintain a loving relationship with all parties involved. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18); "Live in peace with each other…. Make sure nobody pays back wrong for wrong.” Thesselonians 5:13b-15