How do you feel about conflict? Most people tend to react in one of two ways: either pretend it doesn’t exist or attack the problem until it goes away. In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul compares believers to a human body. Verse 5 says, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” As followers of Jesus Christ we are both members of a local assembly of believers and of the body of Christ as a whole.
As individuals saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ, we have a bond with other believers. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and have a connection like no other. Every individual is created unique in God’s image and battles with their own sinful nature and selfishness. When we come together, conflict is not a matter of if it will happen, but when it will occur. In the closing verses of Acts 15, we see two mature believers enter into a conflict that was intense enough that Paul and Barnabas parted ways.
In our families and local churches, conflict finds us continually. There are many different reasons for these conflicts such as: sin, poor communication, misunderstanding, unexpressed expectations, etc. Bickering and fighting can quickly destroy the unity and love that God calls believers to in Romans 12:9-10. Long-standing feuds and hard feelings can undo the effectiveness of an assembly of local Christians.
When conflict arrives, it is important to handle it in a biblical way. God can and does use difficulty in relationships to draw us closer to himself, closer to the image of Christ, and to reveal areas of weakness or sin in our own lives. Ken Sande, in his book The Peacemaker, teaches four steps to God-Centered Conflict Resolution. They are as follows.
Glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31)
In the second half of Romans 8, we see that God is working in our lives through many different types of difficulties. Verse 28 shares that each struggle is orchestrated by the Lord for our good. He uses every circumstance to reveal our own heart and to change us further into the image of Jesus Christ.
With that in mind, we must remember that there is a greater principle at work. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that our goal in everything that we do must be to bring honor and glory to God. Our overarching desire must be to show God’s life-changing impact on our lives through salvation and his ongoing work of sanctification.
When we find ourselves dealing with conflict, we must be driven by our life’s calling to show God’s greatness through the ways that we deal with it. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 demonstrate some of the ways that believers are to act and to think while dealing with difficulty. The epistle of 1 John shares repeatedly that believers should be known for their love for each other, and that includes how we deal with conflict. As the body of Christ we are called to be unified but not uniform. As we deal with differences and conflict, God’s glory must be our final goal.
Get the log out of your own eye (Matthew 7:5)
When conflict happens, our natural bent is to fight. In doing so, we seek to protect what is ours and attack the enemy. In the midst of a conflict, especially between believers, we cannot view the other person(s) as an enemy. Instead, they are to be views as friends that need to be restored.
Instead of protecting our own interests at all cost, Jesus calls us in the first verses of Matthew 7 to look carefully at our own life for ways that we have sinned or added to the conflict. When God reveals, through His Word, areas where we have sinned; we are called to remove the mote/log from our own eye so that we cans see clearly. Then we will be able to see the conflict more clearly and work to a conclusion that will glorify God and show that Jesus Christ is actively working in our life.
Gently restore (Galatians 6:1)
The goal when dealing with personal conflict cannot be simply to “win.” Scripture calls us to be unified which means that restoration is necessary. To restore means to mend or to repair. Galatians 6:1 lays out the steps and the necessary attitude. Those who are spiritually mature are called to seek restoration, but there several important attitudes that must be employed.
When dealing with a strained or broken relationship, a spirit of humility is essential. This calls a believer to maintain a heart of gentleness as our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Humility is to have a heart of submission to the Lord and others without a desire for retribution or revenge.
The final warning for believers maintains the reason for our attitude of humility and gentleness. If we cannot move forward with a Christ-like compassion and care, we too may fall into temptation and sin. That should be enough to drive believers to be restored to other parts of the body of Christ. If not, we will never be able to work together for the cause of Christ.
Go and be reconciled (Matthew 5:24)
The final step is a strong reminder of what is needed for reconciliation. When we know and realize that a brother or sister has an offense against us, we must make reconciliation and restoration a priority. In Matthew 5:24, Jesus places it before worship. We cannot come to God with a clear conscience when there is an offense between believers.
Jesus commands us to leave our gift and go to the person and be reconciled, and then come back to worship the Lord. Jesus Christ made reconciliation between God and mankind possible through his life, death, and resurrection. His saving work has also made it possible for believers to seek peace with individuals that God has placed around us.
In closing, John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Our Savior made reconciliation possible. When we run into conflict, and we will, remember these four principles - glorify God, get the log out of your own eye, gently restore, and go and be reconciled.
Pastor Andrew Henderson
Fundamental Baptist Church