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How do I resolve conflict?

God loves for his children to be at peace with one another. Jesus told his disciples, “don’t let your hearts be troubled.” In the same breath he said, “My peace I give to you.” (John 14:27) Yet unless you’re a hermit, the reality you probably deal with every day is that your life is filled wit…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

God loves for his children to be at peace with one another. Jesus told his disciples, “don’t let your hearts be troubled.” In the same breath he said, “My peace I give to you.” (John 14:27)

Yet unless you’re a hermit, the reality you probably deal with every day is that your life is filled with conflict. Modern life is suffused with relational friction. Just look at the number of law suits that fill our lives. Look at the number of broken relationships – where is this peace that Jesus promised?

If we want the peace Jesus gives, we need to put his words into practice. Christians often cite Matthew 18 as the primary process for resolving conflict, but Jesus gives us a couple of steps in the peace making process that precede it.

Here’s what he says:

1. Your heart: Examine your heart and forgive (Matthew 6:14, Mark 11:25)

 
2. Someone else’s heart: If someone has something against you, go to them and be reconciled. (Matthew 5:23-24)

3. Someone else’s actions: If someone sins against you, go to him and talk. (Matthew 18:15)

4. When they don’t listen: Take a couple of friends along to talk some more. (Matthew 18:16)

5. When they still don’t listen: Take it to a bigger group of fellow believers. (Matthew 18:17)

And what do you do when, after these five steps, they still don’t listen? Jesus is so interested in your resolving conflict that he gives you yet another step – he asks you to recognize that their hard heart requires a different approach, one that includes spiritual warfare. (Matthew 18:17-19)
 
There’s a reason Jesus began his ministry by calling those who try to resolve conflict between people “blessed.” (Matthew 5:9) And there’s a reason he ended his time on earth by praying for unity (John 17:23). There’s a reason most of the ten commandments are about respect in relationships. God wants his kids to play nice and stop fighting. That’s when his kingdom comes. Jesus knows that conflict fills our lives with stress. He wants to give us peace instead. I suggest looking at the conflicts in your life and applying Jesus’ process. If it works, then maybe you can encourage us with a testimony.
 
If you’re interested in learning more about peace-making principles, I recommend going to this site

Comments (4)

  • Trying to combat some deep-rooted conflict in our family. I find that the biggest hurdle is just getting both parties to admit that there is conflict and that it’s worth dealing with.

    Would appreciate some prayer support on this one…it’s hard to know what to do from the sidelines.

  • I really like Ken Sande too. I’ve read a few of his books.

    I think at least half of our conflicts could be resolved if we focused on humility, taking any wrong attitudes out of our hearts, whether or not we are right in the disagreement. Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

    Then I think #2 is a big step for a lot of people. It seems to be so much easier to just ignore tensions and hope they go away, but it really takes commitment to that relationship to make the effort to be reconciled. What joy there is when we make it through that battle together and are drawn closer to each other as well as to the Lord!

    If there is a case of church discipline, I would add that we should not just kick them out and wait for them to come crawling back, because that likely will not happen. We must pursue them as an unbeliever with the love and mercy of the Lord. I would say that church membership would be revoked along with any positions held, but they are still welcome at church to worship with us and be ministered to by the Word. So often there is a lot of bitterness and burned bridges with a disciplined member, but we should make every effort to make the way for repentance easier. Change where we need to change and pray fervently for the person’s salvation.

    Another great book is, Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp.

  • I read this earlier today and loved it … especially since one of my best friends has been a board member for years with the group you linked to – Peacemaker Ministries. This is an incredible resource for churches, families, neighbors – anyone in any kind of relationship, essentially, since no relationship is conflict-free.

    But oh my, what a touchy subject. Matt is right that most conflicts could be avoided with humility and soft answers. But I’d wager a bet we all have more than a few instances where we have been anything BUT humble or gentle. I am usually one who eagerly embraces dealing with conflict and who loves to see peace, forgiveness, reconciliation on all levels … and maybe I’ve just had a busy stressful day today, but I find myself sighing over a few broken relationships, wondering like Jen’s family – is it even worth it?

    At some point, I know that it is – if only because it’s a matter of obedience to the Lord, not result. It’s just making sure the log is out of my own eye first…

  • Im wishing my faith community worked like this. Of course, if we used scripture to guide our interactions and decisions, we’d have less conflict to begin with. thanks, Seth.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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