Conflict. It’s one of those words that makes us cringe and shrink back in denial and fear.
Too often our gut reaction when someone confronts us with an offense is to defend ourselves. Even if we were in the wrong, we tend to want to cover it up (that is nothing new, read about Adam and Eve!) We try to justify ourselves, blame someone else, avoid the problem, and the list goes on. We stand ready with excuses in hand, armed for the battle, fully intending to win it.
God offers us a better way. He offers us the way of grace. He extends grace to us and we are to extend it to others. The Bible is very clear regarding how we are to respond to conflict. We can draw from Scripture these 7 practical steps to use when we face conflict:
1. Remove the log:
Matthew 7:5 "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Before you engage in any discussion that will involve pointing out another’s sin, be sure that you have prepared your heart. In order to enter that conversation with proper motives and a forgiving attitude, you will need to admit your own failure in the relationship, acknowledge your own sin issues, and take responsibility for your part in the conflict. It takes two to have a conflict and rarely is there only one guilty party. Confess, repent, admit, and seek forgiveness. Only then are you able to have the right motives for confronting someone with the goal of reconciliation.
2. Admit weakness and failure:
Proverbs 28:13 "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."
Again, own up to your part in the conflict. You need God’s mercy as much as the other person. Total honesty prepares your heart and presents your case in a way that is much more likely to be received. This is the way of humility. Pride in your heart will hinder reconciliation. Humility opens the doors of communication that can lead to reconciliation.
3. Don’t promise to do better next time:
James 5:12 "But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation."
The truth is, you will fail again. You are a sinner and so am I. We can seek God to help us to deal with our relationships in a godly manner but we will never achieve perfection. Sin has messed up that possibility. You can ask for help, accountability, and avail yourself to some input. But you cannot promise to “do better” because you probably won’t. God’s grace is sufficient for that. We are to have integrity (let our yes be yes) but there are consequences to making a promise that we cannot keep.
4. Grant grace no matter who is in the wrong:
Ephesians 4:31 "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Approaching a guilty sinner with an attitude of grace is critical to the healing of conflict. You, too, are a guilty sinner. It is a level playing field at the foot of the cross. We tend to forget that when we are ready to win a battle in conflict. It is easy to believe we are the innocent party as we aim to accuse and admonish someone. Whether that person has truly sinned and needs to repent or not, grace in your approach is critical and healing.
5. Offer solutions, not accusations:
2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."
In order to reconcile, we need to do more than simply pointing out the problem that brought conflict. Reconciliation is only possible when there is a plan put in place to work towards rebuilding relationship. That plan will be useful only if it is based on God’s Word. God’s Word has the answers to our relationship struggles. An excellent resource for how to resolve conflict Biblically is the Peacemaker ministry (Ken Sande.) There you will find Biblical solutions to conflict that are not only rooted in Biblical principles but also practical in nature and ready to be put in to practice.
7. Purpose to be reconciled. Better yet, to be restored to full relationship:
Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
This verse speaks for itself. Do whatever you possibly can to reconcile a conflict. If the other person does not reciprocate, that is not your responsibility. They are responsible for their own sin, and you are responsible only for yours. At the end of the day, have you done everything you can to resolve conflict?
God has called us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers.
Peacekeepers want to avoid conflict, and will do whatever it takes to do so.
Peacemakers want to resolve conflict, and will do whatever God’s Word teaches to do so.
Scripture teaches peacemaking, not peacekeeping!
Reconciliation between believers is a picture of The Gospel. If we keep this in mind and remember it is not about us, but it is about glorifying God, we will be more motivated to reconcile. When we reconcile with people, we are also reconciled to God Himself.
2 Corinthians 5:18 "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation."
Is there a conflict in one of your relationships? If so, take Romans 12:18 to heart and become a peacemaker today.