There is a good chance you have experienced conflict in the last month. Perhaps you’re experiencing conflict right now. Conflict is an unfortunate part of life and arguments, disputes, disagreements — whatever you want to call them, happen to all of us. We will have conflict but are we resolving our conflict biblically?
As Christians we can’t escape conflict. From our homes to our workplaces, school and churches, conflict surrounds us. It invades Christian relationships just as it does every other human relationship. But shouldn’t a Christian’s resolution to differences look different than the world’s? When avoidance, manipulation and control characterize our response to conflict we look no different than our unsaved neighbor and we destroy our Christian witness. Unfortunately, this is the norm for many believers.
But God calls us to be peacemakers. His peacemaking principles are powerful and practical and we can learn to respond to conflict constructively if we respond in a Gospel-centered and biblically faithful manner. When we allow the Gospel to enable us to live out our peacemaking mandate we will confess our wrongs, forgive those who have hurt us, love our enemies, and live a life that honors Him; a life that looks different than the world.
A biblical view of conflict
We define conflict as a difference in opinion or purpose that frustrates someone’s goals or desires.
Primary causes of conflict
Misunderstanding resulting from poor communication
Differences in values, goals, priorities, opinions, expectations, interests, priorities, gifts
Competition over limited resources such as time and money
Sinful desires leading to sinful words and behavior
Not all conflict is bad. Most of us think of conflict as something to avoid but conflict is a trial that gives us an opportunity to grow in many ways. Conflict...
Refines and grows our faith – Without trials we remain immature, incomplete, lacking many godly character qualities. (James 1:2-4)
Has a divine purpose – Our conflict is an opportunity given to us by God. (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1)
Reminds us that we cannot change others – Our efforts should be directed toward resolving differences but we realize that not all conflicts will be resolved.
Compels us to self-examine – Conflict allows us to check the ungodly desires which rule our heart.
God created us as unique individuals. Our diversity leads to natural differences as we each bring different perspectives to life. The problem is not that we are different, the problem is what we do with our disagreements. We should seek unity in our relationships and not demand uniformity.
Conflict can be natural and beneficial
Unique with different - opinions, desires, convictions, priorities, perspectives
Diverse with personal preferences
We are to be peacemakers
As God’s peacemakers we need to renew our minds to begin looking at all conflict the way the Bible teaches:
We see conflict as an opportunity to demonstrate the love and power of God in our lives, to glorify Him, serve others, and grow to be like Christ.
Remember what we are up against. God’s ways are countercultural. The world encourages people to relate to each other according to selfish desires, especially in the midst of conflict. This worldly pull constantly opposes a culture of peace.
As Christ-followers we must remember who we are. Our natural inclination is not to love our enemies, confess our wrongs, lay down our rights, or forgive those who hurt us. Our natural bent; what we default to, is to do just the opposite. Instead of resolving differences in a distinctively biblical fashion, we often react to conflict by avoiding it or demanding others to agree with us.
Therefore, building a culture of peace must be an ongoing personal pursuit as well as a discipleship goal in the church. God delights to breathe His grace through peacemakers and He has provided a way for us to overcome our innate weakness as peacemakers. We can learn to respond to conflict in a Gospel-centered and biblically faithful manner.
We can radically change the way we respond to conflict when we learn to be peacemakers God’s way.
Resolving conflict practically
Are you committed to growing in this area? Then begin by trusting God and asking Him to give you grace to depend on Him and follow His ways. Be prepared to go against what you “feel” like doing. As you trust Him to empower you to respond in unnatural ways, your obedience (in His power) honors Him and shows others the work He is doing in your life!
Application, application, application. Head knowledge puffs up. We must be doers of the Word. What does that look like in real life? How do I confess wrongs honestly and effectively, forgive others and be reconciled, use conflict as an opportunity to demonstrate the love and power of Jesus, or overlook an offense when appropriate?
We will address these peacemaker principles from the Bible. This series will outline Ken Sande’s excellent book, “The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Conflict” This valuable resource should be in everyone’s home library. A must read.
When used in light of the Gospel, these principles will strengthen and preserve all our relationships. Our problem is not knowing the right thing to do but having the power to do it. God gives us the path; you can give and have the peace you so intensely desire.
About the author
Karen McMahon is passionate about helping others apply biblical truth to every situation in life. She is the Director of Discipleship Counseling at First Evangelical Free Church in Maplewood, Minnesota and a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). She has a MA in Theology from the University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is completing her MA in Biblical Counseling from Faith Bible Seminary-Lafayette, Indiana. Karen loves Jesus Christ, her husband, their three children and their 12 year old yellow lab...and sushi too.