A Biblical response to conflict
This is the second posting in our peacemaking series which is based on Ken Sande’s excellent book, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. Part one of this series introduced a Biblical view of conflict and this second part will begin to explain, among other things, a biblical response to conflict.
Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9
God calls us to be peacemakers. Peacemakers do all that they can to pursue peace with all men. A Christian should not be a person who stirs up strife.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit” Proverbs 18:21
It sounds easy but working toward a peaceful solution to conflict is not our natural response. It is not natural for us to love our enemies, to take the initiative in resolving conflict, to admit our own faults, or to turn conflict into an opportunity to witness.
Being able to change and respond to conflict biblically comes from what God does for us in the Gospel; what God did for us through His son, Jesus. What God has done for us always comes before what we must do.
3 ways people respond to conflict
Basically there are three ways people respond to conflict; escape, attack or make peace. As you read these three ways, do you see yourself responding to conflict in any of these ways?
Escape response: denial, flight, suicide
Escape responses are usually “peacefaking,” trying to make things look good even when they are not.
If you have an escape response you may be avoiding, denying, running away or pretending conflict does not exist. There are times when it is appropriate to respectfully withdraw from confusing or emotional situations temporarily to calm down, organize thoughts and pray. Flight may also be a needed response in seriously threatening circumstances.
When you care more about the appearance of peace than the reality of peace you are “peacefaking.”
Attack response: assault, litigation, murder
Attack responses are “peacebreaking,” sacrificing people and peace to get what we want.
If you have an attack response you may be more interested in winning, or you want a chance to assert your rights, control others or take advantage of a situation even if others are hurt in the process. The attack response can use physical force or verbal assaults and these verbal assaults can be veiled in humor or sarcasm or voiced through manipulation and intimidation.
When you sacrifice people and peace to get what you want you are “peacebreaking.”
We may not realize this but both responses can lead to the most extreme reactions to conflict; suicide or murder.
Anyone can fake peace, make a quick escape or attack. A true peacemaker is guided, motivated, and empowered by the Gospel, the good news that God has forgiven all our sins and made peace with us through the death and resurrection of his Son (Colossians 1:19–20).
Peacemaking responses: overlook, reconciliation, mediation, arbitration, accountability
How do I actually use the Gospel to work this out?
There is a difference between peacemaking and peacekeeping. 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. God calls us to be peacemakers not peacekeepers.
Practical peacemaking asks four questions:
How can I focus on God in this situation? Glorify God
How can I own my part of this conflict? Get the log out of my own eye (Matthew 7:3-5)
How can I help others own their contribution to this conflict? Gently restore
How can I give forgiveness and help reach a reasonable solution? Go and be reconciled
These questions and the answers are how we use the Gospel to be peacemakers.
So let's get started
First: Identify what your usual response to conflict is—escape or attack or both?
Second: With this response in mind, ask God to help you acknowledge your need to learn better responses and confess this to God. Commit to throwing off worldly ideas about resolving conflict and ask God to change the way you respond to conflict.
Third: Follow the next few posts in this series which will unpack the four questions above.
Fourth: Be ready to experience the fulfillment and joy that come from being a peacemaker!
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.