This is Part 2. You can read Part 1 here. Part 1 is the theological undergirding and this blog will cover the more practical aspects of biblical conflict resolution.
“Those who would learn to serve must first learn to think little of themselves…Only those who live by the forgiveness of their sin in Jesus Christ will think little of themselves in the right way. They will know that their own wisdom completely came to an end when Christ forgave them.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Conflict is inevitable. Embrace it. God will use it. Good Communication within the church conveys accurate information and gives an opportunity to correct misinformation. It is as necessary to the healthy function of a congregation as the circulatory system is in our bodies. Conflict is a normal experience in life. When conflict occurs, it demands prompt attention. Conflict that is not attended to immediately is like a neglected infection, and sooner or later it will engulf the entire organism.
Source of Conflict:
“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:1-3
Following are some Bible passages that instruct us in the use of our tongues:
- “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle.” Psalm 39:1
- “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
- “Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceit; with his mouth, one speaks peace to his neighbor, but inwardly he sets an ambush for him.” Jeremiah 9:8
- “If anyone thinks himself to be [Godly], and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.” James 1:26 (See also James 3:3-18)
Towards a definition of gossip:
Sharing anything about someone, when the act of sharing it is not part of the solution of that person’s problem.
Do not triangulate or allow yourself to be triangulated by another person. Triangulation is using “go-betweens” to communicate indirectly with other parties. The results are unsuspecting, but sympathetic message-bearers become entangled in an unwanted destructive web of blame, anger, and miscommunication. If you have questions or concerns learn the skills of asking questions and engaging in honest, humble, and prayerful dialogue – and go to the person you need to speak to.
The problem with “taking up an offense” (which is a form of triangulation): Sharing our hurts and bitterness and listening to others share theirs is an area where we need to be very careful. For example, if someone is rude to your best friend and your friend “leaks” their hurt on you, then you might be tempted to “take up an offense” on their behalf; which means that you get hurt too. What can happen is that when your friend and the other person resolve their conflict — forgive and forget — you’re still bitter!
Towards a definition of a “wise counselor:” Proverbs 11:14 declares, “There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors.” Sometimes “getting counsel” is merely a pretense for gossip. What are the criteria for a “wise counselor”? First and foremost a wise counselor is someone who is mature in the Lord and who will exhort you to godliness and reconciliation. Secondly, s/he is one who is willing to point out your sin in the situation, and who will not repeat the matter or be stumbled by it. And thirdly, s/he is one who is seeking God’s will over-and-above your desire/s. It should also be noted that we can pursue counsel without revealing the name of the person we’re having a problem with. This is the type of people we invite into either the formal or informal Matt 18 process.
- Before addressing any conflict ask, “How have I contributed?” Because you most likely have. Own what you can own first! (Matt 7:5)
- Some conflict is rooted deeply in the emotional system of a person’s life (Ex 20:5, 34:6-7; Deut 5:9). This must be kept in mind when attempting to reconcile a conflict. When in conflict ask, “What am I feeling and what is the conflict saying about or to me?” (Prov 15:1). Or ask, “What is behind this?” This is especially true when there is explosive behavior or deep emotional reactivity in the conflict. This is often related to family of origin issues.
- Keep short accounts in any conflict. When you need to talk to others do so in a reasonable amount of time.
- The goal of conflict resolution moves from forgiveness to reconciliation to restoration. The goal is not to prove you are right! Don’t violate the spirit of the law while following the letter of the law.
- Some conflict may only be resolved only by forgiving others. To forgive is to bear the wounds of another (see below) and not hold them accountable. To not forgive is to often take on the negative qualities of those who hurt you.
- Forbearance (i.e., patience, restraint, mercy) is a gift that we give to another. Some conflict may never be resolved. It a [person’s] glory to overlook an offense(Pro 19:11).
- Why do we become just like the people we hate? It’s a form or worship – intense focus. We become what we worship.
- When confronting, create as much safety as possible. Affirmation of another person’s feeling is helpful. Example: “I can understand why you feel that way.”
- Give yourself grace when you make a mistake or create a conflict or blow a confrontation. Own it and then get back on the horse…
- Resolving conflict doesn’t mean that you let others trample godly boundaries (by continuing to hurt you) or by being a doormat or by not holding others genuinely and justly accountable for their choices that hurt you.
- When there are occurrences of “outbursts of anger” recognize that anger is a secondary emotion. We need to ask, what is the primary emotion? Hurt? Fear? Frustration? Own it and confess it.
- Practice the basics consistently: (1) Take the log out (Matt 7:5) (2) Go be reconciled (Matt 5:23-24) (3) Lovingly confront (Matt 18:15-18) (4) Restore (Gal 6:2).
Guidelines for resolving conflict: Biblical guidelines for resolving conflict can be found in Matthew 18:15-20. If we are offended or encounter a Christian in obvious sin, we are to go to that person in private, in order to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15a). Following are some guidelines to help us prepare for a “courageous conversation.” It’s called The P.A.U.S.E. Principle…
- Prepare (pray, get the facts, seek godly counsel, develop options)
- Affirm relationships (show genuine concern and respect for others)
- Understand interests (Seek to understand before being understood. Sincerely ask: “Help me to understand…” others’ concerns, desires, needs, limitations, and/or fears)
- Search for creative solutions (prayerful brainstorming)
- Evaluate options objectively and reasonably (evaluate, don’t argue)