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How to Deal with Conflict: a biblical perspective

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It’s so important to explore God’s word when we are in need of advice of any kind. So, I am going to explore with you Matthew 18:15-22 to answer the question of how to deal with conflict in a biblical way.

Let’s read Jesus’ words of advice for conflict :
15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
18 “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 “Again[a] I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Jesus’ method for dealing with conflict with someone in the church

  1. Tell them what they did wrong in person, and alone.
  2. If they don’t listen, bring 2-3 witnesses to ensure that everything is established between you.
  3. speak to the church, meaning the church leaders or elders, if they continue to deny any wrong doing.
  4. If they still don’t take responsibility, then let them out of your life.
  5. whether they accept or deny what they did, you still need to forgive them.

None of these steps are an easy thing to do, but they are important measures to take so that division in the church, workplace, or any relationship doesn’t occur. They may be hard to understand and you may be thinking to yourself, “how do I even begin with these?” Well, let’s go over them.

Step #1 tell the person that they did something wrong.

However hard it may be, we need to sit down and explain what we are feeling and what exactly made us feel that way. We also should be careful about how we approach the person.

A counselor I had in highschool once told me that when we do this, it’s important to not say the word “you”– for example: “you hurt me”, “you are mean”, “you are to blame”. This gives our words a hostile tone, instead use the words “I feel”– i.e. “i feel sad because we didn’t”, “I feel hurt because this happened.” These words have a soft tone that will extract an interest to understand instead of defend. Tone matters, and if we approach the situation with meekness and humility they are more likely to open up and hear what you have to say.

Meekness in any conflict situation is key. Proverbs 15:1 — “A soft word turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” So watch your tone, watch your word choice, put away the pride.

Step #2: ask a couple friends that they also know to accompany you while you talk.

Now, it’s important that this friend or friends understand(s) that they are there to mediate and help the both of you to come to a resolution—NOT for them to come with you and verbally gang up on the other person.

What you can do is come together, the both of you explain your sides and concerns. The mediators help you both understand each others perspectives and add in some advice and input to help bring resolution between you two.

Step #3 seek intervention from higher authority.

At this point, said conflicting person has been unresponsive to anyone’s input and you need real authority to intervene. This person can be the ministry leader, pastor, elder, boss, manager, mom or dad— whoever is above you. You both explain the situation again and it will be up to them how this resolution with look like.

Through each step, even before you begin this process, it’s important to look at the situation—as hurt or offended you may be— from an unbiased perspective. Honest Self examination must take place so you can view the situation with clarity and understanding without the presence of pride.

Step #4 let them out of your life and forgive.

Hopefully the situation hasn’t gotten to this point, but God knew that sometimes it will. So Jesus said “let them be to you like a heathen or a tax collector.” In other words, let them be someone you don’t associate yourself with. But He further states that in order to be forgiven, you must forgive. Unforgiveness, therefore, is a salvation issue. You can’t be saved if you have a grudge against your neighbor.

So whatever the outcome of this conflict, be sure to get your conscience clean and forgive by the end regardless of the feelings or thoughts of the other party. Don’t hold onto resentment for what they did, forgive and move on. Let it go and let it be. Resentment and bitterness is like a poison. It’s what gives those old men and women their grumpiness by the end of their lives.

Always remember:

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

If someone has just beat you down to a feeling of worthlessness, go read my article “For When Someone Makes You Feel Worthless.” Be encouraged, you’ll get through this, He promises.

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