Conflict is inevitable. We experience it in our workplaces, our families and even (gasp) in our churches. When two or more gather together, conflict will surely emerge. Thankfully, the Bible says in Matthew 18:20, “When two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them” (NLT). God knows we will experience conflict and He is with us.
What is conflict?
The definition of conflict is:
a. to come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, at variance, or in opposition; clash: to fight or contend; do battle.(verb)
b. discord of action, feeling, or effect; antagonism or opposition, as of interests or principles (noun).
What causes conflict?
Conflict can be positive or harmful. It may be surprising to some that conflict can be positive. It certainly can. A difference of opinion, interest or need can lead to increased understanding and prudent action. Conflict can be both humbling and transformative. If we are willing to look beyond our own interests and perspectives, we will find that we can learn and grow as individuals, families and teams. Additionally, conflict within our spirits can cause us to rise up and choose a different course of action — one that honors God and leads us to a path of righteousness and God’s abundance.
On the other hand, harmful conflict can lead to clashes of wills, battles and strife. Both harmful and positive conflicts have a root in unmet needs or interests.
James 4:1-2 states, “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it the whole army of evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it” (NLT).
We all have experienced wanting a certain outcome that is directly opposed to another person’s desire for a different outcome. It stirs our emotions and leads to discord and sometimes even prolonged strife.
Biblical conflict resolution
A commitment to biblical conflict resolution consists of four elements. Peacemaker Ministries calls them The 4 Gs. Before you read any further, think of a conflict you are having right now with a co-worker, a family member or a neighbor. It can be a big issue or just a minor disagreement that is creating some tension or disease. As you read each of the 4 Gs, take a moment to consider how you can apply each of the following principles to your current situation.
1. Glorify God: Rather than focusing on your own desires or dwelling on what others should do, thank God for his grace, wisdom and love. Consider all the ways in which God has offered you unearned forgiveness. He is trustworthy and will guide you through this situation and mold your heart and mind to be increasingly Christ-like. Thank him for what He has done and what He is doing right now through this conflict as you obey his commands and allow him to transform you and use you today.
2. Get the Log Out of Your Eye: Rather than blaming the other person for a conflict or resisting feedback, we are called to get the log out of our own eye by taking responsibility for our personal contribution to the conflict. Even if the other person has contributed more to the conflict than you have, recognize that you have added fuel to the fire in some way. Ask God to help you change your attitudes and behaviors through his mercy and infinite power. Next, confess your sins and wrongs to the other person(s) and seek to repair any harm you may have done. We are all human and are imperfect, but we can all be striving toward the perfect model that Christ has demonstrated for us.
3. Gently Restore: Instead of pretending that the conflict does not exist or talking about the person behind his or her back, do what you can to restore the person and situation. Speak personally to the individual and humbly share what you have noticed and what you hope to contribute to restore the relationship.
4. Go and Be Reconciled: Seek to actively pursue peace and reconciliation. Rather than giving up on the situation, going to battle to “win” the dispute or tearing the other down, look for opportunities to promote healing. Forgive as Christ has forgiven you and seek mutually beneficial solutions and opportunities to show Christ’s love through active acts of kindness and mercy.
Battles to Blessings
By God’s grace, we can transform disputes, differences in desires and even battles into blessings. We can grow and we can serve. Most importantly, we can glorify God and be instruments of reconciliation and peace in our small circle of influence. As Romans 12:2 states, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and perfect and pleasing his will really is” (NLT).
Dr. Terry Morrow Nelson is a Certified Christian Conciliator and Florida Supreme Court Mediator. She is the president of Morrow and Associates Partnership for Leadership and Transformation. Her email is [email protected].