Cultivating Biblical Solutions with Conflict
Conflict is a Reality, Even in a Church!
This is the introductory article in the series.
Matthew 5:9; Luke 6:27-36; Galatians 5:19-26; Philippians 2:3-6; Colossians 1:17-20; 3:12-17
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Philippians 2:3-6
A reality TV producer who goes to my church told me that conflict makes good TV. Then she said conflict does not make good life. Conflict is a part of life. Perhaps it is the least favorite part of life; nevertheless, we will all experience it if we experience other people in our lives. We will have run-ins with people and their ideas and wills that will come into conflict with our own ideas and wills. It is as if you are driving down a road that you thought you owned and are the only one on it going your way and exercising your will and self-determination when, wham, you hit another car. Where did that car come from? Why is it on my road; how do I resolve this and move on? Do I keep hitting it so it goes away, or do I design a road so both of us can travel on it in opposite directions so we do not converge by accident again? Dealing with this in a biblical way will be the hallmark of keeping and maintaining long-term relationships, a happier workplace, a kinder and more comfortable church, and solving some of life's most difficult problems.
We Have to Realize We Will Have Conflict
We will come across various disagreements, misunderstandings, and distinctions with various views of moral and value stands with one another that will converge in our relationships. To illustrate this, we tend to see life as our own car on our own personal road, and then when we come in contact with another car, we wonder why that other car is on our road! Then the conflict emerges. You wonder why the other car is going in the wrong direction. The driver of the other car wonders the same about you! The car represents our ideas, assumptions, and experiences in life, and the road represents our plans, goals, and way. We will realize there are more and more cars on what we thought was our road. We will have disagreements concerning our values, our political understandings, and our aspirations, and these principles will not match up with those of others. Consequently, we have more opportunities for conflict today that would have been unheard of in years past. We now have a greater urgency to manage our relationships with care and veracity in order to deal with such convergences. If not, we will crash, and our relationships may not recover unless we are able to have a goal or some kind of a plan to drive that car safely on a road with directions and signs that can be shared with other cars.
A church will just be going about its business, then suddenly wham and crash! People are arming themselves for battle, choosing sides, and indulging in their pride. Personalities and self-determination take control of the situation and seek their own over sound reasoning, the truth, and call of our Lord. So, arguments of persuasion with the skewing of truth produce self-directed outcomes, which come against the peaceful church. And, its peace is no longer; full-blown war has broken out. It can start with one gossiper and escalate where emotions rise and logic ceases. Do we dare to tread and calm these waters? Maybe with the right attitude and guidance from God's Word, we can give a win/win outcome that is best for all people involved. Then, when we are focused on the mission, the purpose of being a Christian, and being a Christ-filled church, we can create a church free of conflict.
There are conflicts with various views of moral and value stands today that would have been unheard of in years past. The leadership of the church must be prepared to deal with people not having values and focus in their lives and no moral centers and absolutes to govern them. Even Christians who grew up in the church will come back from college and life experiences with views they were not brought up with and when thrust into a power position, will produce conflict. They may even deny the existence of the God of the Bible, replacing Him with a mystic force or idea, but still hold onto their church without the faith.
Conflict is Normal
Conflict is a normal spice of life, and an outgrowth of our sinful nature over which we are supposed to have dominion. God warned Cain that sin was "crouching at your door," that he needed to master it or it would overtake and destroy him. Cain did not listen to God, only to his anger and inclinations, and the first interpersonal conflict resulted in the taking of the first life.
Conflict is something we all are capable of causing. Conflict is also something we are called to master and be involved in its ending. Just as with any sin, we have the natural desire to sin but we also have the natural ability not to. Even the non-Christian has the ability not to sin but, as far as I know, no one in the entire human history has ever gone without sinning with the exception of Christ. Calvin taught that non-Christians have the civil ability to follow the Law (Civil), and this is the reason why they do good works without being saved. Thus, we should take heed to our responsibility as Christians for what God calls us to. One thing God does not call us to is conflict and strife, even though the non-Christian may think differently because of our actions.
Conflict is not always something evil or bad. We must remember that God will allow all things to work for good for His glory. Sometimes, a church can split and then there are two and so forth, a way of church planting. That is why there are so many "denominations." Sometimes, conflict draws people together for a cause and perspective, such as when I was involved with "Operation Rescue." Conflict can open opportunities and communities and bring them together, but we are not to cause conflict for this effect. Well-managed conflict can be healthy and inspire growth to the church and to people spiritually. When a person sins, is disciplined, and then comes out with repentance, he or she grows and becomes more effective for Christ versus if there was no discipline and he or she kept on sinning.
Conflict is a Responsibility
Our first responsibility is to realize the diseases we inflict onto and upon one another by our sinful nature-the gossip, slander, anger, factions-their causes and cures. We also need to remember that love covers a multitude of sin. Love is the first fruit from which all the other fruits derive (Gal. 5) and sanctification is our growth in Christ. Our salvation is the result of love for which the redemption of Christ paid. So, if you are a bitter person, then you discover love, the bitterness is muted and will be erased by seeking the forgiveness of Christ. Then, the fruit is to go to others whom we have offended, so to seek their forgiveness; conflict terminated. When we are full of pride, the polar opposite of love, we will be unable to manage conflict effectively and only spread it out of our pride. We need to keep our focus and the baseline for all we do on the love of Christ.
Conflict can be resolved and prevented by prayer and being in His Word. The key is the willingness to follow a biblical plan, be in prayer, and operate in the Fruit of the Spirit; by this, you will have a win-win situation, or at the very least, stop the escalation of hostility.
· Realize and commit to our Lord and honor Him. We do this by operating in godly character and bringing Christ into the situation (1 Cor. 10:31)!
· Examine yourself to make sure you did not offend. And, if so, be open, honest, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation (Matt. 7:5).
· Ask in prayer, Lord, how can I show You and Your precepts in this situation (Matt. 5:24)?
· Be committed to restore relationships with grace, forgiveness, and love (Gal. 6:1).
Read through the articles and look up the Bible passages in this series, and you will have your plan!
Principle Scriptures on How to Understand, Solve, and Prevent Conflict: Genesis 4; Psalm 37:4; Proverbs 3:4-6; 18:13; Matthew 5:9; 7:5; 15:18-20; 18: 15-20; Luke 6:27-36; 19:1-9; Romans 8:28-29; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8; 10:31-11:1; 13; Galatians 5; Ephesians 4:22-32; 5:1; Philippians 2:3-6; 4:2-9; Colossians 1:17-20; 3:12-17 James 4:1-3; 1 John 14:15
1 Why We have Conflicts: Joshua 22:10-34; Mark 12:30-31; Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 7; 1 Peter 1: 13-16; James 4:1-4
2 Types of Conflict: Proverbs 16:18; Mark 3:25; Galatians 6:1-5
3 Proper Attitude and Motives: Romans 12:17-21
4 Be Prepared Spiritually: Romans 12:17-21
5 Cultivating a Biblical Solution: Proverbs 3:4; Matthew 7:3-4; 15:18-19; James 5:16
6 Essential Points: Psalm 103:12; Proverbs 11:29; 15:12; 32; 19:11; Isaiah 43:25; Matthew 15:19; 18:15; Luke 15:11-24; 17:3; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8; 13:5; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Galatians 2:20-21; 6:1,9; Philippians 2:4-5; Colossians 3:12-14; James 1:19-25
7 ABC's of Conflict Communication: Proverbs 19:11; Ephesians 4:29; Matthew 18:15-17
8 You Are Christ's Loved One: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
9 Conflict is Opportunity: 1 Corinthians 6:1-8
10 Listening: Proverbs 28:13; James 1:19-25; 1 John 1:8-9
11 Understand Forgiveness: Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25; 1 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 3:12-14
12 Communication: Luke 15:11-24
13 Commit to a Positive Solution or Understanding: James 4:1-12; Matthew 15:18-19
14 Break Down the Issue: Matthew 7:12; 22:39; Romans 12:18; 1 Corinthians 13:5; Philippians 2:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 1:13-14
15 Marriage Problem: Matthew 7:3-5; 2 Corinthians 3:18
16 Agreeing to Disagree: Romans 12:17-18
17 Dealing with Difficult People: 1 Samuel 24:1-22; Psalm 10; 37; Isaiah 59:1-2; Matthew 5:48; Luke 6:27-31; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 12:14-21; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 3:1-4; Hebrews 12:6; 1 Peter 2:12 -19; 3:15b-16
18 Satan Thrives on Conflict: Romans 8:12-14; James 4:7-8
19 Preventing Conflict: Jeremiah 2:13; John 4:10
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Founder and Director of Into Thy Word Ministries, a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of several books including Into Thy Word, A Field Guide to Healthy Relationships, and Net-Work. He is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California (M.Div.) and holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Practical Theology from London (Ph.D). He has garnered over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a Church Growth Consultant.
© 1989, 1998, 2007 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org