Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:17-18
We, as mature Christian leaders, need to see the distinction of God's providence working in the lives of His people, and the pettiness of our actions. God is in control and He will win, no matter what we do.
The tone of Paul's letters, in resolving the various conflicts in the churches, centers on one crucial theme. Whatever the disagreement was, whether it was concerning the role of women, the spiritual gifts, the role of leadership, or the authority of the church, it centered on the issue of surrendering to the Lord and not to the flesh. Two thousand years later, we are dealing with those same issues. So, how do we respond? Just as Paul stated, led by the Spirit, we must allow ourselves to be taught by the Word and surrender to the Lordship of Christ-and not ourselves! Paul continues to remind us that we are to express our oneness in Christ by showing love and acceptance to others because Christ was, and is, accepting and loving of us.
True wisdom will solve any conflict, but our desires will keep us from seeing it. Our envy and selfish desires will always get in the way, but God's grace will eventually silence our reckoning and bring the peace. So, we must focus on the major issues and tenets of the faith, such as key theological issues, as Paul did. Paul took to task the issues of the physical resurrection of Christ, and that faith alone, by what Christ has done, saves us. Paul did not call us to be perfect, but we should be able to handle moral values as our Lord would. Thus, the minor issues should be agree to disagree, such as with the role of women in leadership. My denomination split over this issue a few years ago because the key areas of conflict management were not used.
It is always best to be a listener of God so we can be in tune with Him and not ourselves! From our pettiness comes the conflict that ruins relationships and property. From our Lord come the grace, mercy, and goodness that create the peacemaker. When we are in tune, then we will be that peacemaker. With our submissive hearts, minds, and souls, through which flow the good Fruit of the Spirit, we will be bearers of righteousness and not bearers of contemptible actions, bringing them into our relationships and His church! Remember James, chapters three and four, and the true causes of conflict.
Taking the Lead
The leader of the church will face all sorts of attack and conflict and thus must be rooted in the principles we talked about in the chapter on "The Leadership Challenge." So, the result is we need to be in good and solid relationships with the people we serve, while at the same time, sensitive to their motives as well as frustrations. This will enable the leader to discern situations, the dynamics, and personalities involved without getting pulled into the conflict themselves. Remember, we are called to serve Christ and His body and not to fight. Yet, people will take advantage of you and misunderstand your motives to resolve conflict. Most people, including Christians, have a spurious nature, a better understanding of strife, and a harder time accepting the biblical principles of peace. A mature Christian will respond to criticism with gentleness and never respond to anger with anger or power with more power; we are to respond in the character of Christ and truth.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. Proverbs 15:1-3
The leader must be willing and able to get above the situation without emotional or preconceived ideas, so we can be objective as well as listen and share the love of our Lord. The leader must be able to facilitate an atmosphere of trust and encouragement, so the congregation looks to them for their lead. If not, the conflicts will get worse. So, the result of our actions will be to get closer to our critics and not push them away. Do not follow your natural tendencies to fight back or get even; God calls us higher. Look at the people who are critical to the plan of peace and see them as opportunities to teach and model the correct way of church government from God's Word. Leaders are not combatants, but are peacemakers who moderate and understand so they can intervene with the Grace of our Lord.
Maturity with our love and Fruit are the key interpersonal forces that will seek the truth and, most importantly, the Holy Spirit to facilitate growth and healing because constructive criticism and conflict will be catalysts to personal and church growth. This will create bonding and forgiveness and love will permeate, though the process will take great effort. The leader/moderator, when successful, must never give in to pride and self-glorification. He or she should always be humble and realize his or her depravity and brokenness before a Holy God! Our will must be in surrender, and we must recognize the power of our Lord to heal in the situation. It is not about us; it is always about our Lord.
The leader is not a force of personality and strong-willed inclinations, but is a servant with a heart after His. So, the result will be to give compassion to those who we feel do not deserve it, to love the unlovable, to help those who bite us, to lead those who want to go at it themselves-and to do it with a smile and a grateful heart. Under the veneer of the critical person is a child that needs to be guided. They may seem self-confident, but usually they are full of fear, attempting to mask it with a rough exterior of criticism. They may have had a life filled with conflict and shame and have no grasp of social interaction except to be instigators of conflict. The good news is what Christ has done, the acceptance and love He offers, and the healing and growth that will result from it. Remember the section on "Spunk" in The Leadership Challenge. Risk is a necessary element of moderating and leading; self-seeking and self-protection only lead away from our Lord.
Satan thrives on conflict and he wants you in conflict!
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:7-8a
We need to realize we have an enemy who is nearly eternal, and fully desires to interfere with, steal, and destroy us. So, we are called to wage war on Satan and his onerous cohorts. We can do this through prayer and various techniques found in spiritual warfare resources available in most denominational resources centers and Christian bookstores.
This passage in James asks a crucial question-are we resisting God or resisting the devil? How we respond to life and others will be rooted in how we respond to God. Do we fight Him or do we glorify Him? How do we know? The answer lies in how we are in our attitudes and mindsets; are we humble or proud? If we are proud, we are serving the devil, even though we may think we are serving ourselves. If we are humble, then we are serving our Lord. This strikes at the root of our mindset and motivations in life.
We need to battle our sinful nature and the evil desires that come up from that nature. If we put no effort into self-discipline, then we will not last long in tough situations or grow to be fully used by our Lord.
How do I maintain my direction in life, so I am pleasing Him and seeking His purpose? The answer is found as we discover what course we are pursuing. When we draw to God, we are undertaking His precepts and applying them to life. Draw near to God means purification and developing your personal relationship with God through the disciplines of the faith. We are responsible for our spiritual growth; God provides the plan, Christ is the Way, and the Spirit is the guidance; however, we provide the will of our hearts exhibited by our hands and feet. The focus is on trust and obedience. God is consistent as when we seek Him, He has already sought us and will continue to reveal Himself and the depths of His love all of our days on earth and throughout eternity. The key to this is the willingness to confess our sin and move ahead to Him and away from false and deceitful ways. This directly applies to how we handle each other, too.
Conflict is almost always necessary when the forces of darkness encroach upon the Christian life. It is necessary to stand up for the rights of the unborn. It is necessary to fight for morals and values in our schools and government. It is necessary not to yield to Satan and our evil desires. For, if we do not take a stand, our fall will be close at hand.
The Problem of Conflict: Proverbs 3:5-6; 20:30; Job 23:10; 36:5; Matthew 5:13-16; Romans 5:3-5; 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 1:9; Ephesians 4:1-6; Philippians 1:27-30; 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; James 1:5-8; 1 Peter 1:6-7
Principle Scripter to 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
© 1989, 1998, 2007 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org