Every single one of us face conflict, almost daily.
Types of conflict that often appear are disagreements, misunderstandings and the most common one (whether we realize it or not) is poor or sometimes a complete lack of communication. This can lead to a myriad of results and unless we handle the conflict directly, head on, those results are usually not going to be positive ones!
So how are we, Christians, called to handle conflict resolution?
My Pastor spoke on this topic at this weeks service and he touched on a subject that had me feeling layers of guilt. It’s not a subject that is often mentioned but is oh so evident today…So what is it?…
Yup. Ugh, I know right? I mean….GUILTY! We all are. There is no point in even denying it. At some point, we’ve all gossiped or listened willingly to gossip.
I am from a small province in Canada and we have many small towns and for almost everyone who lives here, gossip is just a way of life. I mean, we don’t even acknowledge that it’s a sin anymore…it’s just part of our everyday conversations. Whether it’s within a church, or an office…or going for a coffee and chatting about your neighbours financial situation…we’re all guilty of gossiping about something.
But it is, in fact, a sin and not to mention, the least effective way to resolve conflict, ever!
Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
Imagine how much more peaceful things would be in the world if we actually practiced this? If we actually approached situations in private, like adults. How boring, right? It’s way less scandalous!
The more juicy approach we often opt for in 2021 is when someone offends us, our first instinct is to tell the world that we’re hurt and so we take our grievances to social media, trying to find some sort of validation for our hurt feelings. Again…raises hand….guilty! And guess what? I never feel better afterwards. It usually ends up with a bunch of angry people congregating (some feeling the same hurt feelings as me) stewing in their anger and all those hurt feelings, with absolutely zero resolution. But hey, at least I found validation for 5 minutes, right? And if I’m feeling really spiteful…maybe I’ve thrown my brother or sister under the bus in the process…
Since the purpose of this practice is to rebuild and restore the relationship, doesn’t Matthew’s approach seem like a much more logical one then screaming your hurt feelings from the rooftop? We may not find the same instant validation. In fact, you may not find any validation and that’s the next part of what Matthew talks about. However, privately approaching the situation is not only what we’re called to do (so that’s reason enough) but it’s the more respectful, dignified approach to handling conflict. It’s most likely that your hurt feelings (even though they matter) are clouding your judgement and allowing your desire to throw some “cancel culture” shade at your friend and he or she is probably not deserving of that. It is not what Jesus would do. Remember the whole, before you point out the speck in someone else’s eye, remove the 2×4 out of your own…ah yes, that!
Matthew 18:16 continues with, “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
Sometimes one on one discussion can’t resolve the issue. Perhaps the opinions of those outside of the situation can help you see common ground. But even before all of this, Jesus says we are to take time to self reflect on the situation. Since often times, conflict arrises from improper communication, always allow yourself the time to see your own contribution to the problem, repent on it and pray for wisdom on how to better handle the situation moving forward.
Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Regardless of whether or not the conflict is resolved by the steps lined out by Matthew, following it and putting it into practice helps us to honour God and leads us on a path to stronger spiritual maturity. It also brings us closer to God and helps us to love others the same way He continues to love us; with grace and mercy.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
2 Corinthians 5:18-19