As a pastor and counselor, I have often been called upon to mediate conflict within families, or between families, in the church. Scripture has a lot to say about how Christians are to live in peace with one another – to which, frankly, I’ve seen many Christians act completely contrary. When talking to Christians about conflict, I look to these, and other, principles from God’s Word to help us live at peace with one another.
- At the root of any conflict, there is usually a heart issue, mostly likely with all parties involved. So the first step is to identify the heart issue. Luke 12:13-15 and James 4:1-3 point out that often our own unmet desires or wrong motives are at the root of conflict. These must be identified and dealt with, by all parties involved.
- It is also critically important that parties to the conflict not use rhetoric that will continue to stir the conflict (Proverbs 10:19,15:1). Don’t talk about it to others outside the conflict. Talk softly and respectfully to each other. Words can be used constructively or destructively. Use them constructively, unless you’re just trying to make war instead of peace. If you can’t say something good about someone, sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all.
- Maintain an attitude of humility – following the example of Christ (Philippians 2:3-11).
- Take ownership of one’s own responsibility for the conflict (Matthew 7:5). All believers are sinners saved by grace. Each party to the conflict has a responsibility to work on their own sin first. This requires a daily discipline of accountability, confession and repentance. By the way, this discipline is one that we see far too little of in the home.
- Overlook minor offenses (Proverbs 19:11). Just overlook them.
- When an offense within the body of Christ is too serious to overlook (dishonoring to God, damaging relationships, harmful to the offender), then Jesus gave us a process in Matthew 18:15-17 that has restoration as its goal.
- The goal, as in all things, is the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Too often, conflict within the family, and within the larger family of God, seems to have vindication, instead of restoration, as its ultimate end. As followers of the Prince of Peace, our goal in all relationships should be peace, reconciliation, and restoration.
To read more about conflict resolution, check out The Peacemaker, by Ken Sande (Grand Rapids: BakerBooks, 2004).
(See also my post for teenagers on negotiating through conflict with parents, Calling a Truce: How to Negotiate Peace with Your Parents.)