Part 1 of the Peacemakers series
You can listen to the sermon here.
A Biblical View of Conflict
[In this sermon series, I am using Ken Sande’s book The Peacemaker as a guide.]
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the pond of peace (Eph. 4:3 NIV).
When conflict arises, maintaining unity becomes a challenge.
Conflict is a difference in opinion or purpose that frustrates someone’s goals or desires.
Some conflicts are neither good nor bad (e.g., a difference of opinion about what color to paint the church). Although we should seek unity in our relationships, we should not demand uniformity.
But many conflicts are the direct results of sinful attitudes and behavior. James writes, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2).
How should we handle conflict? Often it can be quite tricky.
The Slippery Slope of Conflict
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Rom. 12:18).
There are three basic ways that people respond to conflict:
1. Escape responses (peace-faking)
These responses are used by people who are more interested in avoiding a conflict than in resolving it (denial, flight, suicide). With these responses, the focus is on “me.” I am looking for what is easy, convenient, or nonthreatening for myself.
2. Attack responses (peace-breaking)
These responses are used by people who are more interested in winning a conflict than in preserving a relationship (assault, litigation, murder). With these responses, the focus is on “you.” I am blaming you and expecting you to give in and solve the problem.
3. Peacemaking responses
These responses are commanded by God, empowered by the gospel, and directed toward finding just and mutually agreeable solutions to conflict. With these responses, the focus is on “us.” I am aware of everyone’s interests in the dispute, especially God’s, and I am working toward mutual responsibility in solving the problem.
Overlook. “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11). “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
Reconciliation. “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” (Matt. 18:15). “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1).
Negotiation. Even if we successfully resolve relational issues, we may still need to work through material issues related to money, property, or other rights. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).
Mediation. “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” (Matt. 18:17).
Arbitration. “Do if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers?” (1 Cor. 6:4-5).
Accountability. “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:18).
As we move from the left side of the slope to the right (clockwise), our responses tend to go from being private to being public. The further you move from the personal peacemaking zone in either direction, the greater your costs will be.
Conflict Provides Opportunities
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).
The promise for peacemakers is that they will be called sons (or children) of God. Why? Because peacemakers reflect the character of God. God is a “God of peace” (Phil. 4:9).
Satan is the enemy of peace. Often we don’t respond properly to conflict because we listen to his lies: “Look out for number one.” “I deserve better than this.” “I’ll forgive you, but I won’t forget.” “Don’t get mad, get even.”
Conflict is an opportunity to glorify God, serve others, and grow to be like Christ.
There is a connection between Jesus’ reputation and our unity. Jesus prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21).
How did Jesus react to conflict? After Peter (one of Jesus’ best friends) denied him, Jesus met with Peter privately and they were reconciled.
The life of Joseph illustrates how conflict can provide opportunities. His jealous brothers intended to murder him but eventually sold him as a slave (Gen. 37). What did Joseph do when he finally met his brothers years later in Egypt? He sought reconciliation. He said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:19-20).
The next time conflict enters your life, ask yourself: “How can I glorify God? How can I serve others? How can I become more like Christ?”