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Guest Post By Justin McLemore

Justin serves on the Leadership Team at Terra Nova Church. This is a topic that he has become intent on helping others understand and walk through in a Biblical and God honoring way. Thanks Justin for your perspective!

Have you ever been in conflict with someone?  I know that I have and I’m positive that you have also.  We all have had someone hurt us, upset us, or say negative things about us.  In turn, we may be the person that has done these same things to someone else.  Our natural human response to conflict is to respond to it, but we don’t always do so in the best way possible.  We feel the need to defend ourselves, and we do it verbally and sometimes physically.  What tends to happen is a slight misunderstanding turns into a huge nightmare.

Conflict results in damaged relationships that sometimes are never repaired.  This causes problems among a church because healthy relationships are  essential for a sound and effective ministry.  In Ephesians 4:31-32 it says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  The Bible outlines in detail how to effectively resolve conflict, and that is what I am going to discuss.

Conflict among the church body is caused by three things.  The first thing that causes it is when we hurt others.  The second way it is caused is when we are hurt BY others.  Lastly, envy causes conflict among the body.  This could be us envious of someone or them envious of us.  Pastor Rick Warren said this about envy, “Envy makes us misread when others succeed, sin when others win, spread falsehood when others do good, and obsess over other’s success.”
   
So what sort of problems does conflict cause among the church body? 
 
It causes the following:
 
  1. It divides the body.  Ephesians 4:3-6 says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
  2. It causes distrust.  If you are in conflict with someone, it is almost impossible to trust them.  We begin to second guess everything that they say or do because we believe they have an ulterior motive of hurting us.
  3. It causes resentment or hostility.  We begin to get angry.  We pick apart everything that they do because we don’t want them to succeed.  This causes us to respond in anger or bitterness to anything that involves them.
  4. It becomes a distraction to everything God has called us to do.  Conflict takes away time and energy that could be well used to reach the lost and help the hurting.  It is not God’s will for conflict to be present among the body.

 

We need to end conflict before it damages the body, but it must be done biblically.  The first guideline is to always have direct contact with the person you are trying to resolve conflict with.  This means face to face discussions with the person.  Do not do it through social media, texting, or e-mail.  The problem that arises from these types of contact is that we are much more likely to say things through typing that we would NEVER say face to face.  It drags out the conflict and they can be easily misinterpreted.  This can cause even more conflict to occur.
 
The second guideline is to handle it as quickly as possible.  When we wait we allow the problem to fester inside of us and it grows into a bigger problem.  The longer we wait, we give the Devil a foothold to wreck havoc on the relationship and cause bigger, more difficult problems.  Ephesians 4:26-27 commands us, “In your anger do not sin; do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
   
The third guideline is to always assume the best about the person.  It’s a funny thing but when we have a conflict with another person, we always think/assume the worst about them.  We think that they are evil and truly mean to hurt us, and they are out to get us.  In John 13:34 Jesus commands us, “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  Love always assumes the best about someone.
   
The fourth guideline is stop expecting them to read your mind.  The person(s) may not even know that they have hurt you, so you need to make them aware of the situation.  Go to them face to face, assuming the best about them and calmly walk them through why what they said or did offended you.  This leads us to the next guideline.  Stop waiting on them to approach you.  If there is a problem, deal with it!!!  Matthew 5:23-24 discusses this very thing when it says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift here in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”  Be mature and make the first step towards reconciliation.  Perry Noble said this about maturity: “Maturity is when a person is willing to seize responsibility instead of just waiting on something to happen.”
   
The final guideline is to deal with the issue privately.  Do not go public!  Matthew 18:15 commands us to deal with the person privately and if they listen you have won back your friend. If they don’t, then go back with someone else as a witness and if they still won’t listen then bring it before the church.  If you go public, it makes the conflict into a bigger problem, and you can cause division because other people begin to take sides.  This also applies to attacking people on social media or the internet.
   
In conclusion, we will always have conflicts come up in our lives because as imperfect people, we will hurt others or be hurt by someone.  Conflict can cause severe damage to relationships that in turn damage the church body.  We are commanded in God’s word how to handle conflict so that damage will be minimum.  As you have been reading this blog, I am positive that some unresolved conflict has been brought to the forefront of your mind.  This is God convicting you to resolve the issue.  Please don’t wait, because relationships are worth saving and very important to our survival and growth as a believer in Jesus Christ.
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