How Do We Resolve Conflict?
Living out the commands of Jesus
It takes two to tango. Conflict takes two parties, and when conflict descends
into sinful conflict, rarely do we find only one offender. This makes conflict so terribly
difficult to deal with. One party may have sinned first and that detail is
buried under a history of conflict and sin so convoluted that no one can find out who
cast the first stone. And after a very short while it does not matter. Once two people
have descended from We have a problem to you have a problem
and worse into you are the problem where it all began does not matter.
Only reconciliation matters.
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago,
You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to
But I tell you that
anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to
Again, [you have heard it was said]
Anyone who says to a brother or sister, Raca, is answerable to the
But [I tell you that]
anyone who says, You foo! will be in danger of the fire of hell.
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 there in front of the altar.
First go and be reconciled to that person: then come and offer your gift.
The gift in the passage above was the Fellowship Offering or Peace
Offering, the only sacrifice the average person ate as a sign of the Peace between them
and God. You cannot have peace with God while you are at war with your brother or
sister in Christ.
How do we make peace with each other? Early in the conflict we may
be able to do it on our own. So long as we have a problem we can strive
together to find a solution. Even if we descend to you have a problem we
can recognize that we have broken unity and reconnect. However, somewhere along the
path from you have a problem to you are the problem the
damage becomes severe enough to need a mediator. You will
be able to know if you need a mediator if you walk the path of reconciliation and find
you cannot make the journey alone.
The Path of Reconciliation The path of reconciliation needs to walk us back
through the path of conflict.
- You are not the problem. Until we de-personalize the problem we will
cannot cross over to cooperate in finding the solution. There are two halves to this
- Loving the sinner while hating the sin. Until I can separate the person from
their behavior I cannot love them. Still, if I do not condemn ungodly behavior I cannot
forgive it. Therefore, I need to see that the person
from whom I have disconnected is a creation of God and a person whom God has called
me to love as my neighbor and to embrace in the congregation. Having loved them, I can
seek to forgive them, not as a service to them, but as a way of liberating me
(on my side) from the resentment that separates us.
- Confessing our own sin, while loving ourselves. Humbling confessing our
own sinfulness and the sins we have committed in the relationship also tears down
barriers between us. I stand on common ground with my opponent at the foot of the
cross, both of us sinners saved by grace. This confession begins in our hearts and
with others with whom we feel safe. We can only enter into confession with the other
person in the context of knowing that we will not be abused or demeaned in the process.
- We are together with this problem Once we see that we are not the problem
we can move on to share the problem. Since the problem involves a difference between
us, we need to work on the problem together.
- Owning our own needs. Often we hide the true nature of the problem behind
issues of right and wrong. There may, indeed, be clear moral principles
that one person is overlooking. Still, the issue of love lies in the fact that your behavior
is injuring me in some way. Until I recognize, acknowledge and tell you what the nature
of that injury is, we probably cant make headway on the problem. Since I am
right, the problem lies entirely with you. But once I am wronged or hurt
by something you do, then we share this problem.
- Understanding their needs Just as owning our needs helps them cross over
to us, likewise understanding their needs helps us cross over to them. However, this
sounds easier than it is. I dont really know your needs until I can reflect your
needs back to you and have you and have you acknowledge that I have stated your
needs correctly. This sort of reflective understanding eliminates misunderstandings
along the path to a solution.
- We are together in this solution. Once we become unified across the problem,
we can seek a solution that addresses both of our needs. Of course, not every situation
allows for a complete satisfaction of everyones needs. When there are limited
resources (such as only one worship service to satisfy diverse worship styles,
implying needs to express our love for God differently)
not ever need can be met. Yet, we know that we will not stop until we find some solution
The need for a Mediator
Sometimes, the gap between us becomes too great. The hurts one or both sides have
experienced cause a level of anger, division and distrust that cannot easily be bridged.
When that happens, you need a trained mediator. This will be a party separate from the
conflict that can bridge the gap, much as Christ bridged the gap between God and man
and between various people.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away
have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one
and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son,
much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life
The mediator will go to both sides and walk them slowly toward each other over the
gaps of you are the problem and you are the problem toward
we are together in this solution
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