<<opposition, clash>>

A strong disagreement between people holding differing views or ideas often resulting in ill-will, hurt feelings, bitterness and a separation or breaking of the relationship and maybe even physical violence. Jesus said we must deal with bitterness and unforgiveness so our interaction with God is acceptable, with the Bible teaching we must initiate the resolution by bringing it personally to the one involved whether we caused the offence or are the victim (Mt 5:23,24, 18:15-17). Speak the truth in love with a forgiving, meek and patient spirit (Eph 4:15, 31,32; Gal 6:1; Jas 1:19,20).

We are encouraged to live at peace with everyone yet conflict, the result of the sinful human nature not being ministered to will regularly surface (Rom 12:18; Jas 4:1-3). Endeavour not to react out of hurt or disappointment as emotions can quickly get out of control and certainly refrain from making life-changing decisions in the heat of the situation. In a conflict, both parties are normally trying to sort out the others problems, unaware of their own bigger problems (Mt 7:3-5).

1/. Handling conflict

Everybody has and is entitled to their own thoughts, assumptions, standards, preferences and views, yet these should be expressed appropriately. Even in Christian beliefs, there can be various interpretations on numerous subjects where Bible texts can be used to

Is this really worth fighting over?

support both lines of thought. Love and respect for others should be paramount, with unity maintained in the essential, fundamental areas and freedom or liberty in the non-crucial matters.  Be prepared to compromise to avoid needless conflict in trivial matters that will be soon forgotten, or arguments over unsolvable things (Tit 3:9).  However, this does not exclude honest thought-provoking discussion on various topics.

Yielding or submitting to others is working out Godly character in our lives.  “As much as possible live at peace with all men” (Rom 12:18). Abraham was blessed when he took the initiative to settle a dispute, putting family peace before personal benefit (Gen 13:7-9). A lack of humility and not considering the facts from another’s point of view creates interpersonal tension, while a soft answer brings peace, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Prov 15:1; Mt 5:9; Mk 9:33).

Seek guidance from Scripture or the mediation of a neutral third party if no specific rules or principles can be found in the Bible, and you feel it is an important issue. Rather than endeavouring to win the debate, you may agree to differ yet accept each other’s decision and let the matter rest while maintaining an attitude of love, displaying the fruit of the Spirit which will minimise the conflict as wisdom is exercised (Jn 13:34,35; Gal 5:22,23; Jas 3:17; 1 Jn 3:14). Strive for harmony which builds up and strengthens, reconciliation and becoming like Christ (Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 1:10; 2 Cor 5:18,19; Eph 4:4,13).

Inevitably conflict will arise between those who choose to follow Christ and those who don’t. This can affect the loyalty and closeness inside families (Mt 10:35-38; 2 Cor 6:14-16).  Exercising tolerance, displaying Godly character and praying for those in authority over you and who may be ill-treating you is the Biblical way (Mt 5:44; 1 Tim 2:2; 1 Pet 3:1,2). Where clear Bible directions are given we are to, “Obey God rather than man”, yet being prepared to accept the consequences of disobeying human orders (Act 5:29).

It is wise not to enter into the conflicts of others, nor be a gossiper, for often we only hear one side of a story before forming an opinion and reacting (Prov 18:17; Prov 26:17). If we are involved as a third party in a conflict, ask ‘why’ questions to gain as much information as possible from all sides, clarifying the cause and negotiate a resolution.   

If you are caught up in a conflict, endeavour not to immediately counteract with a response you will later regret. Calm down to get a true perspective and think through the issues then if you feel it is necessary to try to settle the conflict, talk through the issue at a suitable time and in a reasoned

Stop fueling the fire

manner.  Arguing is verbal anger; it does not achieve anything constructive or resolve the issue but instead creates hurt and damages the relationship, even if one party considers they have won.

2/. Consequences of conflict

Conflict divides and weakens, causing mental pain and many physical ailments.  The human body is designed to be at peace, with God, self and others. Concentrate more on what you have in common with others, and strengthen these links than the differences which Satan would try to use to divide as he know a house divided against itself is doomed (Prov 6:19; Mt 12:25; Mk 3:24,25).  Quarrels and conflicts must be addressed or else they grow bigger and opposing sides get further apart and entrenched (Eph 4:26).

Many of the conflicts we have with others are because of the conflicts within which if ignored and not addressed reappear at a later, inopportune time. So resolve them by working through the differences so you can move forward in unity and power (Ps 133:1-3). Inner conflict is the result of the old nature resisting the new life of Christ (Rom 7:14-25).  Who can deliver us from this turmoil?  We can’t release ourselves yet as we surrender to Christ the Holy Spirit will aid us and give us progressive victory.  He wants to prove Himself strong on our behalf (2 Chr 16:9). Conflicts between Christians should be resolved by the Church, rather than resorting to the secular court system (1 Cor 6:1-6).

Conflict comes from miscommunication, having differing values, opposing objectives, different methods and personality type. If both parties write down their grievances and when calm, swap lists and rationally talk through the issues raised, they may come to a better understanding of what riles the other and set in place remedial guidelines that are then monitored. This can be a helpful exercise. Good can also come through conflict. Paul and Barnabas separated and formed two missionary teams instead of one when they could not agree (Act 15:37-39).

Ultimately, managing conflict means managing myself – my emotions, words and actions, for “Without wood, a fire goes out” (Prov 26:20).

See also: anger, communication, compromise, criticism, dispute, forgiveness, not being ministered to, reaction, resolve/resolution, reconciliation, speech, submission, teamwork, tolerate, unity, war/warfare.