Resolving Conflict, Part 6: Helping our Kids and Ourselves

Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing.  And, I’ve been thinking that having more than six posts on “Resolving Conflict” might be a bit much.  There are so many aspects of biblical conflict resolution that we could discuss, but for the time being I am ready to delve into another topic.  So, if you are interested in further study on resolving conflict biblically, I highly recommend that you visit http://www.peacemaker.net to find some great resources.

In the meantime, I will wrap up this series by sharing with you a handful of helpful “tools” or “lessons” that I regularly teach my children (and remind myself of) to prevent and resolve conflict.  I have condensed them into “sayings” and Bible verses that my children hear me use when confict is brewing (or exploding!).  The following are my top eight.  If you choose to incorporate any of them into your parenting, then just focus on one new “tool” per week as you teach your children to be peacemakers.  I hope you also will find these personally helpful within your own family and other relationships.  (Several of these principles are further explained in The Young Peacemaker by Sande.)

1.  “Overlook, talk it out, get help.”

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).  If one of my kids is “offended” or hurt by another, I hold up three fingers and tell my kids that they have three options:  overlook the offense (without holding a grudge), tell the other child that what happened was wrong (ungodly) and ask that they not do it again.  If those two things are done but the conflict is still not resolved, THEN the offended child can come to me for help.  This teaches my childrens: 1) to be gracious, 2) to take personal responsibility in resolving conflict, and 3) not to gossip (tattle) on others.

2.  “What’s in your heart?”

“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).  When my children have sinful actions, attitudes, or words, I often probe them to identify what is in their heart that is prompting their behavior.  I also teach them to use biblical terminology for the heart condition.  I firmly believe that unless a “condition” is properly labelled, it will most likely not be properly treated.  For example, if one of my children hits the other, I do not accept his justification that  “Sister took my candy.”  Neither do I assign my own diagnosis, “Oh, he’s just tired.”  Maybe sister took his candy and maybe he is tired, but that does not explain the heart condition from which his hitting sprang forth!  Instead, the biblical terminology would describe his actions as rude, angry, selfish, impatient, etc.  Only once the true “cause” is identified can I guide my child on the path of true repentance.

3.  “Good choices, good consequences.  Bad choices, bad consequences.”

“A man will reap exactly what he sows” (Galatians 6:7).  My kids know what it means when they see my two thumbs up and then immediately my two thumbs down.  Without me uttering a word, they know I am saying, “If you will make a good decision right now, good consequences will follow.  But, if you continue to make the bad decision you are currently making, you will have bad consequences.”  They also know I mean it; mommy means what she says.  If you want your kids to learn that choices have consequences, don’t just do the “thumb thing.”   Make sure you follow through.

4.  “Give preference to one another with honor.”

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Romans 12:10).  “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind consider one another more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).  Selfishness.  It is rooted deep in every heart.  When my children are insisting on their own way at the expense of another, I will often say, “Give preference to one another with honor,” or “Consider one another more important than yourselves.”  In order for the meaning of these commands to carry their full weight with my children, I have previously spent time thoroughly discussing these Scripture passages (Romans 12 and Philippians 2) with them.  Teach your children (from Scripture and in their circumstances) to deny themselves and to do what is best for others.

5.  “Is it true, kind, or necessary?”

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment that it may give grace to those who hear”  (Ephesians 4:29).  Complaining, arguing, whining, bossing–and all before 9:15 a.m.!  Some days are worse than others, but even on the “best days” children’s mouths (and our own) can cause a heap of trouble.  We have a quick litmus test in our home for determining if something is worth saying.  I often ask, “Is it true, kind, or necessary?”  Yes, it may be true that sister’s haircut is not the most flattering, but is it really kind to tell her that?  Yes, it may be kind to mom, who is resting, to tell brother that she said the both of you could watch another DVD, but is it true?  Yes, I know you are “rather verbal,” but is it really necessary for you to talk non-stop all the way to art lesson and all the way back?  “He who guards his mouth keeps himself from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23).  Teach your children to evaluate and measure their words when they are young.

6.  “Seek and grant forgiveness willingly.”

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).  When my children have done something sinful toward another and they have shown they understand and are sorrowful for their fault, I have them humbly seek forgiveness from the person(s) they have offended and confess their sin to the Lord.  Their apologies are to be specific, admitting the specific sinful behavior and heart attitude: “I am sorry for ________.  Will you please forgive me?”  (I don’t allow a scowling, under-the-breath, arms-crossed, “Sorry.”)  When confessing their sin to the Lord, I also teach them to ask for His grace and strength to do what is right in the situation.  Learning to graciously grant forgiveness to the offender is also important.  I remind my children of the forgiveness we have received from God through Christ.  The parable of the “Unjust Servant” in Matthew 18:21-35 is a great word picture for this!  There is so much to be said about forgiveness–this short paragraph here cannot do the subject justice.  (Maybe “forgiveness” will be a future blog series?)

7.  “Make a Wise Appeal.”

“Honor your father and mother so (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:3).  This tool works well with children who have already consistently shown they are submissive to parental authority.  The wise appeal is a privilege that can be used by children (usually older) who have proven themselves to be generally faithful in obeying their parents right away, all the way, and with a right attitude.  If you give such children a command or instruction that they do not want to follow, instead of complaining, whining, or stomping out of the room, they may say, “Mom, may I make a wise appeal?”  Sometimes, because of the circumstances, you will say “no.”  But, there may be times who you allow a wise appeal.  The wise appeal sounds like this:  “Mom, I know you want me to _________ because __________.  Instead, I would prefer to _________ because _________.  Would it be alright if _______________? (This last blank must include a solution to the parent’s original concern.)  So, for example, “Mom, I know you want me to empty the trash right now because it stinks and you want it out of the house before company arrives.  Instead, I would prefer to finish my Wii baseball game because there is only one half inning left.  Would it be alright if I empty the trash as soon as the game is over since company won’t arrive for another half hour?”  Giving older kids this self-controlled and honorable way to discuss your instructions and their obedience helps to prevent conflict and gives them an excellent opportunity to develop communication skills when appealing to an authority.

8.  “Are you loving God and loving your neighbor?”

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. . .  You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself. . . ” (Matthew 22:37-40).  Quite frankly, as a mother, sometimes there is just too much to think about.  All that we juggle in a day can be absolutely overwhelming.  We can’t remember where we put the keys, checkbook, or the brand new toothbrushes, let alone all of the Bible verses that address the issues that each of our children face.  When all is said and done, the instruction we give our children should boil down to what Jesus said were the two greatest commandments–to love God and to love one’s neighbor.  So, it is not uncommon for me to ask a child causing or responding to conflict, “Is what you are doing or saying loving God?  Is what you are doing or saying loving your neighbor?”  These questions quickly cut through the blameshifting, denial, and justifications that children (and we) use to deflect fault and responsibility in a conflict.  Loving God and loving those made in His image is God’s desire and design for us.  We were all made for the purpose to glorify–and love–God in all that we do and say.  Teach your children this overarching truth for life, and you will have taught them well.

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Resolving Conflict, Part 5: An Opportunity to Serve

It is simple, and yet incredibly profound:  The God of Glory, Creator and Sustainer of all, humbled Himself to serve . . . His enemies.

Who were His enemies?  A Sunday School answer would be “the Romans” or “the religious leaders of His day.”  But, the Bible brings the answer much closer to home.  “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . . For [if] while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son . . .” (Romans 5: 8, 10).  That’s right.  We are the sinners.  We were His enemies.

God reconciled us to Himself through Christ.  (See: Resolving Conflict, Part 1: The Best Place to Start)  There was an epic conflict between God and His undeserving people, but He accomplished a peace with us that is lasting and complete.  Christ served on this earth by giving food to the hungry, sight to the blind, healing to the sick, breath to the dead, hope to the hopeless, and truth to the deceived.  But, His greatest act of humility and service was toward His enemies by granting them life through the sacrifice of His own.  “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Jesus served us.  He taught us by example how to serve others with complete humility.  He also gave clear commands regarding how we are to serve our enemies.  In conflict, there is great temptation to be angry, resentful, self-absorbed, bitter, and unkind.  Yet, in the midst of this ugliness, Jesus calls us to something radical.  It is not something that is promoted or understood by this world.  It is “other-worldly:”

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. . . But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and evil.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6: 27, 35-36)

Before we go any further, think of the person with whom you have a conflict.  You may consider the person a nuisance, an enemy, or something in between.  But, who is it?  A neighbor? friend? employer? employee? co-worker? student? teacher? in-law? child? spouse?  Will you commit to obediently serve him or her as Christ has commanded?  Will you be an imitator of your Heavenly Father?

TURNING CONFLICT INTO AN OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE

LOVE and DO GOOD

To love and to do good to your enemy means to show kindness, favor, and goodwill in order to benefit that person.  This requires a choice on your part; it is not necessarily motivated by good “feelings” toward the other person.  Thoughtfully consider how you can speak and act toward the other person in such a way that displays kindness, goodness, and care.  Then, put your choices into action–even if it is extremely difficult.  As you trust and depend on Him, God will give you the grace and power to follow Christ’s example.  “This will be a witness to others of the power and presence of God in your life” (Sande, The Young Peacemaker, 93).

BLESS and PRAY

In this context, to bless and pray for your enemy probably involves invoking “God’s blessing upon them by praying that they may be turned from their ways through God’s intervention in their lives” (Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.).  Pray for your enemy’s spiritual and physical needs.  Ask the Father to help you to serve that person with grace and godliness.  Praying like this is a “very powerful response to conflict.  It’s good for those who cause you pain, and it’s good for you. . . You can pray that God will bless them, work in their hearts, and help them do what is right.  You can also ask him to help you love them, do good to them, and bless them” (Sande, 93).

And so we return to the first statement of this post. “It is simple, and yet incredibly profound:  The God of Glory, Creator and Sustainer of all, humbled Himself to serve . . . His enemies.”  As His people, we are to do the same:  love and do good; bless and pray.  “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master” (Matthew 10:24).  Your Master served His enemies.  Will you?

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Resolving Conflict, Part 4: How to Prevent Conflict

Do you remember the Tasmanian Devil in the Warner Brothers cartoons from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s?  I always found that whirling, frantic, and chaotic cartoon character to be extremely annoying.  Everywhere the Tasmanian Devil went, there was trouble–and for one reason. . . because he was there.

It is very likely that you know a person who appears to have conflict everywhere she goes.  Instead of preventing conflict, she seems to have a knack for always being in the thick of it.  There is always a “problem” or “issue” with someone about something.  To her, the conflict she experiences is often someone else’s fault, and not her own doing.  At times, you may understand her plights, but other times you find yourself simply exhausted or annoyed, just like I was with the Tasmanian Devil.   You begin to wonder, “Is all this conflict thrown upon her by others, or is she actually the source of it?”  “Are other people always causing negative consequences in her life, or are her own selfish and foolish choices to blame?”

To be completely fair and honest, at times each of us (including myself) are like the crazed cartoon character, causing or compounding conflicts instead of preventing them.  I am guilty of this even within the last couple hours!  At the end of a sweet family movie night, I angrily responded to one of my children, and my response seemed to “come out of nowhere.”  But did it really?  No.  It came straight from me–Tasmanian Devil Extrordinaire.

CHOICES HAVE CONSEQUENCES

Just like the Tasmanian Devil, we take ourselves everywhere we go.  We cannot get away from ourselves or the choices we make.  Our choices are our responsibility, and we must accept that they have consequences.  As it says in Galatians 6:7, “A man will reap exactly what he plants.”  Good choices . . . good consequences.  Bad choices . . . bad consequences.  Just as our lives and relationships are strengthened by our wise (God-honoring) choices, so our lives and relationships suffer from our foolish (self-serving) ones.  “The person who makes a choice deserves the consequence for that choice.  Just as your choices belong to you, so do your consequences.  In other words, you are responsible for your own choices.” (Sande, The Young Peacemaker, 60).

I encourage you not to skim over the truth of that last paragraph too quickly.  Ponder it it for a moment–you will reap exactly what you plant.  Think about the choices that you are making in your relationships–what are your words like?  Your attitude?  Your actions?  Are you promoting peace and preventing conflict, or are you sadly causing lasting negative consequences?  Think about it.

CHOICES THAT PREVENT CONFLICT

Now, let’s consider what we need to do differently in order to prevent conflict with others, knowing that “the wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways” (Proverbs 14:8).  In The Young Peacemaker, Corlette Sande gives biblical advice for making wise choices to promote peace and prevent conflict (68-69).  To prevent conflict:

1.  Seek Godly Advice.  “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).  Are you facing a possible conflict?  Ask for advice, accountability, and prayer from people who you know will direct you to answers from God’s Word, and not merely their own opinions.

2.  Make Right Choices.  “He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).  Prayerfully consider the choices in your situation.  Consider the possible consequences to those choices.  Choose an option that you can support biblically, even if it appears impractical or difficult.

3.  Do What is Right.  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).  It is one thing to think right, and it is another thing to then do right.  Take courage in knowing that God will not direct you to do anything that He won’t give you the grace and power to accomplish.  Move forward in obedience, and trust Him with the outcome.

4.  Obey Those in Authority Over You.  “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1).  “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).  “Slaves, be obedient to your masters” (Ephesians 6:5).  “Obey your leaders [pastors/elders] and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account” (Hebrews 17:11).  “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1).  Obey those who have authority over you–such as parents, husband, employer, church elders, or government (unless any are directing you to oppose God’s Word).  God often directs us through our circumstances, including the guidelines or limits that have been set upon us by our authorities.  Trust the Lord that He has ultimate, sovereign authority in your situation, and then obey your authorities as unto Him.

5.  Speak and Act Respectfully to Everyone.  “Do not let any unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).  Finally, to prevent conflict, speak and treat others with respect and kindness.  Do not insist on your way with manipulation or intimidation.  Even if you strongly disagree with others, approach them with grace and humility, and you will find that “he who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23).

Remember, we take ourselves wherever we go.  If we ourselves are a source of conflict and turmoil, then that is exactly what we will have–no matter where we are or with whom we are dealing.  On the other hand, if we are a source of peace by making wise, biblical choices that prevent conflict, then we will be a blessing to others and will be living in the center of God’s will.

For “The Young Peacemaker” and resources from Peacemaker Ministries, click HERE.  

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Resolving Conflict, Part 3: Where the Battle Rages

As a little girl, I fought a battle.

I, the picture-perfect piano student of several years, threw a tantrum one afternoon at a piano lesson that shocked my unexpecting teacher.  Once my outburst of wailing, complaints, and threats quieted down, she calmly said, “Well, Cheryl, if that’s they way you feel, then you don’t have to take piano lessons any more.”

Ahh.  Finally . . . or so I thought.

Later that evening during an “emergency” private meeting with my piano teacher, my parents explained, “Cheryl is neither wise enough nor old enough, at ten years of age, to make the decision that she will no longer take piano lessons.  It’s not her decision.  It’s ours, and she will continue.”

My parents made arrangements for me to take a six-week break from piano.  No lessons.  No practicing.  No mention of music.  Nothing.  I was now free…or was I?  I still remember my conscience gnawing at me–my heart was convicted.  I was meant to play piano.  I knew it, but I wasn’t going to let anyone else know that I knew.

The day came for me to return to piano lessons with the same teacher.  To make a long story short, I refused to go.  Stubbornly, I would not leave my bedroom.  Somehow my mother coaxed me out of my room, but then I began clinging to the walls of the hallway.  My feet would not budge unless my mother methodically placed one in front of the other.  The poor woman!

Finally, I defiantly ran down the hallway and crouched in the dining room corner.  I still remember my mother looking directly at me from the dining room entry and stating in a firm, even tone, “Cheryl, there is a lot more than piano going on here, and I am going to win.”

My mother wisely knew that piano was not my ultimate problem.  She also knew that my behavior could not be blamed on fatigue, allergies, or vitamin deficiencies.  I wasn’t under-medicated or over-medicated, bored or overly-stimulated, gifted or not gifted.  I didn’t have a syndrome or disorder.  She didn’t label me with one of of the plethora of “conditions” now available to explain a child’s lack of obedience and self-control.  My mother could have made any sort of excuse for my disobedience and disrespect, but she didn’t.  She knew better.  She knew where this conflict began.  She knew where the battle was raging–in my sinful heart.

Where the Battle Rages

We will not be able to biblically resolve conflicts if we do not first biblically understand the origins of our conflicts.  The Bible rhetorically asks these two questions, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.” (James 4:1-2).  Yes, our conflicts originate in our hearts.  Our circumstances merely pull back the veil of what is hidden inside.  The English theologian John Owen (1616-1683) referred to this internal battle in Sin and Temptation, “There are many outward temptations that beset men, exciting and stimulating them to do evil.  But the root and spring of all these things lie in the heart.  Temptations do not put anything into a man which is not there already” (9).  In The Young Peacemaker, Sande explains, “Most conflicts happen because people make choices to get their own way.  These choices usually come from selfish desires that are rooted in their hearts” (47).  These selfish root desires include self-pity, greed, pride, fear of others, laziness, envy, jealousy, etc., and these types of sinful desires and motivations lead to sinful choices.  We struggle for what we want, and often conflict with others results.

For example, our hearts are like garden beds.  The quality of the vegetables grown is directly affected by the quality of the growing conditions in the beds.  Good growing conditions produce good vegetables.  Mediocre growing conditions produce mediocre vegetables.  Likewise, godly desires in our hearts lead to godly choices, and ungodly desires in our hearts lead to ungodly choices.  A self-centered person will be filled with pride, envy, selfishness, etc., and their words and actions will actually display these things.  On the other hand, a God-centered person will display words and actions that directly result from the fruit of the Spirit in their hearts, such as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Battle in My Heart

So, back to my story . . . Did I eventually make it to the piano lesson?  Yes.  Do I remember anything during the piano lesson?  No.  Why?  Because the lesson I had to learn that day had nothing to do with piano; it had everything to do with my heart.  Was my heart going to be ruled by my sinful anger and defiance? Or, was my heart going to be ruled by my Savior?  Was I, in humility, even as a child, going to obey His Word?  The battle raged in my heart.  Ultimately, I did not win–God did.  By His grace, He gave me a mother who knew that my struggle was internal, not merely external.  By His grace, He used her that day to teach me a very important spiritual lesson for life:  Do the godly thing, no matter how I feel.  By His grace, I learned to submit my heart to what the Lord had for me that day–obedience and respect for both my mother and my piano teacher.  If I had held on to the sin in my heart, the conflict would never have been resolved.

The Battle in Your Heart

The conflicts we experience begin in our hearts.  Maybe the other person has a heart problem.  But, you probably do, too.  Ask God to reveal your sinful desires, attitudes, or motives to you.  Confess your sin of the heart to Him and to the other person you have offended.  Ask God to teach your heart how to glorify and honor Him in your situation.  Pray and meditate on Scripture that pertains to your heart issue.  And through it all, cling to His promise that “a broken and contrite heart, He will not despise”  (Psalm 51:17).

For books and resources from Peacemaker Ministries, click HERE.  I also highly recommend the book Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick.

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Resolving Conflict, Part 2: Standing Firm on a Slippery Slope

As you are reading this post . . . is your blood starting to boil as you hear your kids bickering in the other room?  Are you checking caller ID each time the phone rings, not wanting to talk to a frustrating family member or friend?  Are you having difficulty sleeping at night, wondering how to handle a strained relationship at work?  Are you dreading seeing a difficult person at church on Sunday?  Or, what about your marriage–is there a small, or large, conflict that is causing you to lose that lovin’ feelin’?

Where’s the conflict?  I know it’s there somewhere.  Believe me . . .  I know.

A couple years ago, I read The Young Peacemaker by Corlette Sande (available from Shepherd Press).  I was first interested in the book because of the tools it offers children and youth to help them resolve conflict biblically.  But as I studied the book, taught it to my children, and then taught it to other children and mothers, I have recognized how valuable the principles of The Young Peacemaker are to help me resolve conflict in my own life according to God’s word.  (For adults, see also Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker by Baker Books.)

In The Young Peacemaker, Corlette Sande covers biblical conflict resolution in three parts:  “Understanding Conflict,” “Responding to Conflict,” and “Preventing Conflict.”  Each part consists of four chapters that include true-to-life scenarios, practical how-tos, activities and personal applications, and biblical explanations, examples, and memory verses.   Much of what I share in the next few posts will be based upon what my children and I have learned from The Young Peacemaker.  I am indebted to Sande for her godly wisdom.

So, let’s get back to the issue at hand:  your conflict . . . today.  When friends ask me where to start in handling a conflict with another person, I almost always begin by sharing the verse, “As far as it depends on YOU, live at peace with everyone.”  (Romans 12:18)  Interestingly, Sande begins the first chapter of  The Young Peacemakers with this same verse.  According to Sande, “conflict is a slippery slope” and YOU have three basic options for how YOU will RESPOND to conflicts when they arise.  In other words, when you find yourself in a conflict, you can “slip” into  the two sinful responses of “attack” and “escape,” or you can stand firm in the God-honoring, peaceful response of “working it out” (22).

Attack  

“The attack responses are used to put pressure on others to get our own way.  These responses usually damage relationships and often result in anger and hatred” (24).  When faced with conflict, the ways we “attack” may be through verbal put downs (harsh and unkind words), gossip (talking about others so that reputations are damaged and we gain support for our position;  with our children, this is “tattling”), or fighting (physical force to hurt another or to get our way).  These verbal and physical attacks compound our conflicts and do not enable us to resolve our conflicts peacefully; these break the peace.  In response to conflict, are you an attacker?

Escape  

“The escape responses are used to get away from conflict instead of trying to resolve it.  They often prolong conflict and can result in bitterness and unforgiveness” (23). Instead of attacking, some of us resort to escaping from our conflicts through denial (pretending a conflict is nonexistent or refusing to work it out), blame-shifting (blaming others or lying about/covering up our wrong-doing), or running away (avoiding the person with whom we have a conflict).  These forms of escape are used to pretend that there is peace with another when really there is not; these promote fake peace.  In response to conflict, are you an escaper?

Work it Out  

“These responses usually lead to constructive solutions to conflicts and help to preserve relationships” (26).   There are better, God-honoring ways to handle conflict other than attacking and escaping.  First, you can overlook an offense.  “You deal with the offense by yourself.  You simply decide to forgive a wrong action against you and walk away from a conflict” (26).  As it says in Proverbs 19:11, “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.”  Sometimes, a conflict is significant enough that overlooking is not sufficient and the problem continues to hinder your relationship.  Then, it may be necessary to talk it out . . . “by going directly to the other person to talk it out together.  This can include confession of your own wrongs and confronting the other person’s wrongs in a kind and respectful way” (26).  Keep in mind what Jesus said in Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering before at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”   Finally, after seeking to overlook an offense, and talking it out has not resolved the conflict, the situation may require that you get help from others.  Get help from a godly, wise person to learn what you should say if you try to talk it out once again (Ephesians 4:29).  Or, get help from a trustworthy third party who will meet with both of you to mediate and to suggest solutions to your problem (Matthew 18:15-16).  If mediation does not resolve a conflict, it may be necessary to get help from a person in authority who will actually arbitrate, or hear both sides of the conflict and decide on a solution (Exodus 18:13-27).  

The attack and escape responses to conflict never achieve peaceful reconciliation.  There is only one way that does: working it out.  At this point we may want to argue, “But, SHE always does this-or-that,” or “Well, HE did such-and-such,”‘ or “It’s all THEIR fault–they’ll never change anyways.”  Stop.  Consider again the inspired Word of God, “As far as it depends on YOU, live at peace with everyone.”  (Romans 12:18)  Personal responsibility–YOUR personal responsibility for the conflict and how you will respond to it–kicks in now.  You are not responsible for the other person’s response to you or to the conflict.  You are responsible before your Lord and God for YOUR response.  He will give you the grace and wisdom to know exactly what to do and how to do it.  And, whatever you do must be done with godliness.  Tough?  Yes.  Impossible?  No.  “No temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man.  And God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  (I Corinthians 10:13)

Like me, you may regularly find yourself on top of conflict’s slippery slope (or you are helping others who are, such as your children).  Are you going to slip off into the murky waters of attacking and escaping?  Or, are you going to stand firm on top of the mountain and work it out?  I encourage you to memorize Romans 12:18 and two simple questions to ask yourself in the midst of conflict, “Am I attacking, escaping, or working it out?  Do I need to overlook, talk it out, or get help?” 

God is with you in your conflict, and as you seek His wisdom in prayer and His Word, He will enable you to make the choices that glorify Him.  Even on the slippery slope of conflict, you can stand firm.

To purchase The Young Peacemaker by Corlette Sande, visit www.shepherdpress.com.

To learn how the Gospel is the foundation for biblical conflict resolution, see in this blog “Resolving Conflict, Part 1:  The Best Place to Start.”

Resolving Conflict, Part 1: The Best Place to Start

No one is a stranger to conflict.  It is a universal human experience.

Conflicts in personal relationships can be complicated, consuming, confusing, and sometimes catastrophic.  Addressing conflict in our lives is necessary; resolving conflict biblically is absolutely necessary.  When we learn to resolve conflict according to the wisdom of God, we yield beneficial results.  But, even more importantly, when we deal with conflict God’s way, we reflect the glory of His Gospel.

You see, the greatest conflict of all history is our conflict with God.  Likewise, the greatest reconciliation of all history is our reconciliation to God:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11)

Our Problem

In this passage of Scripture, we are described as weak, ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God.  We were completely helpless, undesirable, and incapable of restoring our relationship with Him.  In our dead spiritual condition, our hearts were set toward sin and against God, and we faced condemnation for our opposition. Our condition separated us from the Father, and we could not be reconciled to Him by our own initiative.  Apart from Him intervening, we had no desire or ability to do so.

God’s Solution

Christ died.  Christ died for the ungodly.  Christ died for us . . . not because we were lovable or deserving of rescue, but because He has an infinite love for us that defies human wisdom:  God incarnate willingly and sacrificially laid down His sinless, perfect life for His enemies.  Christ stood in our place and bore the wrath we deserved for our sin.  He who knew no sin became sin for us.  The Innocent One died for the unjust.

The Result

The result of God’s solution is truly amazing:  We have been justified, we were reconciled to God, and we are saved by his life.  The power of our sin and guilt was obliterated by Christ’s death.  Though once alienated from our holy Creator, we are now in a loving relationship with Him because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross in our place.  His payment was accepted, our sin was covered, and we were reconciled to God.  In addition, the power of Christ’s life keeps us in a restored relationship with Him for eternity.  Because of Christ, God declares us righteous, we are at peace with God, and eternal life is ours.

As we look at biblical conflict resolution in the next few posts, I pray they will not be received as a re-packaged self-help guide (decorated with Scripture) to merely “fix” our relationships or to make them “easier.”  Instead, my goal is that we understand the biblical principles for conflict resolution to be anchored in the Gospel, and that we then apply them to our lives as an outflow of having personally experienced the reconciling love of the Savior:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (I John 4:7-11)

At the cross of Jesus we are reconciled with God.  Are we guilty?  No more.  Condemned?  No more.  Enemies?  No more.  In this restored relationship we receive the grace and wisdom to mend fragile and broken relationships with others.  Our vertical Relationship informs all that are horizontal.  So, as we begin the journey of resolving conflict God’s way, will you first join me in faith at the cross?  It is the best place to start.