By Stan Gleason
Most people try to avoid conflict. In fact, if you enjoy conflict you may have a problem that requires some counseling. Wherever two or more people are involved, conflict is unavoidable, and since the redemption business is the people business, there will be conflict within the body of Christ. So the question is not, Is there going to be conflict? but, What is the scriptural formula for handling conflict? When things are done God’s way, it is always the right way.
The words “admonish,” “reprove,” rebuke,” and “exhort” are used over one hundred times in Scripture. The Bible encourages us to keep all of our relational accounts short, up-to-date, and on good terms. For example, Ephesians 4:25-27 says, `So put away all falsehood and `tell your neighbor the truth’ because we belong to each other. And ‘don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil” (New Living Translation. cf., Matthew 5:25).
Conflict should be resolved quickly, forthrightly, and with a pose conclusion in mind. If one’s goal in conflict resolution is to have his say, give a piece of is mind, or just blow up the other person. Then, there will be resolution. The supposed result will escalate the conflict rather than eliminate it. This is not a spiritual, scriptural, or healthy approach. Patti said that we must be spiritually minded to produce relational restoration. (See Galatians 6:1.) This is why a redemptive approach always lends itself to the desired godly result.
Arguably, the most overlooked word in the entire New Testament is the “alone” of Matthew 18:15: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shalt hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”
Many biblically literate believers, including ministers, have ignored the word “alone” in Jesus’ formula for conflict resolution. Their attitude may be something like this: “If your brother has offended you, here arc your options: offend him back, never speak to him again, speak to everyone else about how he offended you. recruit plenty of people to your side and make sure they all are in the loop and feel equally as had about this person as you do, verbally assassinate him for years to come, go out of your way to avoid him, fill your life with personal agendas at every opportunity to get even with him, and do all this no matter what hardship, difficulty, or confusion it may cost the greater good of the body of Christ, and never consider for a moment that he may have no clue he offended you.”
How many conflicts could have been nipped in the bud and not allowed to mushroom if this command of Jesus always would have been honored within the body of Christ? How many wars could have been averted, how many relationships healed, how many homes kept together, how many cross-town churches’ or ministers’ relationships spared endless squabbling and haggling by simply honoring the admonition of Jesus Christ?
Notice that Jesus placed the burden of initiating resolution squarely on the shoulders of the one offended, not on the offender. The person who has been offended naturally and usually hunkers down with the position, “Well he knows exactly what he did, and I’m not speaking to him until he comes and talks to me.” In a secular world-view, this position would not seem entirely unreasonable, but in a biblical worldview the offended one must take the first step toward resolving the conflict.
Not only is the word “alone” often overlooked in Matthew 18, but verses 18-19 are taken out of context more than just about any other passage. Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”
The terms “binding” and “loosing” are most often used within the con-text of binding and loosing devils. spirits, disease, or sickness. To be sure, this is an effective prayer strategy. But in its proper context, binding and loosing is taking the matter of reconciliation to a redemptive and powerful conclusion. When we go to our brother alone, we have the power to bind him to or loose him from our relationship with him, and more importantly, the body of Christ. Our tongue and our presentation have the power to bind people to us or to loose them from us.
The business of binding and loosing is an serious proposition: How many souls arc backslidden right now because they were loosed and not bound by some offended, immature, self-absorbed person? How many believers walk around in a daze in our congregations or conferences with deep wounds that have never been resolved because we have failed to follow the prescription of redemption given by our Lord? The word “alone” must no longer be ignored. Eternal souls may be lost if we fail to honor Jesus’ command.
Conflict within the Christian community should be handled with redemption in mind: a redemptive approach, a redemptive discussion; and a redemptive conclusion. Resolving conflict is not about getting your way, saying your piece, or getting a load off your mind. It is all about healing hurts and restoring the lines of communication.
Eugene Habeckcr said, “As Christians we confront not to embarrass, belittle, tear down, or humiliate. We confront because of our commitment to help others reach their potential, including full-fledged stature in Christ. Paul had to say some very difficult things to the readers of his letters, but it was because of his unwavering bottom-line commitment to people:
“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way… bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God’ (Colossians 1:10).”
Ten Steps To Affect Positive Change In Resolving Conflict
1 Confront yourself first and ask this question: “Am I the problem?” Although uncomfortable to face, you may see a pattern in many of your relationships.
2 Seek an appointment and an appropriate face-to-face setting. Do not confront via e-mail or over the phone because these venues pro-vide no body language, tone of voice, or gestures.
3 Cover the confrontation in much prayer. Check your spirit to make sure you are in the attitude of Christ. Abraham Lincoln said, “When I’m getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say, and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.”
4 Begin on a positive note; affirm and never attack their self worth.
5 Simply and clearly state what has offended or upset you and why. Do not unload every single complaint you have against them, just the one with which you cannot live.
6 Assure them that reconciliation in the relationship is the goal. Healthy confrontation can take a relationship to a whole new level.
7 Allow an opportunity for the other person to respond. They may feel shock, bitterness, or resentment. They will not be ready to move on until they express their feelings.
8 Present a solution or action to be taken. This focuses on the future.
9 Reiterate their positive strengths. What gets rewarded gets done.
10 Put the issue in the past. Never bring it up again unless it recurs.
The article “The Most Overlooked Word In The Bible” written by Stan Gleason is excerpted from Forward Magazine the 2007 September/October edition.