By Buck Burch
Chances are that you have recently experienced conflict, are experiencing conflict, or will experience conflict with someone soon.
People typically deal with conflict in one of four ways:
1) Circumvention (avoiding any confrontation)
2) Competition (fighting to see who "wins")
3) Compromise (giving in by at least one side losing something)
4) Collaboration (intentionally deciding to listen and resolve).
Did you know there is a Christian way to resolve conflict through collaboration? In Matthew 18, Jesus described it in steps.
Step One: private conversation between two Christians that states the offense and seeks forgiveness (18:15). If there is an offer of resolution, there is no need to move forward other than to praise God.
If not, then Step Two: a second private conversation between the two original Christians but with at least one or two neutral Christians who can judge whether everything is being laid open fairly and if anyone is being unreasonable (18:16). The goal in Step Two is establishing the truth and fairness of the matter. If there is resolution at this point, praise God. But if the offending party still refuses to repent or restore the relationship, Christians must move to the next step.
Step Three: bring both parties before the local church body to hear out the matter and allow them to make a decision for resolution (18:17). If the offending party submits to the local church decision, then praise the Lord. But if he refuses to accept their decision for repentance and restoration, then it moves to the next step.
Step Four: the situation moves public as unresolved, unrepented conflict, which means the only recourse is treatment as a secular problem with no fellowship with God's people (18:17).
Too many times, Christians move directly to public secular lawsuits or published defamation, when the Bible clearly frowns upon this as a first recourse (1 Cor 6:1-8). Too many times they skip the step of initial private conversations and prayer together. Too many times they seek to form alliances with other interested parties and ignore the target of God's glory.
The goal of every Christian conflict resolution is restoration and greater fellowship, but too many times Christians seek only to gain what they feel was lost, and that to the detriment of the Gospel witness they could have had. May we collaborate within the structure Jesus outlined so that we can show the world what a difference being a Christian makes.
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