I wish I could blow your mind with a grand announcement. You know, the one that goes like, “When you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you will never again experience conflict, disagreements, hurt, or offense – nope, not in the body of Christ.”
Truth is, you might as well prepare yourself to experience conflict, disagreements, hurt, and offenses of mammoth proportions.
Why, you ask?
First, would you agree that whenever you bring a group of perfectly imperfect human beings together in close fellowship with each other, the likelihood of some conflict is 100% certain? Think about all of our different walks of life and experiences, all of our internal issues and histories, all of our personal journeys of spiritual growth and development – now mix it all together in this gumbo called the Church. Seriously? It’s a blue-ribbon recipe for interpersonal conflict.
Second, and probably most importantly, the body of Christ, followers of Jesus, those washed in the blood of the Lamb – We are the most formidable threat to the enemy, our adversary the devil (1 Peter 5:8) in existence on the planet. Would we not be a constant target of the enemy’s “divide and conquer” darts, or his attempts to ruin the masses by way of one, two, or a few?
Our Loving Prescription for Church Conflict
God in His infinite wisdom knew that the Church would experience internal conflict or offense, and in the “Team Jesus Playbook” (The Bible) in Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus runs the “plays” we should take to resolve our conflict.
To summarize the plays:
- The offended person goes to the one who offended him/her, in private, and discusses the matter. If he/she owns the offense and asks for forgiveness, the brother/sister is won, and the conflict is resolved. If the offending person will not listen…
- The offended person goes again to the one who offended him/her, bringing 1 or 2 people with them so that the offense is confirmed and there are witnesses to the matter. If the offending person still will not listen…
- The offended person may tell the Church, body of Christ, or body of believers. If the offending person still will not listen…
- The offended person may distance themselves from the offender as if he/she was a “Gentile or tax collector”.
It would take another post(s) to adequately expound on the steps above. But there’s a common thread intertwined between and within each step of the Christian conflict management process.
So many times when we’re dealing with conflict, our focus is on the “what” – the offense (what the person did or said to us), and the response (what we do in response to the offense; the plays).
Rarely, Team, do we think about the “how” – the manner in which we are to conduct the “what”.
The God of Process is Still the God of Love
God is never in contradiction to Himself. The same God who offers guiding steps to resolve an issue expects us to complete the process in His Spirit – the spirit of Love.
How quickly do we jump to Step #1 above – we go to our brother/sister, but we do so in the Spirit of “telling them about themselves”? Have you ever gone to your brother or sister to give them a piece of your mind vs. to win them back?
What about Step #4. Did you know that you can distance yourself in a loving way from a stubbornly offensive person – keeping them in prayer and hope for their walk with Christ? In no way does this process for conflict management exempt us from following peace with all men, and guarding our hearts from seeds of bitterness (Hebrews 12:14-15).
Team, never forget the “how” of Love. As believers in Jesus Christ, how we do a thing is just as important as the thing we do (click to tweet)! We can follow God’s process to a tee, but if we leave out the attitude or posture of Love, we’ve missed the entire point. Here it is…
Do all things in love (1 Corinthians 16:14). Did you know this applies to being offended? To resolving conflict when you know the other person is wrong?
Let’s keep God, who is Love, in play – not just what He said to do, but how He commands us to do it.
So, no. I can’t promise a conflict-free existence in the body of Christ, but I can point you to the prescription that, when taken with Love, will heal all the ills and disappointments of “church hurt”.
Trust that conflict, trials, hardships are the ingredients of strong faith, learned lessons, and sweet victories. We all grow from glory to glory when our humanity is put to the test, and we must rely on the Spirit of God to lead and guide us through our disagreements.
At the end of the day, know your true enemy (the devil). Our fight is not with each other. We are not enemies. We are a team who can do the impossible with God when we dare to agree and work on one accord.