You have probably heard the saying, "there is your way, the right way and the army way." Of course, when I was in the service of the U.S. Army they had a different version. And I am sure there are some households that have still another version of the saying.
What I am referring to in this reflection, however, is methods of dealing with conflict. As Christians, (I am assuming that Christians are the primary readers of this) we profess to be followers of Christ and that Christ is our example. But in practice, when dealing with conflict we have a tendency to behave like the pagan world, resorting to gossip, slander, holding grudges and giving an eye for an eye and teeth for a tooth. That is known in Christian circles as the old human nature rising up. And when in conflict with others we can behave in the most unchristian ways, resulting in a misrepresentation of Christ.
There is Biblical teaching of how to deal with conflict between individuals and even groups for that matter. I would like to share with you four principle steps that must be followed in chronological order when dealing with conflict.
A. Go to God first - Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.
6. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
7. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
8. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.
As a Christian your first response should be to refuse your natural inclination to respond with retaliation, but to seek God's way first and glory His name.
B. Examine yourself second - Matthew 7:1 Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
2. "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
3. "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
4. "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?
5. "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
Check out your own motives and behavior in the situation at issue. Ask yourself what role you played or are playing that is contributing to the conflict. Remember this also. People will remember how you treated them more than they will how they treated you.
C. Go to the person's and kindly state your case-
Matthew 18: 15 - If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
16. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.
17. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
First you must make a personal contact if possible and share the concerns you have pointing out the problem. If that is not successful follow the Bible counsel.
D. Be reconciled - James 5: 19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back,
20. let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Romans 12: 18 - If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
The fact that we are Christians means that we are ministers of reconciliation (see I Corinthians 5:18, 19).
Those four steps are practical and in principle can be applied to any situation whether it is conflict in the church family, in the home or in the community.
As Christians the way we act and the way we talk is a witness of who we profess to represent. Paul says, Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6
So remember, when dealing with conflict, there is our way, the army way, and God's way. It would be best for us to always be in training to do it God's way. His way will result in real peace.
- Larry D. Mays is pastor of the Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church. (All Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB))