Summary: 4 keys for dealing with conflict
This morning we looked in Acts 15 at the conflict that Paul & Barnabas faced. Tonight we want to look at four keys for handling conflict. Let’s review what we saw this morning.
• Conflict is neutral - neither bad nor good - but an opportunity for us
• We can agree with the issue/goal but disagree with the method/means of getting it
• We can be agreeable even when we don’t agree
• Scripture does not always give us the answer. Sometimes both sides have support of Scripture.
So let’s discuss four keys for handling conflict.
1. Be Patient - 1 Corinthians 13:4 - Give God time to work in your situation. Here is the classic passage on love, and the reason that we look at this chapter when addressing conflict is that we are supposed to show love to our brothers and sisters. In fact, Jesus said that is how the world would know we are His followers - by the love we show. So here’s what Corinthians tells us: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
How do these ideas come it play with the concept of resolving conflict?
First, we need to be patient in trying to resolve a problem. If you resolve conflict quickly, normally you have made a poor resolution. Because it takes time to hear from one another, to identify what the root issues are, and to make sure the other person feels heard and valued. That can’t be rushed.
The kind aspect addressed how we treat the person: no insulting looks, no cold treatment, no withholding love, no slamming doors or other displays of “acting out” our anger.
Envy, boast, proud - these address our motivations. As we seek to resolve issues of conflict, we need to search our hearts to make sure we are not seeking the resolution that we like, but the one we can agree on together.
Another reason we need to be patient is to give God time to work. If we pray about the situation and commit it to God, then we need to give God time to work. He does not always answer our prayers immediately. And giving God time to work is time to work on the other person, yes, but also time to work on me as well. We allow God to soften our heart and cause us to care about the other person and the key issues that are important to them as well.
? What happens in a situation of conflict where we are not patient?
A second key in resolving conflict:
Be Peacable - Hebrews 12:14-15
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no-one will see the Lord. See to it that no-one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
? How do these verses apply to the area of conflict?
The danger we face is that when we find conflict and can’t agree that we allow the conflict to escalate our emotions. That’s really what we saw with Paul & Barnabas where they had a “sharp dispute” - it became an emotional disagreement.
? How do we keep from having our emotions get out of control?
One key was is by dealing with the “issue” and not the person. Try to determine the right decision regardless of who was involved. As you discuss the issues, think how you would handle it if someone else were involved.
Notice how Hebrews combines peace and godliness. If we want to be holy, we will live at peace.
Notice the parallel in the next verse - a bitter root - or as the KJV says “root of bitterness” - will cause trouble and defile many. If you allow yourself to be bitter about the conflict, not only will it hurt you, but that bitterness spreads like a poison that affects many. And notice the connection to grace - if we allow ourselves to be bitter, is shows that we are not accessing God’s grace in the matter. When we respond graciously, it will help keep our emotions in check. We respond with grace “even when we don’t feel like it!”
The opposite of being peacable is being angry. Here’s what Ephesians 4 says - “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Don’t allow anger to give Satan a foothold.
In other words, when we allow ourselves to be emotionally out of control it gives Satan access to attack us. It is a “chink” in our spiritual armor. It opens a way where we normally might have our guard up, but when we are out of control we end up saying and doing things we later regret.