We’ve all found ourselves in situations of conflict. It’s part of being human. Further, we know that we will continue to find ourselves in these situations at various times. So we would do well to know what the Bible teaches on how to handle and address conflict and confrontation, biblically. We looked at two texts from Matthew’s gospel to give us perspective on this.
1. Resolving Conflict in a Biblical Manner: Matthew 5:21-26
As Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount, He gives us a teaching that helps us to see the need of resolving conflict. He begins by making clear that we must resolve conflict at the heart level. It’s not enough that we simply address the setting or circumstance externally, it must get resolved in our heart. This is true because unresolved conflict compromises worship. This is what Jesus describes in v.23-24. Jesus states that this man should leave his offering at the altar to first be restored before he offers his gift. Conflict that is left unresolved will undermine our worship of God. Finally, Jesus tells us in v.25-26 to resolve conflict quickly. It’s not meant to drag on or linger, but should be addressed in a timely fashion.
Practical Considerations with Resolving Conflict:
1. It requires initiation from us: Think of it this way, if you’re aware of conflict you need to move toward resolving it, regardless of who started it.
2. It must take a position of prominence in our life: The man dropped everything to be restored to his brother. Getting conflict resolved must take a high priority in our life.
3. Unresolved conflict compromises worship: Simply put, you cannot be right with God if you’re wrong with others.
4. It will be inconvenient and uncomfortable: Obedience is always good, but it is not always easy or comfortable. Resolving conflict is rarely convenient or fun (until you are restored to your brother or sister). Expect it to be inconvenient and uncomfortable.
5. It has reconciliation as the goal: It has the goal that the gospel does – to be reconciled. In the gospel, we’re reconciled to God. Resolving conflict is meant to reflect what Christ has done for us.
2. Addressing Confrontation in a Biblical Manner: Matthew 18:15-17
When conflict arises, and it will, some type of confrontation is needed. In Matthew 18, Jesus gives us the path forward on how to address confrontation. He begins by helping us see that we are to go to gain our brother or sister (v.15). We are to initiate a private conversation, where we state how we were sinned against. When Jesus says to tell them their fault, we don’t need to tell them all of their faults, just how they sinned against us. We do this, with the goal of gaining our brother or sister. If they listen, praise God! If they don’t listen, we are to establish evidence. This is the very language that Jesus uses in verse 16. Remember, the goal is gain our brother or sister, not to prove our point, seek vengeance or vindicate ourselves.
Practical Considerations in Addressing Confrontation:
1. It requires that we initiate: If you’re thinking, “didn’t we already hear this?” you’re right. Repetition is helpful.
2. We are to meet face to face: We don’t want to confront via text, email and certainly not social media! We get with the person to address the issue.
3. We tell them their fault: We tell it only to them, and only their fault. They don’t need to know all that you disagree with, they need to know how they sinned against you.
4. The goal is to gain your brother or sister: This too is repeated and worthy of repeating. If we’re going for other reasons, we need to repent and ask God to help us go for the right reason.
5. We bring in help when it’s needed: When it’s left unresolved, then we may need others to help. This is the wisdom that Jesus offers in verses 16-17. In bringing others in, we bring in spiritual leaders to objectively address the situation.
6. Forgiveness is required: Forgiveness is not optional for the believer. The parable that follows this exchange illustrates this very point. If the one who has been the most aggrieved, Jesus, can forgive us, then we should most definitely be willing to forgive those that have sinned against us!