I’ve seen families crumble and friends part ways, all because we simply don’t know how to resolve conflict.
Today’s blog article is authored by Ryan Ingram, lead pastor of Awakening Church in San Jose, CA.
In this article, you’ll learn that conflict is expected, and yet against our instincts to handle it well. Taking a note from the Apostle Paul and his colleagues, we’ll uncover the biblical framework for handling disagreements and establishing peace. Use the links below to jump to the sections quickly.
There is no way around it: conflict is a certainty, and how we go about handling it will either make or break a purposeful life. It has the power to burn the strongest of bridges, right?
Disagreements will either —
- Strengthen or sabotage friendships
- Develop or diminish your character or influence
- Make or break friendships
- Collapse or bond families
- Implode or ignite marriages
But we’re losing our ability to disagree constructively. Yet, as followers of Jesus, we have the tools within the Scriptures to learn how to resolve conflict constructively and live a purposeful life.
Biblical Framework for Resolving Conflict
If we’re in relationships and we’re being honest, conflicts WILL occur. The problem is that we either brush our disagreements under the rug because we aren’t familiar with a constructive way to resolve the problem, or we’re too eager to address problems and find some pleasure in disagreements.
The biblical framework we’ll discover today will address those of us on either end of the spectrum, and everyone in between.
Taking a note from Paul and his friends, let’s first explore a famous conflict within the New Testament, and then explore the framework this disagreement demonstrates.
Acts 15:36 says:
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Do you see what I see?
The men had gone on a missionary journey and God was using them in powerful ways. Paul wanted to return to a location, and when Barnabus wanted to take a fellow believer, with whom they were familiar, Paul thought it unwise.
Both men had their reasons, but they were in “sharp disagreement” about how to proceed. As a result, they took their chosen partner and parted ways, continuing ministry in different locations.
Do you know what they didn’t do? They didn’t let their disagreement —
- Diminish the effectiveness of their ministries. They didn’t waste time fulfilling their purpose, and continued to separate locations that both needed their pastoring.
- Undermine the possibility of future partnerships. In fact, in later verses, we know that Paul asks for John Mark to join him on a mission where his gifts were fitting and purposeful.
They both kept their eyes on the bigger picture and didn’t let this disagreement negatively impact their ministry or their relationships. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with many conflicts in ministry and among believers.
When I examine the text, I uncover a biblical framework that demonstrates and teaches us how to resolve conflict with one another and live in peace.
Be sure to check out: 5 Positive Behaviors To Resolve Relationship Conflict Today
4 Steps To Resolving Conflict Biblically
1. Define the problem on your own.
Define the problem on your own, not with a small group, not with your besties, not on a long social media post that is abstract and says all the things that you are emoting at the moment.
Instead, begin by examining your heart and considering your part in the conflict.
Often, we overestimate the clarity of our thinking about other people’s problems and we underestimate the fog of our issues.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to clearly show you the part you’ve played in this disagreement, however small.
- Write down your thoughts about the subject, including your feelings. When we see the emotions on paper we can be more objective about separating the feelings from facts.
- Take time and personally confess your wrongdoings.
- Stop thinking and start praying for blessings upon that person
- Give them the benefit of the doubt
When defining the problem, I recommend giving a generous explanation for their behavior. What’s the most generous explanation for their actions? Go with it. Be careful about the story you’ve told yourself about the disagreement and the other person’s motives.
Finally, seek wise counsel if necessary. But here’s the caveat: make sure the counselor (friend, pastor, spouse, etc.) is an impartial truth-teller who will quickly call you out on your part of the disagreement.
2. Set up a time to talk and do not put it off.
This doesn’t mean a Marco Polo or a phone call. Sit down together, face-to-face.
Did you know that psychologists tell us the mere act of listening to someone humanizes them? Our words only make up a small portion of what is actually communicated. Thirty-eight percent is our tone. Fifty-five percent is your body language. Only seven percent is our words!
Do it soon.
Time passed will give root to bitterness and anger. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger! It’s so important, Jesus says to step out of a church service and forgo communication in order to make that happen.
3. Address the problem; do not attack the person.
Instead of just dropping truth like a bomb, seek to understand and approach the subject gently and lovingly. After all, we have a limited perspective. The only way to understand it is to SEEK to understand. Novel idea, right?
As we pursue understanding, do so in the spirit of seeking resolution and forgiveness. Paul and Barnabas continued to have fruitful ministries after they leaned into their respective callings and extended forgiveness. Similarly, when we see the bigger picture and pursue resolution, we can multiply our impact!
Simply, if we want grace and forgiveness extended to us, we must offer it to others. Period.
Living authentically: 3 Key Principles To Grasp If You Want To Practice Authentic Christianity
4. If you’re stuck, seek outside help.
Matthew 18 gets clear on how to resolve conflict as believers. Jesus says to go straight to the person. And if you’re stuck, get one or two impartial witnesses who can speak into the situation.
Essentially, go get outside help.
Bring it to the leadership of the church.
Seek their perspective and follow their direction.
The truth is, everyone gets stuck at some point. Here’s the difference between peace and turmoil:
Don’t stay stuck. Don’t let your pride keep you stuck in a relationship where God wants to grow you through that relationship.
Whether it’s help in your marriage or with your children, or help with a brother or sister in the faith with whom you need help resolving a conflict: don’t stay in that place.
On The Other Side of Conflict
Knowing how to resolve conflicts is a tool that will make or break your purpose-filled life. When you are equipped to navigate disagreements from a biblical perspective, you will live peacefully with others and enjoy an unstoppable relationship with your Creator, who gave His all to resolve the conflict of sin in your life.
Learn more about uncovering God’s calling in your life and living with purpose when you watch our Daily Discipleship Course on YouTube entitled Purpose Full, featuring teachings from pastor Ryan Ingram.
Lead Pastor, Awakening Church
Ryan Ingram is currently serving as the lead pastor of Awakening Church in San Jose, California. He and his wife, Jenny, planted the church in 2012 with a passion to awaken this generation to new life in Jesus. Ryan leads his church community through teaching and strategic leadership. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute (in Chicago) and attended Moody Theological Seminary. He lives in San Jose with his wife and three children.More Articles by Ryan