Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18 (NKJV)
According to Scripture, Christians are called to a higher standard when it comes resolving conflict. Because we are reconciled to God through Christ, God requires every Christian to serve in the ministry of reconciliation. It is not optional and it is not up for discussion.
In my role I often talk to pastors and churches who are experiencing varying levels of conflict. The key to resolving conflict is to catch it early, in its infancy. A camp fire is much easier to extinguish than an inferno. This is especially true when it comes to conflict.
A camp fire is much easier to extinguish than an inferno!
Peacemaker Ministries has produced a number of good resources in this area. In their pamphlet Peacemaking Principles, they offer the following three biblical ways to resolve conflict early when it is still personal and private:
3 Way to Resolve Conflict
1. Overlook an offense. Many disputes are so insignificant that they should be resolved by quietly overlooking an offense. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). Overlooking an offense is a form of forgiveness, and involves a deliberate decision not to talk about it, dwell on it, or let it grow into pent-up bitterness or anger.
2. Reconciliation. If an offense is too serious to overlook or has damaged our relationship, we need to resolve personal or relational issues through confession, loving correction, and forgiveness. “If your brother has something against you…go and be reconciled” (Matthew 5:23-24). “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Galatians 6:1). “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).
3. Negotiation. Even if we successfully resolve relational issues, we may still need to work through material issues related to money, property, or other rights. This should be done through a cooperative bargaining process in which you and the other person seek to reach a settlement that satisfies the legitimate needs of each side. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
I have not always known or practiced these principles in my personal life or in my ministry, but I am now committed to do so. May we all seek to live by the Apostle Paul’s charge to the Christians in the church at Rome.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18