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How to Handle Conflict Biblically

by Toby Jones

No matter how old, wise and mature we become, we will always have conflict in our relationships. From the couple that has been married for fifty years to the schoolyard friends on the playground, people hurt one another and find themselves in relational conflicts of one form or another. Since such conflict is unavoidable, the important thing is how we deal with it when it arises. The Bible, particularly in the New Testament Gospel of Matthew, gives us a clear set of steps to take in order to resolve relational conflict.

Meet face to face, one on one to resolve the trouble directly.

Go directly to the person with whom you are in conflict. As Matthew 18:15 says, "If a brother or sister sins against you, go and point out the fault, just between the two of you." Do not go to any other person, not even to use that person as a sounding board. The first and most important principle in resolving conflict biblically is to avoid any sort of gossiping or attempts to lure others to your side of the conflict. Sit face to face with the other party in the conflict with the genuine desire to resolve the trouble between you.

Active and attentive listening is key in resolving conflict.

State your desire to resolve the conflict. Do so without accusing or blaming. In fact, it is often very helpful if you begin by apologizing for your role in the conflict, taking responsibility for your portion of the difficulty. Be sure each person has a chance to speak without interruption or correction from the other. Listening is the key to biblical resolution. Matthew 18:15 continues, "If he listens to you, you have won him over." :istening with the intent to understand that characterizes biblical resolution, not arguing or seeking to convince one another.

Mediation by a helpful third party may be required.

Take an objective but knowledgeable third party to the next conversation, if the first attempt at resolution is not fruitful. This third party should be someone who knows both of you and may have even witnessed the conflict's genesis. Matthew 18:16 makes provision for this, saying, "If he will not listen to you, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of witnesses."

As a last resort, take the matter to the church and its leaders.

Seek the intervention of the larger church or community if both the direct one-on-one attempt and the mediated attempt to resolve the issue prove unfruitful. This final step is only viable if both parties in the conflict see themselves as a part of and accountable to this larger church or community and are willing to abide by that community's decision or proposed resolution.

Items you will need
  • A Bible, particularly Matthew's Gospel
  • a friend or objective 3rd party
  • a church or community to which both parties are accountable

About the Author

Toby Jones has been a writer since 1981. He has written sports articles and sermons, as well as two books, "The Gospel According to Rock" and "The Way of Jesus." Jones also teaches writing at preparatory schools and colleges. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English from DePauw University and a Master of Divinity from Princeton University.

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