If you live life long enough as a Christian, conflict in inevitable. The New Testament is filled with words that address the subject—often because apostles were correcting local churches or providing counsel on how to pursue resolution and unity. Broken relationships are hurtful within the context of the local church—and they certainly don’t promote the gospel to a lost world outside the church in the local community. Therefore, it’s essential that we know how to deal with conflict within the family of faith in order to honor Christ and avoid hypocrisy.

Humility is Necessary

If you approach a situation of conflict, humility is required to achieve healthy and biblical results. If two parties who are in disagreement simply enter the conversation by throwing defensive bombs toward one another—the parties involved will spend their time talking past one another rather than talking to one another. The art of listening is key to conflict resolution. The humility to admit fault is also key to defusing conflicts that would serve as barriers to joyful friendships and Christian unity.

In Psalm 147:6, the Psalmist declares, “The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.” In Matthew 23:12, we find the following warning, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” It is God’s will for God’s people to pursue peace in a humble and gentle fashion. The one who is haughty and arrogant will never achieve reconciliation and will consistently find himself or herself in the midst of broken relationships. This pattern is not only damaging to the individual—but to the entire church. This is a sinful trap to avoid as a Christian.

Pursue Reconciliation and Unity

Jesus, in his famous sermon, stated the following, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). We want to be called the sons of God rather than children of wrath—like the rest of mankind. It’s essential to pursue peace in order to be called the sons and daughters of God. Richard Baxter once said:

He that is not a son of Peace is not a son of God. All other sins destroy the Church consequentially; but Division and Separation demolish it directly. [1]

We must likewise remember that reconciliation and unity do not rest upon the shoulders of one party alone. Each party involved in a conflict must value reconciliation more than their own pride. It may be that one individual pursues reconciliation while another individual remains in a state of bitterness and disunity. Paul addressed this issue in Romans 12:18 as he provided the following instruction to the church in Rome:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18–21).

We must likewise recall Paul’s words prior to this paragraph as he instructed the Christians in Rome to be genuine in their love and to outdo one another in brotherly affection (Rom. 12:9-13). Winning the argument is not always the way to reconciliation. Remember that as we gaze at the cross of Jesus Christ and see how Christ saved us through his brutal crucifixion, we will find that reconciliation is not only a workable solution but it’s mandated by God (Phil 2:5-11; Eph. 4:32).

Do Not Change Churches

Is there ever a time to leave a local church? Sure, there are biblical reasons, but if I’m perfectly honest, I believe far too often people leave their local church for unbiblical reasons. I’ve written on this subject in another article titled, “When Should I Leave My Church?“—but we can be quite certain that it’s never wise to leave under conflict. If you believe that changing addresses of where you worship will solve your conflict with fellow believers—you’re simply wrong. You will only change the address of your problems. So long as you never learn to do the hard work of conflict resolution as a Christian—you will find yourself walking a broken road of loneliness and isolation within your local church. Conflict builds walls and the devil is really clever at isolating people in local churches until they become so unfulfilled that they simply change churches. Until a person learns to work through conflict in a biblical manner that honors Christ—this pattern will continue in perpetuity. Ray Ortlund writes the following:

The gospel being what it is and always will be, “the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19), our churches should be the most reconciling, peaceable, relaxed, happy places in town. We are so open to enemies, so meek in the face of insults and injuries, so forgiving toward the undeserving — if we do make people angry, let this be the reason. We refuse to join in their selfish battles. We’re following a higher call. We are the peacemakers, the true sons of God (Matthew 5:9). [1]

Have you ever had to provide advice to your child after he had a scuffle on the playground with another child? What advice did you provide him? Did you instruct him to work through his problems and pursue peace and salvage his friendship or did you move him to another school the next day? We must remember that the children and immature believers (as well as the mature believers) are watching how we all deal with conflict. We should not disciple others in our local church to change churches when they experience conflict. The local church is family and what do family members do when faced with conflict? The family works through it together. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. The end result is worth it and Christ will be glorified through a proper and healthy conflict resolution.


  1. Richard Baxter, The Practical Works of Richard Baxter: Selected Treatises, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 4.
  2. Ray Ortlund, “The Ministry of Reconciliation” — Accessed on: March 5th, 2018.

 

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