There is wisdom woven throughout the Scriptures on how to deal with conflict in ways that are healthy for individuals and groups. In the table below, you will find a selection of passages on how group leaders can “leverage” conflict to create an environment where biblical community can continue to grow:
|Key Scriptures||Applied to Conflict|
|1 Cor 13:4||Go to God before going to another. If you are not being patient, kind, and thoughtful of the other then you are not responding in love. Be sure your heart reflects love’s attributes before dealing with conflict.|
|1 Cor 13:5||Prayerfully offer up the offense and your response to the Lord and ask Him if the source of conflict is something you should release or respond to with truth in love (Eph. 4:15).|
|Mt. 18:15-17||When you have a problem with somebody, first pray and then go immediately and directly to them to deal with it in private. Subsequently, only involve others if necessary for their sake and for complete healing.|
|Prov. 15:28||Take your time to think before you speak. It is an act of love to discipline your emotions to serve as the caboose and not the engine in conflict.|
|Jms. 4:1-2||Use the questions in Part 1 of this post to evaluate your motives for conflict and get your heart right before speaking into a tense situation.|
|Phil. 2:4||Try to understand where the other person is coming from and what you can do to work toward a solution that results in mutual understanding and encouragement.|
|Eph 4:15, 25||Continually hold on to truth and love as you speak to another person. We become off-balance the moment we let go of either one.|
|Eph. 4:26-27||Be real and say everything you feel you need to say in love. Do not leave behind any scraps for the enemy.|
|Prov. 20:3; 2 Tim. 2:24||Be self-controlled in conflict. You can prevent conflict from devolving into quarreling and strife when you are mindful of your emotions and thoughtful of the other.|
|Rom. 14:19||Aim for a “win-win’ situation where both you and the other person are better off after conflict than you were before it.|
|1 Pet. 3:8-9||The best “defense” is a strong offense of love. Resist the temptation to fire back at somebody who insults you. It is a credit to your strength when you find a way to stand your ground while responding in ways that show understanding and love. Humility and compassion help you to relate harmoniously with others.|
|2 Tim. 2:25-26||Be gentle in how you “instruct” others. By approaching and addressing people in gentleness and love, you will be more effective in leading them (and yourself!) into God’s truth and peace.|
|2 Tim. 2:23||Spend your time and energy on the essentials of the faith and help people to stay focused on the person of Jesus Christ; it tends to be the non-essential doctrines that produce unproductive debates (Titus 1:9; 3:9).|
|Jms. 5:16||Vulnerability and honesty are the greatest safeguards against unhealthy conflict. They strengthen the unity of the group and raise its level of compassion.|
|Jms. 1:19||Group participants will be better equipped to distinguish between constructive and unconstructive conflict as they take their time to listen and learn what others are communicating. It also enriches your group’s Bible study and discussion.|
|Mt. 12:25; Prov. 6:16-19||Disagreement and discord can grow into divisiveness. The enemy is constantly at work to divide God’s people and like sin, the longer it goes unaddressed, the more powerful it becomes. Love can conquer anything that causes dissension.|
|Prov. 18:8||Gossip breeds destructive conflict and breaks down trust within the group. If somebody says something unsubstantiated or speculative about another person (even if they are “passing along” what they have heard from another), explain the uncertainty of what was shared and then suggest to those who heard it that they should go directly to the person being talked about and find out the whole truth.|
Conflict is not something to rush into or to avoid. It can threaten to be a separator, but the Bible shows us how we can use it as a connector. It can be a “blessing in disguise” when we handle it with biblical wisdom. God, in His grace, gives us ways we can “use” conflict so that relationships grow in ways they would not have without it. In fact, conflict can be the very thing God uses to ‘draw-out’ authenticity and empower people to be more real with each other. It can be the key that allows us to experience the wholeness and life that comes with biblical community (Acts 2:42-47).
There are barriers we will invariably encounter as we grow in relationships with others. Sometimes conflict can be the “mountain pass” we are looking for to get on the other side of the ‘thing’ that seems to be blocking open and honest communication. Trying to go ‘around’ it only makes the journey more difficult even treacherous. Instead, we need to work through it. We need to use it as a pathway to something better for the whole group.
Conflict is not pleasant. Most people would rather do without it. But if it is life-changing Christian community that we want then we need to deal with conflict in love-filled and biblically-informed ways. Christian community is not a destination…it is a journey and conflict comes as we travel together. As a community-building leader, you can tell your group(s) that your goal is not to “keep the peace” but to travel with them through the occasional discord that comes with the transformational adventure of building biblical relationships.