In all relationships conflict is almost certain to arise. Our personality makeup, our values and preferences and our felt needs will almost certainly bring us into variance with family members, co-workers and even best friends. It is extremely important that we learn and develop skills in resolving these conflicts. Jesus stated very plainly why: "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand." Mark 3:24, 25.

     Conflict can bring down a nation and conflict can destroy a marriage. Conflict can shatter the foundation of any relationship.

    There are three principles we need to understand that will help us in resolving conflict:

    • The Reason for Conflict
    • How we Respond to Conflict, and
    • How to Resolve Conflict

I. The Reason for Conflict

     "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?"  James 4:1.

     Conflict comes from competing desires. "I want what I want and I want to have my way. You want what you want and you want to have your way." One wants the temperature set at 68 and the other wants it at 80. One like big towels; the other likes small ones; One loops the toilet roll one way, the other prefers the opposite way; One likes to spend discretionary money on enhancing the home, the other wants to enhance the automobile...or recreation.

     When we get married our thoughts are, "Here’s how marriage is going to meet my needs." Our spouse is thinking the same thing, but what meets his or her needs is different. When our expected needs go unmet, conflict begins rearing its ugly head. This same principle is at work in all our relationships;. who is going to get their way? We may try to gloss it over but that's the way it is. Once we understand that, we are ready to take a look at how we respond to conflict.

II. How We Respond To Conflict

     There are five basic responses to conflict: My way, your way, no way, half way and our way. With God’s help let us take an honest look at these five responses:

1.    My Way.
     This is the response that says, "When I am in conflict I am going to get my way because I am 100% right 100% of the time. I will fight; put down; coerce, or do what it takes to make sure I get my way." Perhaps you have heard business owners or bosses say, "It’s my way or the highway!"

2.   Your Way.
     This is the response of always giving in immediately in any conflict. It may stem from an attitude that just can’t stand conflict or a strong need for other people’s approval. The problem is that people with this response have resentment growing within themselves; this mental list where the other person got their way 100% of the time and they got their way 0%. When resentment gels into bitterness there is going to be an explosion that will most likely blow the relationship apart.

3.   No Way.
     This is the attitude that says, "Let’s just forget it. I don’t want to talk about it." It avoids facing the conflict at all costs and assumes that since facing the conflict has been avoided there is no conflict. Yet, the conflict is still there. It’s just covered and waiting for the right moment to resurface, again, and again, and again.

4.   Half Way.
     This is the response that says, "O.K., you want your way, and I want my way. Let’s compromise. You win half the time and I win half the time. Win some, lose some. The problem is that our memory of who has won and who has lost is always telling us that it’s our time to win. To be candid, this response is better than the first three, but there is still a better way

5.   Our way.
     This could also be called God’s Way. It is the response that says, "You have needs and I have needs. I care about your needs and want your needs to be met. I believe you care about my needs and want my needs to be met. Let’s sincerely work on this conflict and ask God to help us find a way where both of our needs can be met." When we reach this response level we are ready for the practical steps in resolving conflicts.

III. Resolving Our Conflicts

     It would be a most interesting thing if each of us could be an invisible spectator watching how other people in this room resolve their conflicts. In some cases the scene might have all the aspects of a war zone with verbal bullets and bombs. With others it might look more like a court room with lawyers carefully arguing their points. Others might resemble a drama with the actors playing out their parts on a stage. In come cases, we might see one person pacing the floor in a rage while the other sulks in a corner...or in their room.

     Today, I would like to encourage all of us to lay these responses aside and find a new way to respond to and resolve conflicts.

1.  Resolve Our conflict With God

      The major reason we have conflict with others is because we are in conflict with God. This may be a new thought to some, but it is a clear Bible teaching: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Romans 8:7, 8.

     The primary reason Jesus, the Son of God was sent into the world was to make reconciliation (or peace) between man and God. "For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.." Colossians 1:19-22 (See also 2nd Corinthians 5:14-21).

     On the cross of Calvary Jesus Christ did everything necessary to satisfy the justice of God. All that remains is for man to accept by faith what Jesus has done for him in order to enter into full peace with God. Once we make peace with God we find that God has done some wonderful things in our mind, affections, and wills. We understand why other people do things that offend us and create conflict. We become more willing to forgive others and even bear the offense…like Jesus did for us on the cross.

2.  Talk to God about our conflict.

     Before ventilating (verbally regurgitating) our wrath on others about how they have been so wrong we need to ventilate our frustrations and hurts to God asking Him to give us wisdom as to how we can resolve the conflict. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith with no doubting…" James 1:5,6a.

     Very often, God shows us that the root of the conflict is that we are expecting something that the other person can't give…but God can. We should be asking and believing God to meet needs that only He can meet.

3.  Change our focus from "our needs" to "their needs".

     Jesus talked about the importance of this in Matthew 7:3. "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?" Jesus was saying that in a lot of our conflicts we have been focusing on a speck in the other person's eye and haven't even noticed that we have a 50' log in ours. Even if the problem is the reverse, the application is that we should be considerate of the other person's needs. The apostle Paul echoed this when he wrote, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" Philippians 2:3,4.

4.  establish ground rules for the controversy.

     Even when nations go to war, they agree on certain weapons that are out of bounds because those weapons would wind up destroying them both. Even so, we should establish ground rules for what is allowed and what is out of bounds in our conflicts with others. The apostle Paul addressed this in Ephesians 4:25-32, "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. (Resolve the conflict quickly and if that cannot be done resolve your anger about it) nor give place to the devil" . When we are living according to the fleshly nature the devil claims "a place" because we are in his domain).' Let him who stole steal no longer; but rather labor…that he may have something to give him who has need.' Let no corrupt word proceed from your mouth (Don't embellish your argument with overemphasis such as "You never…" or "You always…" but what is good for necessary edification that it may impart grace to the hearers.

     State the problem as clearly as you can as to how you understand it and how it makes you feel so they can clearly understand how you are affected. "And do not grieve the Holy spirit of God…(The Holy Spirit lives in the temple of believers bodies. It is out of bounds to speak wrongly or with an attitude that grieves Him.

     "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking  be put away from you, with all malice" (These attitudes are the fruit of unrestrained anger and deepen the conflict rather than resolving it.) "And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one other, even as God in Christ forgave you."   Dr. H. Norman Wright is a highly regarded counselor. He recommends that married couples sit facing one another holding hands and both commit to the other, "I love you and I care about your needs, and how you feel. Even though we have had a disagreement I will listen to what you have to say and try to understand. I am ready to admit it and if I am in the wrong and ask forgiveness. I am also ready to forgive if you have been in the wrong. My goal is to resolve our conflict so that we can have a loving relationship that meets one another's needs." Try it. You'll like it.

5.  Go And Make Peace

     Jesus taught,      "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."   Matthew 5:23, 24.

  1. We can't offer acceptable worship when there is an unresolved conflict,
  2.  We must take action.
    3. Our goal is to make peace.
6.  If we fail in our effort, enlist counsel

     "By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom." Proverbs 13:10l

     Most of us know somebody who has knowledge and who can be objective. When we have reached an impasse, a person like this can help us see a way to work out the conflict. There are people who can help.

     To all the above I recommend three commitments:

  1. I commit my life to Jesus Christ and resolve my conflicts with God.
  2. I commit my attitudes to Jesus Christ and resolve my conflicts God's way.
  3. I commit my words to Jesus Christ and head off conflict by speaking in a gentle and loving way.

Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scripture quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted

    Copyright © 2008 Truth Helpers Inc.