By McKenzie May
Community is an amazing and vital thing. It’s life-giving, rejuvenating, valuable, and so, so difficult. It is a fact of life that even between the closest of friends, disagreements will arise. The question remains: How do you biblically and lovingly go about conflict resolution with your Christian friends?
Good news! Jesus gave us an instruction manual about this topic in particular, and you can find it in Matthew 18.
STEP 1: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” – Matthew 18:15a
The first step is always the hardest. Ephesians 4:15 reminds us that truth won’t be heard without love, and this balance is critical in confrontation. Most, if not all, conflict stems from misunderstandings that manifests into false assumptions and bitterness. Simply talking to each other and addressing the problem as soon as it comes up could save so much pain. Remember, odds are, you did or are doing something that hurts the other person just as much as what they did to you. Do not be prideful! Be open-minded and take what the other person says to heart in hopes of bettering the relationship in tension. The good news is that “if he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15b)!
STEP 2: “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.” – Matthew 18:16-17a
If a resolution isn’t reached, or if the same problems continue to occur down the road, it’s time to bring in help. Ask one or two mutual friends to come and offer insight. It’s also a good idea to bring in an authoritative figure from the church that you both respect, like a mentor, pastor, etc. They have more experience in handling conflict and will be able to see things that you have overlooked, while helping to moderate.
STEP 3: “And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” -Matthew 18:17b
If, after all that, issues still remain, you need to redefine your relationship with your friend. This doesn’t mean cutting off all ties, or holding a grudge against this person. Instead, we are called to treat them with the same compassion and love that we should with all people and continue to call them to repentance, but not to consider them close brothers or sisters. These are people that we need to be actively and sincerely praying for, and asking the Lord to soften their hearts and to work to keep our own hearts from judgment and hatred.
Conflict resolution will never be easy, but it’s also never going away. If there is someone you need to talk to, I encourage you to follow these steps as soon as possible! The way in which we handle conflict is just another way that we can show the power and character of the Lord. Forgiveness and actively loving someone who hurt you are traits that are impossible in our human state and can only be evidence of the way that the Holy Spirit works in our hearts. Conflict resolution is an opportunity to share the truth and joy of the gospel; your love for others is a testament to the love of Christ in you!