Dealing With Conflict in Your Assembly
Have you ever felt the need to write up a code of conduct when working with folks within the assemblies? Most people would argue that it shouldn’t be necessary if we are in the Word. Everyone should be following the example Christ set for us and the instructions written in the New Testament.
But as I was discussing conflict with a good friend of mine, she pointed out to me that not all conflicts are spiritual issues, they are often human issues. I think this is the main reason why there are many instructions in the New Testament in how we are to behave towards one another.
There will always be human issues, emotions, strong family bonds and difficulties with change that will create conflict. Paul himself experienced conflict.
We have to remember that these brothers and sisters in Christ are people we love, and just because we don’t agree on inconsequential things doesn’t mean there is a spiritual problem in that person.
The spiritual problems come when we do not follow the instructions in the Bible given to resolve the conflict or we don’t even bother to resolve it at all and run away from it or neglect it. I get the impression among believers that we think if there is conflict then there is sin, and that just isn’t always true.
We avoid conflict and we talk about conflict like it is a bad thing and ultimately, people run away from conflict rather than dealing with it.The result is that we don’t learn how to apply those Biblical steps to deal with the conflict and grow in love for one another by taking the time to settle these things scripturally.
Winning your brother
Matthew 18:15 speaks of winning your brother. The motive in going to a brother or sister should always be to win your brother. To go and gain him/her back, to reconcile.
I see this as such a huge problem when we as believers encounter conflict and then decide to leave service, ministry, churches and friends because we never learn what it is to come to a healthy conclusion to conflict.
It is a broken way to fellowship with one another and will continue to plague any good fellowship we seek to have with other believers in the Lord.
Love one another
Quite frankly, we do not, within our immediate families, separate from one another over silly differences of opinions because we love each other.Why would we allow separation among one another within our family in Christ? Especially considering we are commanded to love one another?
I know right now there are some folks reading this who will immediately think of the verse about removing people and marking people who are in sin but this is not what I am talking about.
I am talking about believers in fellowship with one another, not under discipline and who are pretty much assembling together without deep spiritual problems or sin. There are a pile of clear instructions in the Bible to do with how we treat one another, but sin can become a barrier in resolving conflict.
What not to do
Sin happens when we do or do not do the following things:
1) We don’t speak with the person directly that we have conflict with. “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)
Don’t waste time! Go, seek out your brother in order to reconcile!
2) We speak before considering our words. “This you know, my beloved brethren But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)
Oh how often we wish we could pull back strong words once they have already left our mouths. This is certainly something to practice. Like practicing the piano, we need to practice being quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger!
3) We don’t forgive each other. “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” (Hebrews 12:15)
Bitterness is like a deadly infection that spreads and the root of bitterness comes from not forgiving our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes the Lord will even require us to forgive someone who has not repented.
4) Pride rules our hearts. “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” (Romans 12:16)
5) We are selfish. “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”(Philippians 2:4)
If we fellowshipped with each other only looking after the interests of ourselves then it would not take long for our assemblies to dissolve.
6) We gossip. I feel the need to include Webster’s definition of gossip since I don’t think there is a really good understanding of what gossip is. Gossip is a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others. Rumor or report of an intimate nature.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”(Ephesians 4:29)
My mom always used to say “If you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all.” This rule does not just apply when the people we are talking about are within earshot!
7) We don’t accept constructive criticism (also a pride thing). “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”(Hebrews 12:11)
Wow, we need to be trained by discipline! We must learn how not to be wounded by constructive criticism and choose to consider what others say to us. Could this really be a problem we have been blind to? Can this lead us to being better believers, parents, wives, husbands?
Let us not allow ourselves to be willfully ignorant of our own weaknesses in refusing to listen to the gracious words of brothers and sisters in Christ who love us!
I am so thankful for the Word of God to give us good and proper instruction on life stuff that He is well aware of. He didn’t leave us to our own devices, knowing full well the struggles we can encounter as believers. We should all have a strong desire to not only know what the instructions are, but to live them!
Preserving our testimony
What a great testimony it can be to the lost when we all love one another and work well together for the glory of God our Father, to the Spirit living within us and to the Lord who sacrificed himself for the church!