Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11
“Living with the saints above may be glory, but living with the saints below is quite another story” goes the aphorism. It’s true. You can’t have a parade of two cars without deciding which one goes first, and that’s where the disagreements start. But you are thinking, “I thought Christians weren’t supposed to fight and argue!” That’s not quite the reality of the situation, nor has it ever been.
The Old Testament is full of the stories of individuals who had conflicts, and that same struggle continued even after Christ had come. Even the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost didn’t change human nature. Individuals disagreed. Some had open conflict, and, at times, sides were drawn. Both groups felt “we are right and the others are wrong.”
Take, for example, the crisis that threatened to destroy the early church which was on fire for God, touching lives, demonstrating the miraculous power of God. It seemed that its progress was unstoppable until Paul and Barnabas came back from their first major missionary trip and told of the remarkable conversions of Gentiles who had also experienced the touch of God, even as had the Jews at Pentecost.
Whoa! “Did you say, ‘Gentiles’?” some said. That very word was inflammatory. They said, “Salvation is of the Jews! We can’t accept Gentiles unless they submit to the Jewish law!” And that’s when the Council of Jerusalem was called—the first major church business meeting which threatened to divide the oneness of the Spirit which came after Pentecost.
You’ll find the whole story in Acts 15; however, the important truth, often overlooked, is that the conflict was resolved. Finally, writes Dr. Luke, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” (Acts 15:28). That was the solution.
In this incident, there are five steps to conflict resolution, ones which work whether you have a church disagreement, a dispute in your office or board, or an argument with your husband or wife.
Step #1: Free and open discussion. Ignoring issues never makes them go away, but admitting there is a problem and confronting the issue is the first important step towards resolution.
Step #2: Acknowledge your differences without blame. It’s the last part, “without blame,” which is difficult. Obviously you have different opinions; otherwise, one of you would be unnecessary.
Step #3: Seek the mind of God. For His children, winning, proving the other wrong, should never be the goal. Rather it should be, “Lord, what do you want done in this situation? What is your will?” And when you submit your will to the High Court of Heaven, it is amazing how quickly what you want pales in light of His solution.
Step #4: Be willing to form a consensus. That means you find the middle ground wherein lies peace, not necessarily proving the other wrong. Negotiation and compromise are necessary, and at times no one is fully satisfied, yet holding onto your views usually leaves you bitter enemies and divided.
Step #5: Once an issue is settled, abide by the decision. “Let us run toward the goal of peace,” wrote Clement, one of the early church fathers. “Divide and conquer” is still the modus operandum of the enemy, but God’s remedy is the binding together of peace.
To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11). That’s the solution.
A final thought. Resolve conflict and your office will run better. Your home will be happier. Your company will be more successful and, in the end, you will be happier and feel better. That’s God’s purpose and it always works.
Resource reading: Acts 15