Conflict is inevitable in any enduring relationship. Ken Sande's book Peacemaking for Families makes this clear and reminds us that conflict is more an assignment from God than an accident waiting to happen. So if conflict is one way God refines us, and is something we should embrace as part of sanctification, wouldn't we want to be pretty good at resolving it biblically? The problem is, most of us do not know how to be a peacemaker or, when we do try to resolve conflict biblically, our flesh gets in the way. I believe the secret to handling conflict well lies in knowing where and how it starts! The Bible gives us an abundantly clear picture in James 4:1-12. The chapter opens with a million dollar question and a somewhat surprising answer:
"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this that your passions are at war within you?"
Notice the source of conflict? Is it a difficult person? An unreasonable child? A nagging or domineering spouse? No doubt all those relational struggles may explain the opportunity for conflict but not the source of it or why we sometimes choose to return evil or even engage in the relational war. The Bible points to our heart, our passions, what we want most, as the culpable party in any conflict we chose to get entangled in. With that being the case, the key to handling conflict biblically is the condition of our heart. To be a peacemaker, we need to cultivate a renewed mind, well informed emotions, and a will submitted to God and His Word.
Here are questions I have learned to ask myself when preparing for potential conflict situations or hard conversations. I want to share them with you and explain how they will go a long way to helping you approach, handle, and often resolve conflict at least as far as it has to do with you (Roman 12:18).
1. How do I approach this person or situation? (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
How you approach conflict depends on your assessment of the potential for true biblical resolution. Is the other person rebellious (perhaps even dangerous), fearful, ignorant, or just really hurt by something you or someone else did? The Bible is clear there are people who are not interested in advice, reconciliation, or real peace. So, you may choose to wait or not approach that person directly.