3 Ways to Resolve Conflict Biblically

The other day I checked in on a friend, who also happens to be a pastor’s wife. Seemingly out of nowhere she asked, “what is your church’s policy on masks?” She preceded to explain her church’s division over whether to police masking with their congregation or to allow the congregants to make their own decisions. She described a situation with a particular member who had accused those who were unmasked of being unloving and uncaring. This accusation resulted in further division, and certainly hurt feelings for all involved.

This story is nothing short of a microcosm of the relational division that has spread across our country over the last year and a half. Policies over masking, vaccinations, education, to name a few, have become amplified in our society. These topics have become a source of division, judgment, and even fearmongering. All of these concerns have trickled down to even the most devoted Christians—while we are not of this world, we are certainly affected by it. Shots have been fired from the pulpit to the pews, across Bible studies and youth groups, no one seems to be immune.

When these topics shift from conversation to division, or when they create conflict, how should Christ-followers respond? One would think that a Christian’s response to these difficult topics would be one of love, self-sacrifice, and compassion, but unfortunately, we seem to be reflecting the world a whole lot more than we realize. How can we do better?

To shift our thinking and change our behaviors we need look no further than the example of the early church. Let’s take a lesson from the book of Acts and consider how we might forgive faster, love better, and resolve conflict in a Christ-like manner.

Seek a Spirit of Unity and Harmony

In Acts 2:42-47, the author Luke describes the fellowship of believers. These early believers are recorded as devoting themselves to the apostles’ teachings, to shared meals, and to collective prayer. Through these acts of devotion, the early followers experienced a commonality that is probably unlike anything we’ve experienced in our own lives. These early followers were very close in time to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and then the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost—as described in Acts 2:1-4.

To have witnessed the crucifixion of this rabbi, to have heard of his resurrection, and then to experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit would certainly transform lives in profound ways. This profound transformation is actually available to us—that’s you and me and anyone who genuinely has put their faith in Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 1:7 is a fantastic reminder of the power that dwells within the Christ-follower; this is a power of love and self-control. When we are within the spirit we are not given to fear but instead, we are called to a heart of unity and harmony. When we allow ourselves to be ruled by fear we can make a shift, sometimes unintentionally, away from unity, we can become isolated and end up living in our own echo chambers. If you’ve found yourself here lately, I want to encourage you to spend some time reflecting on what scripture says about fear, then follow it up by looking at the theme of Christian unity.

Ask for Forgiveness and Seek Redemption

After reflecting on unity, it might be time to ask for forgiveness. Yes, fear can absolutely get the best of us. It’s been so easy during this difficult season to get wound up and angry. A lot of things may feel out of control, but even in this perceived chaos we have the ability—actually the call—to respond to our situations with gentleness, grace, compassion, and even forgiveness. We may have inflicted unintentional wounds on our brothers and sisters by attempting to control something that God never once asked us to control.

In your time of reflection perhaps pray this prayer from Psalm 139:23-24Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

The great news is that we serve a God who characterizes compassion and forgiveness. What Jesus teaches about forgiveness is pretty contrary to our own human nature and societal examples. In Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus teaches disciples about how we are to forgive: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

So, we too need to offer up forgiveness in this abundant manner and, likewise, we need to seek forgiveness from those that we have harmed. Remember this verse from Acts 2:38“…repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In this manner, Christians, let us repent for our sinful behaviors and let us be examples of abundant forgiveness to and for others.

Set an Example of Confidence in Christ

The past year and a half have been a rollercoaster of emotion. It’s fair to say that more of us have gotten swept up in it than have not. Even though our faith is in Christ, this side of heaven, we will falter and fail. If that’s you, like it’s me, take a moment a give yourself some grace. How thankful should we be that God’s grace is sufficient for all of our shortcomings?

Since we’re extending ourselves grace, let’s be sure to double down on how much grace we give to those situations and people that cause us pain, anxiety, and anger. Remember, it is because we are free and forgiven that we can love even the unlovable; we can forgive the unforgivable. Our freedom and liberty aren’t for the purpose of self-service but is for the purpose of making Christ known. If people cannot see Christ in us, then we cannot truly call ourselves ambassadors of Christ.

It is through our Christ-given confidence, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the conviction of the word that we can act out that grace, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice. This is the power of Christ within us. So, while the whole world may descend into chaos, we can rest in the confidence that Jesus came to overcome this world. This confidence can lead us to respond to conflict with grace and love. This confidence can draw us back to a posture of unity and harmony with other believers. And finally, this confidence can draw a clear contrast from a naturalistic worldview to a Biblical worldview. It might even draw those who are seeking closer to Christ.

As a final note, consider some of the heroes of the faith as described in the book of Acts. From Stephen to Simon, to Philip to Saul, these men experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and were transformed to live in confidence and faith. Might we also embody this confidence, live a life that is reflective of a transformed heart, and respond to difficult situations with a Christ-like approach.

Rachel Baker is the author of Deconstructed, a Bible study guide for anyone who feels overwhelmed or ill-equipped to study the word of God. She is a pastor’s wife and director of women’s ministries, who believes in leading through vulnerability and authenticity. She is a cheerleader, encourager, and sometimes drill-sergeant. She serves the local church alongside her husband, Kile, in Northern Nevada. They have two amazing kiddos and three dogs. Rachel is fueled by coffee, tacos, and copious amounts of cheese. For more on her and her resources to build your marriage, see her website: www.rachelcheriebaker.com or connect with her on Instagram at @hellorachelbaker.