How To Resolve Conflict Biblically

What do we do when conflict arises in our life, relationships, or ministries? Ken Sande, in his excellent book The Peacemaker, outlines a “4G” process of biblical reconciliation. 

  • Glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31): “How can I please and honor God in this situation?”
  • Get the Log Out of Your Eye (Matthew 7:5): “How can I show Jesus’ work in me by taking responsibility for my contribution to this conflict?”
  • Gently Restore (Galatians 6:1): “How can I lovingly serve others by helping them take responsibility for their contribution to this conflict?”
  • Go and Be Reconciled (Matthew 5:24): “How can I demonstrate the forgiveness of God and encourage a reasonable solution to this conflict?” 

Glorify God: Pleasing God as My First Priority

The Apostle Paul faced conflict with the Corinthians over several issues, especially their questioning of his integrity and authority. No small matter, Paul repeatedly clarified what motivated his ministry — God’s glory. “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). “We make it our goal to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9).

Paul teaches us that we must always place our human conflict within the much larger context of God’s eternal glory. If conflict arises in your life, relationships, or ministry, strive to help all parties, including yourself, to ask, “How can I please and honor God in this situation?” It’s not about “winning” the conflict. It’s not even about “win/win” scenarios. It’s about joining together to advance God’s Kingdom. Sometimes that may we require that I “lose” in the eyes of the world. 

Get the Log Out: Examining My Heart as My First Responsibility

While Paul does not identify any particular sins, it is clear that he was continually opening his heart to God’s all-knowing eyes. “I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth” (2 Corinthians 1:23). Paul lived every nanosecond aware that, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

 Paul models for us that when conflict occurs my first responsibility is to examine my heart based upon God’s Word. If conflict arises in your life, relationships, or ministry, strive to help all parties, including yourself, to ask, “How can I show Jesus’ work in me by taking responsibility for my contribution to this conflict?” 

Gently Restore: Loving Others as My First Ministry

Paul mastered the art of gentle restoration. “Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it — I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while —y et now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us” (2 Corinthians 7:8-9). You can almost feel the conflict within Paul as he reflects on his past loving confrontation of the Corinthians. I don’t regret it. I did regret it. My letter hurt you. My letter did not harm you.

Paul demonstrates that when conflict occurs, my first ministry is to love others with Christ-like love. If conflict arises in your life, relationships, or ministry, strive to help all parties, including yourself, to ask,  “How can I lovingly serve others by helping them take responsibility for their contribution to this conflict?”   

Go and Be Reconciled: Restoring Relationship as My First Necessity 

If Paul is the master of gentle restoration, then he is the gold standard of going and being reconciled. Is there a more tender yet compelling example than his words in 2 Corinthians 6:11-13? “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange — I speak as to my children — open wide your hearts also.”

As if that were not enough, he pleads again, “Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you” (2 Corinthians 7:2-3).

Paul not only wanted to demonstrate forgiveness, he also longed to encourage godly restoration. When the Corinthians were unrelenting in their punishment of a sinning brother, Paul taught them what to do instead. “Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:7-8).

Paul demonstrates that when conflict occurs, my first necessity is restoring the relationship. If conflict arises in your life, relationships, or ministry, strive to help all parties, including yourself, to ask, “How can I demonstrate the forgiveness of God and encourage a reasonable solution to this conflict?”   

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Which of the 4Gs seems most pertinent to your situation? How could you apply it?

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