Lesson 9 – Look to the Interests of Others

Key Scripture: Philippians 2:3-4

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

I. Conflict Management Styles- CMS can usually be linked to personality levels of assertiveness (confidently direct) and cooperativeness (willingness to work toward a common objective).

            A. Avoidance- usually non assertive and non cooperative behavior; indifferent to each others needs and real issues are usually ignored. Not a good long term strategy. Appropriate in trivial matters.

            B. Accommodation- usually a non assertive and cooperative behavior; allow another’s needs to be met at the expense of your own. Appropriate when peace is more important to you than winning. Proverbs 19:11

            C. Competitive- usually an assertive and non cooperative behavior; it’s about you and making sure your needs are met regardless of costs. Appropriate when defending Godly principles. Tends to be inefficient and it damages personal         relationships. I want the whole pie attitude.

            D. Collaborative- usually an assertive and cooperative behavior; attempts to see the issues from all sides; acknowledges and accepts differences; and explores alternative solutions to meet everyone’s needs.

It is important to understand your own CMS before you attempt to negotiate; will usually depend on your audience and the issue.

II. Negotiating Steps to Consider

A.    Evaluate yourself- you need to be aware of your own biases and “hot button” triggers; doing so allows you to anticipate emotional responses in advance to avoid damage to a cooperative environment. Pray for the other person; it helps your attitude. Focus on the people and the problem.  Philippians 4: 8

B.    Know what is at stake- clarify your needs; know your facts; it highlights priorities and allows for the exploration of solutions; ask the following: Matthew 5: 25-26

  • Best result if not settled?
  • Worst result if not settled?
  • Most likely result if not settled?

            This will help understand how a negotiated settlement can meet your needs better than the alternatives.

C.  Time and Place- time must be acceptable and appropriate for everyone involved; location must feel safe; want to feel safe taking risks in communication.

D.    Listen- natural tendency to speak to make sure the other person knows our needs; by listening first, we improve the likelihood that our concerns will be understood; it may help you understand them better; eye contact important; don’t talk over the other person. Use the following response techniques: James 1: 19-20

  • Encourage- you want to know their side
  • Clarify- don’t assume; let them know you want more information so you can understand
  • Validate- show empathy and appreciation for their feelings
  • Body language and expressions- be careful on messages you send

E.    Assert your needs- be clear and concise while respecting the needs of the other person. Luke 8: 33-37

  • Be prepared for hostile responses; they won’t necessarily use the same listening strategies or have a cooperative personality.
  • Use responses to clarify differences
  • Use responses to evaluate differing needs

F.    Be Flexible- once the issues are clear it is important to approach solutions with an open and creative mind. Joshua 17: 3-4

  • Brainstorm multiple solutions or options
  • Defer judgment to keep open dialogue
  • Stay focused
  • Be objective and reasonable
  • Memorialize understandings

Dealing with gridlock- failure to reach resolution can lead to anger and/or withdrawal from the process; expect this possibility; remain calm and patient.

  • Take a break
  • Reframe the issue
  • Breakdown the problem into manageable issues
  • Reality check of non-negotiated alternatives

H.   Seal the deal- Ask the following: Proverbs 16: 11

  • Is it fair?
  • Is it balanced?
  • Is it realistic?
  • Is it specific enough?
  • Does it rely on others to enforce?
  • Is it future oriented?

Lesson 8 – Forgive as God Forgave You

KEY VERSE: Colossians 3: 12-14

  • What Forgiveness is NOT:
    1. Is not a feeling; it is an act of will
    2. Is not forgetting; forgetting is passive; forgiveness is deliberative
    3. Is not overlooking or condoning a harmful actions; there will be consequences
    4. Is not being polite or making excuses regarding a wrong
    5. Is not giving up power to another
    6. Is not trusting an untrustworthy person

 

  • Forgiveness is a DECISION to let go or release: Ephesians 34: 30-32
    1. Results of withholding forgiveness? Anger, resentment, hurt, gossip, revenge….POISION WE DRINK HOPING OTHERS WILL DIE
    2. Obstacles
      1. Lack of desire
      2. Pride; it’s their fault, so let them initiate it
      3. Fear; may make me look weak or feel rejected
      4. Bad advice
      5. Relying on emotions; forgiveness is not a feeling
      6. Want a quick fix and forgiveness may take time
      7. Rationalize the others actions so we don’t have to forgive
    3. Forgiveness requires hard work and a changing of the heart: What is fueling your heart?
      1. Deny one’s self
      2. Giving up revenge
      3. Accepting suffering
      4. Letting God be the Judge
    4. Doing the Impossible
      1. Recognize we cannot do it alone; forgiving is not a natural characteristic for us; Ephesians 4:31-32; failure to forgive grieves the Holy Spirit
      2. Unless our hearts have been changes by God, satan will continue to control our thoughts and words and prevent us from rebuilding relationships
      3. We receive the ability to forgive and distribute it to others
      4. Joseph and his brothers; Stephen being stoned; Christ on the cross

 

  • The Process- Share this with the person you are forgiving
    1. Refusal to dwell on the incident
    2. Willingness to not bring up the incident and use it as a weapon; exception is a pattern of sin
    3. Willingness to not talk to others about the incident
    4. Refusal to let an incident interfere in the relationship

THIS KIND OF FORGIVENESS IS RARE, BUT IT IS EVIDENCE OF OUR FORGIVENESS THROUGH CHRIST

  • When to forgive: It depends; minor offenses can be forgiven without repentance, but serious offenses may require 2 steps:
    1. Attitude of forgiveness until repentance; Acts 7:60
    2. Granting of forgiveness; Luke 23: 34
    3. Reconciliation; Acts 2: 36-41
    4. What about the Consequences of sin?
      1. David; 2 Samuel; Psalm 32
      2. Proverbs 19:19
      3. Describe examples of when you had to suffer consequences for your sin 

 

  • Back to the Basics

 

  1. Reconciliation (Replacement Principle); Matthew 5:24; Change in attitude leads to change in relationship; May take several attempts
    1. Thought; Luke 6: 27-28
    2. Word
    3. Deed; I John 3:16-20

Lesson 7 – Take One or Two Others Along

In the last two sessions we have looked at how to conduct one on one peacemaking confrontations in reasonable detail.  Now it is time to address the big question that was raised.  That question is:

  • What does one do about somebody that won’t resolve a conflict to the mutual satisfaction of both parties on a one on one basis?

Before we begin to answer that question let’s look at some of the reasons why a person may not resolve a confrontation at the one on one level.  Can you think of some of those reasons?  (Open to class)

  • Disagreement over the proposed solution.
  • Disagreement over the nature of the argument.
  • Disagreement over who is to blame for what.
  • Rebellion against God.
  • Laziness or apathy.
  • Carelessness or recklessness.
  • Avoidance.
  • Denial of the problem.
  • Wants to keep the conflict going.

As we can see there are a myriad of possible explanations of why an opponent doesn’t want to resolve a conflict.  As you might expect God has a masterful approach to any of these situations.  Let’s see what He says:

Matt 18:16 – But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.  NASU

Deut 19:15 – A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.  NASU

In our first verse, Jesus quotes His own words found in the “Book of the Law” which we call Deuteronomy.  (Ask the class why I said it this way)

Let’s apply the Matthew 18:16 verse to all the reasons we identified for an opponent not resolving the conflict.

Disagreements

When we take a matter in front of two or more people who are here to help us work things out we are sometimes seeking to clear up disagreements on factual matters.  Independent or otherwise impartial godly people will be able to look at situations with more reasoning and less emotion than two adversaries.  These impartial advisers will be able to help us identify some important information:

  • Absolute facts such as dates, times, dollar amounts and who is directly involved.
  • Subjective facts.  These are items that may be difficult to pinpoint completely accurately, however they can be reasonably ascertained.  Examples include; the nature of the disagreement, or what are we fighting about; who said what and when; potential solutions.
  • Responsibility.  After listening with purpose, the impartial advisors will be able to determine which party has what responsibility for certain parts of the conflict.

Once some of these things are laid out in reasoned terms, it may be immediately possible to come to a mutually satisfactory solution.  This will be looked at in more detail when we discuss “process” later in the lesson.

Attitudes

Often an experienced impartial advisor will recognize some attitudes in one or maybe both parties to the conflict that are hindering successful resolution.  Godly advisors will be looking for attitudes that run counter to the verses we used last week from Philippians.  This time we are going to add the next verse which highlights the “attitude” issue for us.

Phil 2:3-5 – Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.  NASU

Impartial godly advisors will therefore be looking for some of the ungodly attitudes that we identified earlier as “reasons” that some people won’t resolve conflicts.  Let’s get specific about these now:

  • Unloving attitudes.  This could include apathy, carelessness, disrespect and recklessness.  Here are a couple of verses that seem appropriate:

John 15:12 – This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.  NASU

John 15:17 – This I command you, that you love one another.  NASU

  • Rebellious attitudes.  This includes things like, “no” I’m simply not going to deal with it, to “I don’t care what God or the Bible says”.  It also includes the case of a person who wants to keep the matter and the relationship in open conflict.  We found out something about rebellion last week:

1 Sam 15:21 (a) – For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.  NASU

  • Slothful attitudes.  Laziness or the unwillingness to work and entitlement mindsets are the problem here.  Let’s see what God says about such things:

Prov 12:24 – The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor.  NASU

Prov 26:16 – The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can give a discreet answer.  NASU

2 Thess 3:10 – For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.  NASU

Is there anything else someone would like to add on attitudes as barriers to resolving conflicts?

Denials

A significant barrier to resolution is put up when one party enters into denial about a situation.  While we can sometimes see this when in a one on one confrontation, it is hard to overcome, this is when having a couple of extra people looking at a problem can really help.

Here is an open question.  What is denial?

Webster’s says it is, “A refusal to acknowledge the truth”.

Wikipedia says, “Denial is a defense mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too painful to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.”

There seems to be three major aspects to denial, and they are:

  • Denying the reality of the fact.  This is normally what most people think of as “denial”.
  • Admit the fact, but deny the seriousness of it, we call that minimization.
  • Admit the fact and the seriousness, but deny responsibility, that is called transference or sometimes blaming others.

In a confrontation sometimes one party will acknowledge the facts but deny it is “a big deal”, and often they will even blame others for their part of the problem.  At the core of denial is the sin of dishonesty.  A person who is in denial about something is lying to themselves and even when the lie is exposed refuses to repent or change their mind.  That is why it is smart to have two or more godly advisors helping out with a person in denial.

I think all of us here understand this, so unless there are any discussion items I’m going to move on to the second part of our lesson.  This is about the process of bringing in two or three witnesses and all that might mean.

The Matthew 18 Process

In looking at this process we are going to be sure to place the taking of others and getting the church involved in the correct context.  One underlying principle here is that we must at all times keep the “circle of involvement” to as small a group as possible and for as long as possible.  We must also realize that this process only fully applies to people who are members of the same church.  It then also applies to conflicts between members of different churches if the two church leaderships agree on applying Matthew 18 to conflict.

A Word about Applying Matthew 18 to Non-believers

The principles involved here can apply to conflicts between a believer and non-believer.  This is because they are godly principles, and God’s ways are superior to man’s ways.  However non-believers are not subject to church authority and are not under the internal conviction of the Holy Spirit.  This means that we cannot expect them to respond and react as a fellow Christian might.

This brings me to the point where I want to say that we must remember that conflict brings us the opportunity to glorify God.

In a conflict with a non-believer we can begin the resolution process by explaining to the opponent that we are Christians and are therefore bound by belief to follow Christ and His teachings on how to resolve conflict.  We can give them a short explanation of the process and some of the principles involved.  Then we can move forward.  As we move forward in this situation our goal is not to win the conflict it is to win their heart over to Christ by our witness.

Now let’s look at the complete process first as defined in Matthew 18:

Matt 18:15-20 If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.  Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.  Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.  NASU

I’m going to follow what the book lines out here, and I’ll add a little color when it seems to be appropriate.  (Discuss the verses 18-20 first)

Step 1 – Overlook Minor Offenses

We have basically covered this in previous lessons.  So, unless there are some questions or other points I’m going to move on.

Step 2 – Talk in Private

We have gone over this in some detail in the last two weeks, so I’ll move on to the next step.

Step 3 – Take One or Two Others Along

Our author does a thorough job of explaining this step, so I am just going to assume that everybody had read the chapter.  Instead I’m going to focus on a couple of other points here.

  • Choosing the “one or two others”.
  • What to expect from this step.

Choosing the others

Let’s open this up here by asking the question, “Who would you choose to take along and how would you pick them?”

I hope that most of us would pick people of godly character and high moral integrity.  This would be true whether they were mutually agreed on choices or whether we had to select some individuals to help us with a difficult and uncooperative opponent.  Here are a couple of selections of verses from the Bible that relate to selection of qualified individuals.

Ex 18:21-22 – You shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain;…………….. 22 Let them judge the people at all times;  NASU

1 Tim 3:8-12 – Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.  These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.  Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.  NASU

What is interesting to me is that the Bible places little premium of formal training in conflict mediation.  It does, however, focus on the godly character and depth of faith of chosen arbiters.

How do we find these people?  They are all around us!  Just ask the church leaders and they will be able to come up with some names of people to contact about helping out.

What to Expect

Since we are dealing with fallen people, first ourselves, then our opponents and lastly the arbiters or witnesses, it is not possible to accurately predict what we might expect from such interactions.  What we can do though is to look at three broad generalizations of expected outcomes.

  • Mutually acceptable resolution.  Both sides agree to the outcome or settlement without reservation.  God is glorified through following His process.  Lingering anger or other difficult emotions will also be resolved, and relationships will be restored and even strengthened.
  • Mutually agreed on resolution.  An agreement is made, with one or both parties, while agreeing to settle, don’t believe the resolution was fair to them.  This kind of settlement could still result in lingering resentments or bitterness, and most likely broken relationships.
  • Imposed resolution.  In this, the individuals brought in to assist in resolving the situation would have the power and authority to determine a settlement.  Usually both parties are not satisfied with the compromise involved.  The negative emotional background will typically not be resolved, resulting in cemented in negative attitudes and broken relationships.

I would like to remind us of two verses from a previous lesson that apply to these situations:

Prov 4:23 – Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.  NASU

Jer 17:9-10 – The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?  I, the Lord, search the heart; I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.  NASU

It is the state of our hearts that determine if a settlement in a dispute can be resolved in godly agreement.  The beginning of a mutually acceptable resolution is to put our hearts right before God, and that happens before any resolution meeting with the two or three others.  If either party acts out of the self-centeredness found in their heart it will be hard for any godly advisors to help.

Let’s now move on to what happens if no resolution is made, step 4.

Step 4 – Tell it to the Church

In verse 17 of our focus passage, Jesus tells us to “tell it to the church”.  The book says this, and I want to reiterate it.

  • This does not mean stand up in front of the whole congregation and show the dirty laundry of a dispute to all.

God is not glorified if this happens; there are several reasons for this:

  • One or both parties are openly shamed.  Any dispute resolution will then have a strong barrier formed against it.  Shamed people tend to run away from the open exposure.
  • It opens the church up to church-wide gossip.  We would be fooling ourselves is we believed that church members wouldn’t talk about this, at least with each other.  Gossip is sinful behavior; this means that a public display of a lingering dispute would most likely result in giving people the opportunity to sin.
  • It dishonors God by dishonoring His church.  As the dirty laundry becomes public, non-believers will see the church as a place where people do not love one another.  The evidence for this being true is that they are in disagreements that are public and the people can’t resolve them, so how can they possibly say they “love one another”.

When Jesus spoke of this “telling it to the church” He gave us the freedom to choose what that meant.  Yes, we can broadcast it to all, but there are better ways.  The essence of this step is to take the issue to the church leadership if an acceptable resolution cannot be found at step three.  Dependent on the size of the church that might mean the pastor.  At our church this would most likely mean the pastoral management team who are Elders charged with maintaining the spiritual integrity of the church.

The individual or individuals with the authority and responsibility for dealing with adjudicating and resolving conflicts that get this far have a significant burden.  We ought to consider the following items that are not mentioned in the book.

  • The reputation of Christ is challenged.  Inside; and maybe more importantly, outside the church people in the community will be watching to see if God is really working in the situation.
  • The name of the church; its integrity will be in view of people that know what is going on.
  • The individuals standing in the situation on behalf of the church have their personal integrity at stake.
  • These same individuals have the responsibility of discerning and then explaining the will of God in the matter under dispute.
  • Any individuals in the conflict who are in rebellion against Christ are running the risk of moving on to step 5, which is a step of disfellowship, or the breaking of relationships.

As we can see from this list step 4 is a highly serious step to have to take and should not be taken lightly.  It is far better to try to resolve the situation before this step.

It becomes one notch harder when there are two churches involved if the two believers are parts of different congregations.  Then we have two sets of leaders having to consider what to do.  Even a simple, but unresolved, dispute has the potential to cause two churches to disagree with each other over something, which could lead to soured relationships between believers, or believing congregations.

If the problem is still unresolved then the church leadership is obligated through Jesus’ words to move to step 5.

Step 5 – Treat Him or Her as a Non-believer

Let me start by saying a couple of things here:

  • Any individual arriving at step 5 might be in disobedience to God and His church representatives and they are to be treated as if they are unbelievers.  This doesn’t mean that are not Christians, or that their salvation is forfeited.
  • While church leaders may determine that such a person ought to be asked to leave the church until they repent, that course of action is not the preferred action.

As our book says, an unrepentant person ought to lose their membership and any privilege that goes with it.  This includes any leadership, teaching or other service roles they may have.  They are to be denied communion, as they are not in right relationship with Christ.  Finally they are to be actively evangelized, where church members who know the situation will attempt to work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help the offending person to see the need for repentance.

The whole object of step 5 is to help the offender repent and seek forgiveness and, of course, resolution to the problem.  At some point in this matter the offender ought to be asked to prayerfully consider the following verses:

Prov 3:11-12 – My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.  NASU

Once any of us has pointed this out to another person, we need to get out of the way and allow the Holy Spirit to work through conviction.

A point the book brings up, a point that I think is very important to grasp, is the idea of misplaced compassion.  On page 195 of the book, the author quotes the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

  • Nothing is so cruel as the tenderness that consigns another to his sin.  Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.

When we stop an individual from experiencing the consequences of their sin, except in the case of permanent harm, we are enabling that sin in their lives.  Can someone give us an example or two of this in action from their own experiences?

(The spouse of an alcoholic who makes excuses for them when they can’t get to work the next day, the parent of a teen in jail for speeding)

The placing of an unrepentant individual into a step 5 consequence is an act of love not an act of punishment and we must all be firm in these situations.

Performing a step 5 action on a person is a hard thing, and like a lot of hard choices it leads to higher levels of moral integrity.  We all relate to the idea that people who can make the hard moral choices deserve respect.  When a church is serious about following the commands of scripture, both it and its leaders will be held in appropriate higher godly esteem because of it.  This glorifies God.

I am going to stop there tonight and open the floor up for any last questions.

Lesson 6 – Speak the Truth in Love

Tonight is our sixth lesson in the peacemaker series.  We are at the halfway point, and by the end of the evening we will be 60% toward our goal of being equipped to become peacemakers.  I’m sure you would agree that we have heard evidence in our personal stories that have been shared that God is at work in us and is “sanctifying us” in the area of peacemaking in our lives.  Every one of us is personally spiritually enriched through studying this subject and then taking it out of the classroom and into our homes and workplaces.  We bless God, as we do things His way that we used to do our way, we bless others by dealing with them with more compassion and understanding and we bless ourselves by becoming more peaceful within our own souls.  The kingdom of Heaven has been increased, and the kingdom of the world decreased because of this.  That is always the result when God’s people work under the direction, guidance and power of the Holy Spirit to act in godly ways.

In this lesson we are going to look at some of the things to do and not to do, as well as some strategies and tactics to use in our personal confrontations.

To be sure we all understand the difference between a strategy and a tactic let’s define them for our use in the context of our lesson.

A strategy is a carefully laid out plan of action that has an objective of accomplishing something.  The word strategy is most often used in military situations and also applied in other confrontational situations such as political campaigns.  One way to think about personal confrontations is that they are small personal battles.  There is a big difference between a worldly confrontation and a godly confrontation though.  It is that in the world the aim is to win with the opponent becoming the loser.  In a godly confrontation the aim is for both sides to become winners.

We are going to look at three strategies in this lesson, they are:

  1. Applying the Great Commission
  2. Purposeful Listening
  3. Speaking the Truth in Love.

Inside every strategy are smaller types of activities which added together make up the whole strategy.  These are called tactics.  In the context of personal conflict, tactics are methods of taking actions or employing forces in confrontations.  Examples could be; using scriptures, telling stories or confessing inappropriate behaviors.

Any questions so far?  Let’s move into our first strategy.

Strategy One – Applying the Great Commission

First let’s see what the “Great Commission” actually is:

Matt 28:18-20 – And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  NASU

We’ve all heard this before, and seen it portrayed in movies and quoted in sermons, so then how can we apply this to our personal conflicts?  I’m going to open this up for some input from the class.

Jesus said that all authority in heaven, meaning the unseen spiritual places, and on earth, which is where we live, has been given to Him.  This means that he is our commander in chief, our General, our leader and we are to follow Him.

This brings us to our first tactic under strategy one;

  • It is that we personally obey Christ in all our confrontations.

Let’s look at a couple of verses about this:

1 Sam 15:22-23(b) – Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.”  NASU

1 Peter 1:14-16 – As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”  NASU

(That last verse included a quote from the OT, Lev 11:44-45)

I don’t really want to say much about this, because it is something we have all heard many times, and so here are just a few bullet points:

  • Our obedience matters to God.
  • To obey requires a faithful heart.
  • Obedient actions require the power of the Holy Spirit for success.
  • The more we know what Scripture says, the better job we do of obeying our commander in chief.

The next part of the great commission tells us to “go and make disciples”.  This gives us our second tactic under strategy one:

  • We must help to educate our opponents about what God says on the subject of confrontation.

What kinds of things can we do to accomplish the making of disciples?  (Open)

  • Know the word of God, particularly about conflict.  Be able to quote or at least paraphrase Matthew 18:12-20 and Matthew 6:14-15.
  • Be a witness in our actions regarding conflict, notably in confession.
  • Be prepared to explain the gospel.  Particularly that we all are law breakers, sinners and imperfect, and that hope for fixing confrontational issues is found in following Christ and His instructions.
  • Be able to discuss and demonstrate godly actions such as grace and forgiveness.

The third part of the great commission we will consider is where it says “teaching them to observe all I have commanded you”.  Our key words here are “teaching” “observe”, and I would like to explain why.

The word translated as “teaching” in the original Greek carries the meaning of “instructing though actions”.  An example of this style or method of teaching is the way we are taught how to play many sports by coaches.  They show us how to swing our golf club or tennis racquet.  The word “observe” here means just that, our opponents in a conflict are to watch us as we live out Jesus commands.

Our third tactic is therefore this:

  • We are to be witnesses of Christ’s presence in our lives through our action of obeying Him in the midst of conflict.

And with that statement I will conclude discussion of the first strategy, except for any questions we may have.

Strategy Two – Purposeful Listening

The conflict strategy I have called “purposeful listening” is sometimes called “active listening” or “listening with intent”.  The purpose part of this strategy is to act with deliberate intent to accomplish some important goals; goals like these:

  • To understand the other person’s point of view.
  • To gather facts.
  • To demonstrate respect for the other person.
  • To determine the spiritual and emotional condition of the other person.

Within this strategy we have five tactics:

  • Patience, Focus, Clarification, Reflection and Agreement

Each of these five are actions that are under our personal self-control that will help us to reach the goals we just looked at.

Strategy Two, Tactic 1 – Patience

Patience is actually a gift of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23, which we will look at below in Strategy Three) and so that when we exercise it we are using God’s gift in our actions.  In the context of conflict we have a simple guide on this subject from Proverbs:

Prov 18:13 – He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.  NASU

When we leap into an argument or other conflict without being patient to let the other side complete their points we often end up with egg on our face.  The scripture calls this folly and shame.  This is because we jump to premature conclusions, or go into defensive mode as we feel like our character is attacked.

Exercising the personal discipline and spiritual gift of patience will reward both sides in a conflict, primarily though improved mutual understanding and respect.

Strategy Two, Tactic 2 – Focus

Have you ever been in a disagreement and discovered that your mind is wandering?  Most of us have, and this is because we haven’t been disciplined in our listening to focus on what is actually being said.  The inevitable result of this is misunderstanding, which then leads to either prolonged conflicts or even worse, new conflicts.

When we are engaged in a one to one confrontation there are many ways that we can communicate lack of focus, meaning we are not listening.  If we think about it all of us have most likely been accused of “not listening” by someone we know when we are in a conversation.  How can they know this?  Our lack of focus is almost always transmitted to others through our body language.  Can someone demonstrate an example of this?  (Do a couple of them with some class members)

The big issue here is that when our conflict opponent believes that they have seen a lack of focus they feel disrespected.  Let us not trivialize this in any way.  Within our own culture in the US people get killed or physically assaulted over this every day.  Some people who sense personal disrespect in a conflict even change their attitude to the conflict.  They may go from willing to work it out to winning at all costs, and anything in between.

Any more thoughts on this tactic?

Strategy Two, Tactic 3 – Clarification

Although I haven’t said this up to this point, one thing that is very helpful within this strategy is the taking of notes.  I find note taking very helpful in accomplishing the first two tactics, but most helpful here in clarification.

As the conflict unfolds, as we are being patient and focused, we can be taking notes, which demonstrates the seriousness of hearts in dealing with whatever issues are being raised.  Then when we have a natural break of some kind, for example, as I’m originally English I would insist we stop for tea from time to time, we can then pick on a couple of things from our notes that we want to clarify.

Clarification generally involves seeking more information or further explanations on something.  It demonstrates respect because the other party knows from your questions that you were listening and were interested in hearing what they had to say.

There is only one concern I would have within this tactic.  I have seen some people use this, and I have been guilty of this in the past, to prolong or obfuscate the conflict.  Obfuscation occurs when we want to “muddy the waters” around a conflict.  People who do this are being self-centered as they are most often trying to protect themselves from losing the conflict or being exposed in some way.  The way this seems to happen is that a conflict gets side tracked, with the participants going off on a rabbit trail.  This is a favorite tactic of defense attorneys who have a weak position; if they can get the court and jury side-tracked then they may have strengthened their position.

Any questions before we move on?

Strategy Two, Tactic 4 – Reflection

Reflection or reflective listening is an excellent tool for confirming to other person in a conflict that you have heard them.  Reflection accomplishes two important things:

  • It is the way you can “verify” their perspective on the facts or content.  This does mean that you agree with their perspective on the facts or content.  It simply means that you comprehend it.  This gives the other party an opportunity to correct something if they think you may have misunderstood one or two items.
  • It is also the way you can “validate” their feelings that surround whatever is in contention.  When you validate someone’s feelings you are acknowledging their emotional responses.  It must always be remembered that NOT validating another person’s feelings is very often interpreted as not validating them as a person.  (Discuss this)

When we reflect well in a confrontation we establish an environment of mutual respect and understanding even though we may disagree on the facts and how to solve the issues.  We can then build on this base of mutual respect and understanding and move forward in the conflict together as problem solvers.  Good reflection tends to lessen the adversarial nature of some confrontations.

Strategy Two, Tactic 5 – Agreement

Agreement is most often the next tactic we use after reflection, as it comes naturally after establishing the opponent’s perspective on things.  Agreement is just establishing all the things both of you agree on about the conflict.

There are facts that you may agree with each other about.  Things like dates, times, people involved or affected by the situation and who did or said what.  If we have committed an offense as part of the events leading up to the conflict we can admit or confess it as part of the truth.  Confessing our part, which we discussed two lessons ago is very effective in putting our opponent at ease because they will no longer have the difficult task of confronting us about it.

Sometimes our opponent will bring up something that we have done as part of the situation that may be an offense and that we are not aware of.  If we recognize it as true, it is very healthy to admit and agree with the other person that we did do “it”.  If we don’t immediately see it that way, it is advisable to go back to clarification, tactic 3, or if it is particularly difficult, to ask for time to personally reflect on it.  This may involve adjourning the meeting for a while or simply taking a break.

If we do choose to confess something, it is wise to be very specific about it.  This is because in any conflict situation there are usually two parties at fault, and having a clear understanding of who is responsible for what leads to more equitable resolutions.

One small note of caution about agreement is that we must be careful not to engage in it if we are being controlled by our emotions.  For example, if we are angry, we may become accusative toward the other person.  If we are feeling heavily guilty or ashamed, we may admit to something that we were not responsible for.

Before we move to the last strategy, are there any thoughts or questions about strategy two?

Strategy Three – Speaking the Truth in Love

As we get, here, to the meat of the lesson, we can look at two quotations from the Scriptures that have been selected from many passages of the Bible that are relevant to handling conflict wisely.

Eph 4:15-16 – Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.  NASU

Prov 12:18 – There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  NASU

It is evident from these types of instructive verses that there are some behaviors we can engage in, which I am calling tactics, that will both improve the outcome of conflicts and glorify God.  This is where it would be good to remember the author’s statement that, “Conflict provides an opportunity to glorify God”.

Let’s get to the tactics that will glorify God!

Strategy Three, Tactic 1 – Manifest the Fruit of the Spirit

Let’s start with what the “Fruit of the Spirit” is:

Gal 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  NASU

One way to tell how well we are doing in our Christian walk is to see how much of this “fruit” we are showing, or manifesting, in our everyday life.  This can be extraordinarily important when we consider the question of if we are glorifying God or not in our conflicts.  The reason for this is:

  • When we choose to show the fruit of the Spirit in our conflicts we are purposefully allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us.
  • When we demonstrate the fruit in our actions our opponent is more likely to be won over to a cooperative form of conflict resolution instead of an adversarial approach.
  • When we reveal the fruit in our actions we are exhibiting God’s grace in our lives toward others.
  • As the scripture from Galatians says, “there is no law against these”.  This suggests to us that nothing can stand up against the power of the Spirit, if we manifest the fruit.

Of singular importance in this list of fruit is love, we ought to deal with our opponent out of love.  You may have noticed that I have not called our opponents in conflict “enemies”, this is deliberate.  If we view opponents as enemies it is much harder to exercise this fruit called love, and the practical reality is that most of our conflict opponents are people we know.  Let us look at the piece of scripture, which is often read at weddings, remembering that most of our personal conflicts are with our spouse if we have one.

1 Cor 13:4-8(a) – Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.  NASU

Can you personally apply this passage to your conflicts?  What jumps out at you about this passage?

None of these things can guarantee that we will “win” a conflict in a worldly sense; they do indicate that we will get a godly result, whatever that might mean for our individual conflict.  That is because “love never fails”.

Strategy Three, Tactic 2 – Share Truth in Love

Moving right on from the previous tactic, we now come to a more difficult aspect of dealing with others; handling the truth.  To get some godly perspective on what to do in this tactic we can look at this scripture:

Phil 2:3-4 – Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  NASU

The essence of this instruction is to not be self-centered, put aside personal pride, look at others as important, and while not forgetting our own interests, consider the other persons interests as well.

In the context of sharing truth within a conflict we have to be very graceful.  Consider this, if God laid all of the truth about our lives in front of us we would probably feel like falling into a deep hole to get away from it.  God never does that, at least in this life, and neither should we.  In light of what we have just heard how should we approach the sharing of truth with others in a conflict?  (Open)

Here are some thoughts on this:

  • Share only relevant truth.  Don’t get side tracked with truths that just don’t relate to whatever the conflict is about.  If you go down a rabbit trail, come back to the relevant truth as soon as you realize it.
  • Communicate clearly.  Share the truth in plain language so that it is hard for an opponent to misunderstand.  Plan your sharing before you meet.  Discuss or rehearse it with a godly trusted advisor as many times as is necessary before you schedule a meeting.
  • Share truth in small quantities over time, maybe even over two or more conflict resolution meetings.  Doing a “truth dump” is most likely to cause the communication to snarl up.  This is because what you believe is true may not be what they believe is true, and so the opponent is forced to have to consider all the “truths” according to you, and he or she is likely to have to shut down or back off in some way.
  • Consider that your version of the truth may not be as accurate as your opponents.  Sharing truth is just what it says it, sharing.  High quality sharing leads to agreement on the facts and truth.
  • Exercise grace in this situation, some opponents will react or respond by switching from a cognitive reasoning mode into an emotional mode.  This is a risk to healthy conflict resolution.  If we see this happening the appropriate counter response is not to argue, but to be patient and wait for calm or even to halt the meeting and pick it up later.

I’m going to stop there; does anybody have some additional thoughts on this?

Strategy Three, Tactic 3 – Pay Attention to Meeting Details

In this tactic we are trying to plan out and think through details of the meeting, some things to consider are:

  • Where to meet.  Sometimes it is fine to meet in a coffee shop or over dinner at a restaurant.  Other times in would be better to meet where there are very few distractions.
  • When to meet.  Do you want to meet early in the morning, during the day or in the evening?  Is a weekend meeting the way to go?  The decision would obviously have to be mutual.
  • Is either of you going to bring other individuals who are unrelated to the issue at hand?  For a normal one on one conflict meeting this is inappropriate.  If one party brings somebody extra without notice it usually indicates an ambush, and it is advisable to pick up and leave.  If you have to do this always state the reason, which is, “It is wholly inappropriate to add a third party to a one on one conflict resolution meeting”.  Then suggest that you wait a couple of days to reschedule.  (Discuss “ambush”?)
  • Avoid telephone meetings.  Conflict resolution ought to be done face to face.  The important aspect of this is that somewhere close to 90% of our communication is non-verbal, most of which is body language.  It is important to see the unspoken reactions of an opponent for a good understanding of how things are going.

I want to stop the discussion on meeting details there.

Strategy Three, Tactic 4 – Use Scripture Wisely

In our Christian world it is hard to have a conflict discussion when we “speak the truth in love” without quoting scriptures.  Some of us even bring scripture written down as a tool for use in our conflict resolution meetings.  We do this from a correct perception that the Bible is a handbook of life that contains objective truth.  So why is it a problem?  (Open)

There are several reasons for this; here are some of the more common ones:

  • It can turn a meeting into an ambush, with the Bible being the offensive weapon.
  • Some people feel like they are being beaten up, or even spiritually abused” by having scriptures read at them.
  • Opponents can often end up throwing verses at one another like spiritual grenades.
  • Sometimes our understanding and interpretations of Scriptures are weak, and we might be misusing some verses.

I have had this type of thing happen to me, and so I know from personal painful experience that overuse of the Bible can be unwise.  Does anybody have anything to add?

Strategy Three, Tactic 5 – Be Respectful

That probably sounds obvious, and it is.  The problem lies in our very human tendencies to protect ourselves.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Avoid pridefully speaking down to your opponent.  Remember our position in Christ is equal to others; we have all sinned and fallen short, only He is above us.
  • Use “I” statements in discussions.  The alternative is using “you” statements, which by their very nature come across as accusative.
  • If you believe it is edifying and appropriate to point out a fault in an opponent, begin that part of the discussion with a similar confessional point about yourself.  This will keep you from appearing to be “holier than thou” in a confrontation.

Are there any questions on this?

Strategy Three, Tactic 6 – Be Solution Oriented

Since the whole point of conflict resolution is to solve problems, this might sound obvious.  However sometimes we don’t go into resolution meetings with solutions in mind.

  • If you have some solutions in mind, write them down before the meeting, and bring them up if appropriate.
  • If you have some personal preferences about some aspects of solutions, take them along too.
  • Take the high road, by recognizing that there is always hope in the solving of problems.  After all, our Bible says “all things are possible for Christ”.

Any questions on this tactic?

Tonight we have had a comprehensive look at how to move forward in one on one conflict meetings or confrontations.  We have seen three strategies laid out with a total of 14 tactics, with each tactic being a behavioral choice we have control over.  When we combine these things together we are much more likely to reach success in our conflict resolution and more importantly glorify God.

We talked about taking the high road a moment ago, but it is now time to take the road home.  Next week we will be discussing the common situation when we can’t get a legitimate resolution to our issues with our opponent.

Lesson 5 – JUST BETWEEN THE TWO OF YOU

These are Darrin’s notes from last Tuesday’s lesson.

 Matthew 18:15- If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.

EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITY

NOW THAT WE HAVE DEALT WITH OUR OWN SIN WE ARE IN A POSITION TO HELP RESTORE OTHERS.

Confronting v. Ministering: Matthew 18: 12-35.

  1. Seeking out a lost sheep (12-14)
  2. Gently confront (15)
  3. Mercifully forgive others as Christ does us (21-35)
  4. Direct v. Indirect
  • Adjust to your audience and find common interests; Paul in Athens; Acts 17: 16-23
  • Don’t argue; 2 Timothy 2: 23-24
  • Engage in friendly discussion; Samaritan woman at the well; John 4:1-8
  • Use analogies; takes focus off person; less direct                  

Ultimate goal is genuine reconciliation which will require directness

  • Matthew 5: 23-24; God commands us to reconcile regardless of fault
  • God does not want us to relate to one another at a distance
  • He wants genuine personal communication

 

Taking the Initiative

  • See Matthew 5: 23-24
  • Promotes peace and unity among Christians
  • Improves our witness
  • Establishes a pure heart to maintain peace with God
  • Failure to take initiative; Proverbs 14:30
    • Bitterness
    • Anger
    • Unforgiveness
    • Loss of peace; anxiety
    • Isaiah 59: 1-2; separation from God; confession needs to come first

 

  • Avoid REVENGE; let God handle it;  Romans 12: 18-21

When to approach others about their sin (not necessarily a problem with you)

  • Dishonors God- Damages witness
  • Damages your relationship- Something we can’t overlook
  • Hurts others- May be abusive in nature; may result in Christians taking sides
  • Hurts the offender- Difficult for Christians to deal with
    •  Don’t be eager to confront; check your heart
    • Don’t be reluctant to confront by making excuses
    • Matthew 7:1; Don’t or you will be judged; remove the speck first. This is about the process
    • Matthew 5: 39; Do not resist the evil person; this forbid vengeance
    • It’s God’s responsibility; yes and no; Galatians 6:1
    • Caught in sin= surprised
    • Restore gently= mend, repair, equip or prepare

Lesson 4 – CONFESSION BRINGS FREEDOM

Here are Darrin notes from his presentation of this subject  on 10/5.

Proverbs 28:13- He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

WHAT IS MY CONTRIBUTION TO THE CONFLICT? We know conflict starts in the heart, so we have to look at ourselves first.

RESTORATION PROCESS

REPENTANCE- Romans 2:4

Heartfelt sorrow for sin (Internal)- Luke 15: 11-21

Commitment to walk in obedience with Christ (External); Luke 15:11-21

Repentance/Faith; Acknowledging our sinful nature before God, turning away from sin, and receiving Christ as our Savior; Believing requires action; Romans 10:13; “call upon the Lord”

Surrendering- If we don’t surrender to God then we cannot have a repentant spirit

Self-Examination

Admit the truth about sin; John 8:31-36; Pharisees had no clue they were in bondage.  Improper desires, Pride, Materialism, Legalism

Sinful Speech:

  • Complaining; Phil. 2:14
  • Liars or Exaggerators (Father of lies)
  • Gossipers; Proverbs 16:28
  • Slander
  • Controlling others 2 Timothy 2:24-26

Respecting authority

Understand the process of sin:

  • Starts with a desire that seems harmless or innocent
  • Start to sin, ignoring warning signs; rationalization
  • Convince yourself that it won’t hurt you
  • Become comfortable with sin; it’s a way of life

Admit our spiritual sickness

Make a choice to embrace God’s freedom

Confession

To God

General:

  • Sin interferes with our relationship to God; while we don’t lose our salvation when we sin, it stifles our relationship with God.
  • Confession to God helps our relationship with Him.
  • Confession of sins is not the basis for our salvation; 2 Cor. 5:21
  • God encourages confession; 1 John 1:9 (forgive and cleanse) 

Consequence of ignoring confession:

  • Loss of inner peace; Phil. 4:6-7
  • Discipline; Hebrews 12:6

Principles of confession:

  • Not a license to sin
  • Not a guarantee that the pain and sorrow will stay away
  • It is a method of dealing with the disharmony caused by sin; confess and forget
  • Confession aids spiritual growth; scar tissue removed
  • It allows us to be in tune with the Holy Spirit and allow us to be more tolerant of conflict situations because we will understand our standing with God depends solely on His grace and mercy

Others- Righting a wrong (social v. heart):  (The seven “A’s”)

  • Address everyone involved
  • Avoid if, but or maybe
  • Admit specifically
  • Acknowledge hurt
  • Accept consequences
  • Alter behavior
  • Ask forgiveness

Conflict Starts in the Heart!

Welcome to our third lesson in the “Becoming a Peacemaker” series.  This lesson, titled “conflict starts in the heart” is going to look at the source of our conflicts, which is the heart, and some of the things we can do about changing our hearts to deal with conflict in more godly ways.

To get a good grip on this subject we must first study the heart.  Some questions that might be appropriate are:

  • What is it?
  • Where does in fit in our soul?
  • What does God say about it?
  • What does it do?
  • How can we change it?

There may be more questions that could come to mind, but this is a good start.

A Look at the Heart

Let me open this part of our lesson by capturing some of your thoughts on the heart, what it is, how it works and so on.  Who wants to go first?

Living in what we call the “west”, we tend to view subjects as if they are discreet or individual topics.  We segregate things to make it easier to study, and that is of course one of the big reasons that the west has been so successful in science.  However, we also make some mistakes in the field of human behaviors when we apply this style of thinking to understanding it.  To understand the heart, what it is, and how it operates, we must break free of compartmentalizing things by looking at our heart in a holistic sense.

When I say “holistic” here I talking about the heart in the context of the whole thing, meaning the soul.  Here is an enlightening quote about the soul, from C. S. Lewis, which we ought to reflect on a little:

You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.  C. S. Lewis

God’s word is the very best place to start when studying about the heart, particularly in the context of soul.  Why is that, it is because He is the creator, the designer and maker of our souls.

Sometimes when one is looking to understand a spiritual thing with great accuracy it is helpful to go back to the original biblical languages.  That is the case here.  In what we call the Old Testament, God had the writers use a word, “nephesh”, to describe the Soul.  What is interesting about it is that sometimes it is contextually used to mean the heart, the mind or the will (meaning “inner strength”).  It appears that God wants us to understand the Soul as being composed of three parts, but with each part being in some way linked to the other and in some circumstances these parts are interchangeable.

Now Jesus, being fully God, knew this when He was asked, “Which is the greatest commandment.”  His answer as recorded in Mark 12:30 was:

AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’  NASU

Some have interpreted this to mean love God with four different parts of your innermost being.  In my opinion this is not what Jesus is doing here.  He is speaking to a Jewish Scribe, a learned man, and he is emphasizing the message by stating that we are to love God with all our innermost being (Soul) and with each of the innermost parts, heart, mind and strength.  Jesus is helping us tremendously here by clearly identifying what the Soul is made up of.

Let us go into a little more detail.  Each soul created by God has three linked parts that have separate roles to play in our lives.

  • The Mind – The inner place that has the most influence over analysis, sorting out and processing that leads to the generation of our thoughts.
  • The Heart – The inner place that has the most influence over the generation and experiencing of our feelings.
  • The Will – The inner place that has the most influence over the making of choices and decisions on our courses of action.

Right now we are focusing on the heart, but before we move forward I would like to stop here to see if there are any thoughts or questions.

So now we are at the place where we understand the position and role of the heart in the correct context as being part of the soul.  Let’s move to looking at what the characteristics of the heart are.  The heart has three major characteristics; we know them as values, beliefs and attitudes, these are identified in Scripture.

Luke 12:34 – For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  NASU

Rom 10:9-10 – That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  NASU

Jer 12:3 – But You know me, O Lord; You see me; And You examine my heart’s attitude toward You.  NASU

I’m sure you’ve noticed that preachers talk about the heart quite a bit, and that God has an awful lot to say about it too.  There are some very good and fundamentally important reasons why, and they are:

Prov 4:23 – Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.  NASU

Jer 17:9 – The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?  NASU

Let us now put these five verses together to paint a picture of the heart and what it does.  Then we will apply that to the context of conflict.

The first of the five verses tells us that our treasures, the things we value, are found in our heart.  Obviously this is not talking about gold coins or our fine homes or anything material.  What do you think it is talking about?  Yes, it could be talking about our love of money, or our love of anything for that matter, but it is also talking about other things.  It could be our relationships; do we treasure our relationship with God, or with our spouse or our kids or our parents?  Whatever you value, that is found in your heart.  In our book the author quite rightly identifies these things as idols, where an idol is something that we use to feel emotionally fulfilled.  An idol can also be thought of as something we value more than God.

Our next verse focuses on beliefs, and quite clearly says that we believe in our hearts.  This verse demonstrates how important our beliefs are to God.  He says that we are to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.  God knows, since He designed us, that beliefs are a big factor in how we conduct our lives.  Our behaviors, good and bad, then have a large influence over whether we live peacefully, contentedly and productively.

To illustrate how beliefs are important let’s look at an example.  If a person has a job, but they believe that they don’t have to work diligently, are they more or less likely to get laid off when difficult times come?  The answer is yes, of course, because we all know that their work behavior, which is likely to be that of a slacker, will demonstrate their belief about their work, which will be noticed by their supervisor.

The third verse is talking about God examining our heart’s attitude.  I think that tells us where our attitudes reside.  Last week we talked about attitudes, so therefore I’ll leave it at that.

These three, values, beliefs and attitudes are all found in the heart.  They all significantly influence our behavior.  This is why we need to look at what God speaks to us about, regarding the heart, and we’ll focus on the last two verses we read.

The first of these identifies that we must protect our hearts, guard them, shield them and defend them.  He says that they are the “wellspring” of our life, what do you think that may mean?  I really like the way the King James Version puts it.

Prov 4:23 – Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.  KJV

From the heart come the issues of life.  Do we all have issues?  Yes we all do, and if we ever want to deal with them we have to address what is really in our hearts.  This brings me to the next verse.

In this verse God is telling us that our hearts are internal deceivers and are spiritually sick, and that no man can fully understand their own heart.  It is God alone who can do this.  Let me unpack this some more.

The first point is that we all have a personal deceiver inside of us.  So often we like to blame others for the things that go wrong in our lives.  We want to blame Satan; we want to blame the government, the church or someone else when the first thing we should look at in a troublesome situation is our own hearts, because they are our internal deceivers.  We ought to be trying to figure out what our values, beliefs and attitudes really are.

That brings up the second point, our hearts are spiritually sick.  What does this mean to you?  (Open to class)  In my opinion it is very simple.  Spiritual sickness occurs when our values, beliefs and attitudes do not match up to God’s values, beliefs and attitudes, the one’s we find throughout scripture.  Let me go through some examples:

We are spiritually sick when:

  • We don’t love God with everything we have.  (Mk 12:30)
  • We volitionally look at pornography.  (Ex 20:14)
  • We believe we have solely accomplished good things.  (Pr 16:18)
  • We don’t keep our promises.  (Mt 5:37)

Can you think of more examples of this?

Now I want to take a short look at how the heart operates in our lives.  I’m going to use an analogy here.  I know we don’t have to know how the car engine turns gasoline into mechanical energy in order to drive it, but it helps to know a little otherwise we wouldn’t put gas in the car would we?

Earlier in the lesson I identified that the heart is:

  • The inner place that has the most influence over the generation and experiencing of our feelings.

Now let’s see how it works.  Our heart is our engine, the output is the emotions, sometimes called emotional energy, and the fuel is our values, beliefs and attitudes.

God designed our hearts, our soul engines, and we are responsible for the fuel that it runs on.  If it is not running smoothly it is because our fuel has contaminants.  These soul contaminants are worldly values, false beliefs and negative attitudes.  I think it would be helpful to open up the class to talk a little about these things I’ve called soul contaminants.  Can you give us some examples of worldly values, false beliefs and negative attitudes?

Now I want to switch gears a little and go to the whole point of learning about the heart in the context of our study.  Our focus verses are James 4:1-3:

James 4:1-3 – What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?  You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.  NASU

James goes right at it.  What is the source of your conflicts?  How does he answer this rhetorical question?  (Open)  It looks like he gives us several things to consider:

  • Pleasures.
  • Lusts.
  • Envy.
  • Wrong Motives.

Quite a list!  Let’s look at these and see how they are connected to our hearts.

First, pleasures, what does that mean?

  • A pleasure is something that will get us to an emotional state of personal gratification.

Examples that we might consider as good are; chocolate cake, reading a book, sex, our team winning at a game.  Examples we might consider bad but which are still pleasures are; 4 slices of chocolate cake, adultery, spending too much, or winning a conflict at someone else’s expense.

At the core of all of these are values, a heart characteristic.  Sometimes we are conflicted inside by these values; James calls it “waging war in your members”.  It happens when we hold two or more values that are incompatible.  For example, I might have a value that says “family comes first”, but I might also have a value that says “I have to work hard and long hours”.  These two might conflict, and the result is often conflict within my own soul, which leads to internal distress or simply stress.  Some of the side effects can be things like frustration which can then lead to outward anger, and all of the implications that might have in the context of conflict.

When we see two people in relationship who have differing perspectives or values on the same issue we have a high potential for conflict.  In the example we used earlier, what if a husband had a value of wanting to get ahead in his work, so that he could provide for his family.  Then the wife had the value of the two of them as parents spending quality time with the children.  We have a high potential for conflict.

Can you think of some other everyday examples of value based conflict?  How about some that can end in killing or murder?  (Sports teams, politics, money, power)

Next let us consider lust.  In the Greek the word for lust is “epithumia” which can be translated as a “passionate desire for” and is most often used in the sense of a passionate desire for what is forbidden.  It is used twice in this very instructive verse:

1 John 2:16 -  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  NASU

When we talk about a desire for something what do we mean?

Webster’s defines is this way:

  • A conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment

When we look at lust then this is what we see.  We see that we have a passionate desire for something forbidden that we believe will bring us enjoyment or satisfaction.  The root of lusts is therefore beliefs that lurk in our hearts, and sometimes we may not even know that they are there.  Can you think of some examples of beliefs like this?

{A drink will help reduce my stress, looking at pornography will make me feel loved, a man will complete me and take away my loneliness}

The third thing that our passage of scripture mentions is “envy”.  Envy is defined as:

  • A painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.

At the core of envy is the attitude of resentfulness, another heart characteristic.  When we envy, we resent what others have and we want it for ourselves.  There is a much overlooked verse showing us the power of envy in a person’s life.

This is what God tells us that Pontius Pilate observed about what the Jewish leaders has in their hearts when they handed Jesus over to be tried and killed.

Matt 27:18 – For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over.  NASU

Envy can be a powerful force in our lives and can certainly lead to conflict, even conflict that leads to physical violence as it grips our hearts.

The last of the four things that we see in our focus verses is “wrong motives”.

I hope all of us would agree with this statement:

  • We have a motive for our every action.

The dictionary definition of motive says this:

  • Something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act

Notice that our motivations are, similarly to pleasures, lusts and envy, also based on our desires or needs, which are rooted in our values, beliefs and attitudes.

A motivation is therefore best thought of as the internal impulse that causes us to act in a certain way, and it is a function of the health of our hearts.

Motives are a big deal to God.  There is nothing hidden from Him, so He always knows what our motives are.  The issue with motives is what behaviors we engage in as a result of them.  God wants us to know our motives, to know the reason we do certain things.  This is because, eventually, wrong motivation, which is self-centered, ends with some sinful actions.  Our scripture says that we don’t have our prayer requests answered the way we want because of our wrong motives.

To illustrate how deeply God feels about wrong motives, let’s look at this verse from Revelation.

Rev 2:23 – And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.  NASU

Rev 2:23 – The bastard offspring of their idol-whoring I’ll kill. Then every church will know that appearances don’t impress me. I x-ray every motive and make sure you get what’s coming to you.  (Msg)

How would the x-ray film of our motives look if we had a chance to see them?

If any person has a sense of concern about this let me state that none of us could stand up and pass God’s x-ray vision test on our own.  The good news is that we don’t have to, because Jesus x-ray chart is all God looks at when He considers our motivations and judges us.

This doesn’t mean we can relax and not consider our motivations.  In the context of our Bible study, it does mean that we ought to look at the reasons we are pursuing a conflict.  If we are in conflict because we are seeking personal gain, something above restitution, then we have wrong motives.  If we are seeking revenge or to punish others, we have wrong motives.  In any conflict situation, looking at our motives is a wise thing to do.  We may discover that it would be a healthy choice to pursue the resolution of the conflict from a whole different direction or simply to drop it altogether.

This is where I want to stop and summarize what we have looked at today.

We have identified what the heart is, how it works, how it influences our behaviors in the middle of conflicts.  We then looked at some specific things that scripture warns us about, which come out of our heart’s values, beliefs and attitudes and cause us to enter or pursue conflicts for impure reasons.

Next week we are going to look at the highly important subject of confession, in the context of conflict.

Lesson 2 – Is This Really Worth Fighting Over?

Welcome to our second lesson in the “Becoming a Peacemaker” series.  Last week we covered some of the fundamental principles we will find throughout the study of dealing with conflict in a biblical way.  We covered lots of ground, so I want to spend a few minutes outlining where we are before we start this lesson.

The first principle is found in this verse:

1 Cor 10:31 – Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  NASU

When we engage in peacemaking at any level we want to glorify God.  Our book says it like this.  Conflict provides opportunities to glorify God.

The second principle is found in this scripture:

Rom 12:18 – If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  NASU

In our context here, this means that we are to seek ways to be at peace with those we have conflicts with, as much as we possibly can.  This applies to conflicts with both believers and non-believers.  We discussed the truth that we must have peace with God and others before we can truly have peace within ourselves.

The third principle is revealed here:

Prov 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  NASU

Trust in the Lord in all things, including peacemaking in our inevitable conflicts.  When we do this He will make our paths straight, meaning that he will guide us on the correct path.  We may not “win” a conflict in our own eyes, but God is not interested in that for us.  He is much more concerned with whether we trust and obey him, so that He can work in us for our benefit and His glory.

That is it, we are to glorify God, seek peace and trust God.  I want you to notice that all three of these are under our control, meaning that we can choose to do them or not.  Are there any thoughts or questions up to this point?

Tonight we are going to focus on some basic conflict resolution behaviors; again, things we have control over.

1.    Figure out the real issues.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?  It is, but so often we just leap into an argument or disagreement without thinking.  Let’s look at a couple of verses from Proverbs that are relevant here.

Prov 19:2 – Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs.  NASU

Prov 11:14 – Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.  NASU

These two verses point out some things.  First, don’t be without knowledge, gather the facts, think it through before acting or opening a conflict dialog.  Second, don’t rush, because the most likely outcome is some form of mistake.  And third, sometimes we need to seek outside counsel for guidance on what the real issues are.  This may typically be someone who knows us well like a family member, but it could be a pastor or counselor.  The ground rule here is seeking guidance from an impartial godly source.

That’s all I want to say about this subject, unless there are any questions.

2.    Overlook what you can.

This is one of the most freeing things that any of us can do in the context of resolving conflict.  Let’s look at what God says to us about this:

Prov 17:14 – The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.  NASU

Col 3:12-13 – So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  NASU

It is often to our benefit to simply “let it go” when someone has offended us, especially if there is no serious losses involved.  Let’s identify some of the beneficial consequences of letting go.

  • Improved or Saved Relationships – When we choose to overlook an offense within a significant relationship we are probably making a choice that says the relationship is more important than getting my own way.  Often the other party realizes that you have chosen to let go and they are thankful.  Sometimes letting go saves an awkward situation from becoming destructive.
  • Lack of Sleepless nights – Although I’ve called it that, I’m really referring to the fact that holding on to something unnecessarily causes turbulence within us.  We worry, we fret, and we may not sleep well.  It takes something out of us.
  • Avoiding Unforgiveness – This is a big deal!  When we hold on to something that is easily dismissed, we are very likely to become unforgiving.  Unforgiveness often leads to anger, or even hatred, of the other person.  This is because when we are unforgiving the other person has some control over us.  (Explain)  Unforgiveness also often leads to resentment and bitterness, two poisonous attitudes.  These kind of attitudes then “bleed” out of our soul into other parts of our lives, and into other relationships.
  • It is a godly action – When we let go we imitate Christ, it is a Christlike action, and it indicates our obedience to Him.  God will honor this in some way.

Now let’s have some fun.  Let us all think back over the last few weeks and pick a time when we one of these four things occurred:

  1. Let an offense go, or
  2. Held on to an offense, or
  3. Offended someone else, and it got overlooked, or
  4. Offended someone and it didn’t get overlooked.

Who would like to tell us their story?

3.    Counting the Cost

This basic conflict resolution behavior simply says look at the whole picture before you choose to pursue the conflict or let it go.  There are many potential costs, but we seem to focus on financial costs, self-esteem costs and self-centered costs.

Financial costs are relatively straightforward so I’ll not discuss them.  Self-esteem costs are very different.  This is where we focus on what we might lose from within.  Would we lose our sense of personal value or self-worth if we let the conflict go?  My perspective here is that it may be a much superior choice to let go than to be concerned about self-esteem.  This is because when we, though our own self-controlled decision, let go, we actually elevate our self worth.  This is counter cultural, of course, but it works.  Remember that self-control is a fruit of the spirit, and a Christian character virtue, meaning that when we exercise it in this choice; we are acting with the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Self-centered costs are about what we can gain from this conflict.  It might be material, but it might also be more than that.  We might gain bragging rights, we might be able to intimidate our opponent again in the future, we might be able to enhance our bad-boy or bad-girl reputation or we might simply like to win at someone else’s expense.  Do I need to say more than this?

The real cost questions are all about; how does this not letting go affect my vertical and horizontal relationships?  Does going forward negatively impact my relationship with God?  Does it interfere with my important earthly relationships?

Thought or questions anybody?

4.    Checking My Attitudes

The author of our book uses a piece of scripture to help us focus on what our heart’s attitude is in regard to dealing with personal conflict.  He identifies five principles from the verses, and I’m going to go through it now, except that I’m going to add a principle.  First though, let’s identify some attitudes that we might have residing in our hearts that could influence how we deal with others in a conflict.  Who would like to start?

An attitude is an inclination of the heart.

{Trusting, Cautious, Seriousness, Optimism, Pessimism, Confidence, Grateful, Resentful, Bitter, Superior, Pompous, Hostile, Considerate, Cheerful, Friendly, Sarcastic, Tenacious, Friendly, Impudent (sassy), Greedy, Thoughtless, Cowardly, Avoidant, Passive, Selfish, Judgmental, Manipulative, Procrastinating, Rigid, Unreliable, Demanding}  And the list goes on!

As we can see from our list, there are many attitudes that can seriously interfere with rational problem solving in personal conflicts.  Now let’s look at the previously mentioned scripture.

Phil 4:1-9 – Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.  I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.  Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.  The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  NASU

Before I start, are there any comments on this piece of scripture that anyone wants to make?

Principle 1 – In verse one we are instructed to stand firm in the Lord.  What might this mean and what might be the reason for this?  (Discussion)  Let’s look at another place in the Bible where we are told to do this.

Eph 6:10-12 – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  NASU

In the context of our study we are able to identify that a personal conflict can also be a place of spiritual warfare.  The person we are having the conflict with is not the real enemy.  The real enemy comes at us in three forms, unseen spiritual powers, the world system and our own internal sinful nature.

Unseen spiritual forces attempt to influence us to stir the conflict up in some way, to tempt us to fight instead of forgiving and letting go.  The world system here means our culture, our social norms and our legal system.  We are naturally adversarial in our approach to dealing with conflict, because that is just the way it is done here.  Our own sinful nature in this context is simply our propensity to seek what we want, even if it means others have to lose or suffer.

God, through His word, tells us to put His armor on and stand firm.

Principle 1 is therefore: Stand firm by being determined to participate in conflict God’s way.

It may need to be said that the only way we can successfully do this is to know God’s word!

Principle 2 – This principle is about getting our mind, heart and will focused on God.  Verse 4 instructs us to rejoice in the Lord, and Paul, who wrote this under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, says it twice for emphasis.

Each of us is likely to rejoice in the Lord in different ways.  I think of rejoicing as one my acts of worship of God.  So I am likely to read or study scripture and probably play some praise and worship songs on my computer.  What are some of your favorite ways of rejoicing in the Lord?  (Prayer, Meditation, Singing, Connecting with other believers (fellowshipping))

Principle 2 is therefore: Purposefully establish a connection with God about the conflict problem you are involved in.

Principle 3 – In verse five we are instructed to let our gentle spirit be known.  In the book of Galatians Paul identifies nine “fruits of the Spirit”; let’s look at this list now:

Gal 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  NASU

We can see that gentleness is listed here as something that is derived from our relationship with the Holy Spirit.  So that when we are instructed to let our gentle spirit be known, we are being told to allow ourselves to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit in this conflict.  This is because when we are being gentle in spirit we are not being rude, abrasive, self-centered, irritable or unforgiving.  It greatly helps our situation when we choose to deal with a conflict in gentleness.

Principle 3 is therefore: Purposefully seek to place ourselves under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to put on an attitude of gentleness.

Principle 4 – In verses six and seven we find one of the most valuable pieces of Scripture regarding prayer.  These are verses that ought to appear on our memory verse list.

God, through Paul, is instructing us to put aside our worries and pray.  In our context today, we can think of this as a gentle reminder to not focus on the outcome or the right and wrong of our personal conflict, but rather to take the issue to God.  We are to thankfully present our prayer as an offering to God.

In doing this, not just in conflict situations, but in all circumstances, there is a wonderful, helpful and important result.  Our minds and our hearts will be guarded, through receiving the mysterious peace of God.  Guarded from what you may ask!  (What does the class think?)  Guarded from anxieties, from worries, from the attacks by unseen spiritual forces, from ungodly thinking and from ungodly impulses such as revenge.

Principle 4 is therefore: Pray for godly direction in the conflict.

Principle 5 – This is found in verse eight where we are instructed to focus on positive aspects of whatever we are dealing with.  This is because it is our very human tendency to only look at negative things when difficult issues are being dealt with.

When we willfully obey this instruction we start to see our conflict and our opponent in it in different ways.  We start to notice our attitudes changing to become more positive and also our feelings about the whole matter will follow and be less difficult to handle.  We get released from the instinctive or reactionary conflict responses of fight or flight to become more solution oriented and forgiving in our attitudes.  We then start to see things more clearly.  It is like a spiritual fog is lifted from our minds.

Principle 5 is therefore: Dismiss our negative thoughts by looking for the good in the situation and in the people involved.

Principle 6 – This is very straightforward.  Practice all the things we have listed in the first five principles.

I think this gets at the issue of not sitting around and waiting for the conflict to fix itself, because it won’t!  So, in an orderly and timely way, get on with dealing with the conflict.  Procrastination is a major enemy here.  We don’t have to stand firm, connect with God, be gentle, pray or dismiss negativeness perfectly.  We have to get on with dealing with the conflict.

Try to remember that the prize here is a resolved personal conflict, with the added possibility that we are likely to have enhanced our relational life in some way and removed some anxieties from our daily life.

Principle 6 is therefore: Get on with it.

Tonight we have looked at four behaviors we can all engage in to help us to look at our personal conflicts with a view to possibly letting go of the battle, or trying to figure out even if we win, do we actually lose.

These behaviors are:

1.    Figure out the real issues.

2.    Overlook what you can.

3.    Counting the cost

4.    Checking our Attitudes.

That is where I would like to end the teaching part of our time today.  With whatever time we have left let’s look at whatever conflicts you want to bring up.

Next week we will be looking at the subject of the heart, what it is, how it works and why it is the source of conflicts.

THE PEACEMAKER: LESSON 1 (CHAPTERS 1-3)

Introduction:

Conflict exists in our marriages, extended families, work place, friendships, and our church families. How do you respond to conflict? Unfortunately, many individuals and churches have abandoned the biblical approach to conflict resolution in favor of a more self-serving approach. The result is a selfish and manipulative response to conflict that creates more division and does nothing to promote the love of Christ.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”     I Corinthians 10:31

Conflict = Is it an obstacle to avoid or conquer; or is it an opportunity solve problems in a way that honors God and helps others grow (stream analogy)?

Slippery Slope

Escape Responses: Avoiders or Peace Fakers (Me focused)

Denial- Pretend it does not exist; temporary relief; Abram, Sarai and Hagar (Gen. 16: 1-6)

Flight- Avoidance only postpones a proper solution; Hagar fleeing from Sarai (Gen. 16: 6-8). Examples include leaving the house, ending friendships, quitting jobs, divorce, or changing churches.

Suicide- One loses  all hope and seeks an escape;

Attack Responses: Conquerors or Peace Breakers (You focused)

Assault- tend to attack conflict with force or intimidation; verbal attacks (gossip or slander), physical violence; Stephen and the Sanhedrin (Acts 6: 8-15)

Litigation- A means of forcing our will on others; appropriate at times (Romans 13: 1-2), but law suits damage relationships and usually achieve partial justice; Paul advocates Christians settling disputes within the church rather than in the court system (I Cor. 6:1-6).

Murder- Extreme case where desperation motivates one to win at all costs;

Peacemaking Responses (Us focused)

Overlooking- Form of forgiveness; deliberately forgetting something and not letting it grow (Proverbs 19:11).

Reconciliation- Resolve relationships through confession, loving correction and forgiveness (Matt. 5:23-24, Gal. 6:1 and Col. 3:13).

Negotiation- Always work to satisfy the needs of both parties (Phil. 2:4).

Mediation- Independent third party; non-binding;

Arbitration- Appointment of independent third party to issue a binding decision;

Accountability

Trends on the Slope

Responses tend to become public as we move from the left side of the slope to the right.

Movement to the right side of slope also tends to transition from voluntary to forced solutions.

Extreme responses tend to have extreme losses.

Biblical View of Conflict

Glorify God- Conflict always provides an opportunity to glorify God for his love, mercy and forgiveness if you can:

Trust God even when it does not make sense to you (Proverbs 3: 5-7).

Obey God to bring Him glory (John 14: 21-24).

Imitate God by demonstrating love, mercy and forgiveness in conflict; Paul’s advice to the believers in Ephesus (Eph. 5:1-2).

Acknowledge God and share with others

Serve Others- To be covered in detail later chapters

Spiritual Growth- Don’t miss the opportunity to grow. Are you GOING or GROWING through conflict?

Four G’s of Peacemaking

  • Glorify God
  • Get the log out of your own eye
  • Gently restore
  • Go and be reconciled

Stewarding Conflict- Also known as Conflict Management; As Christians, we are entrusted by God with certain resources and responsibilities, and we are not supposed to manage with our own convenience or benefit in mind. We are to follow His instructions and look out for His interests, even if they conflict with ours (John 12: 25-26).

Living at Peace

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

Three Dimensions of Peace: Unity

  • Peace with God- Not automatic; requires admission, belief and trust
  • Peace with Others-  Second Great Commandment; (Matthew 22:39)
  • Peace with yourself- Internal completeness and security; by-product of righteousness (Isa. 32:17)

 

Jesus’ Reputation Depends on Unity

Unresolved conflict and broken relationships destroy our witness.

Jesus’ prayer before his arrest (John 17:1-19); Jesus wanted his followers to get along with one another.

Enemy of Peace – Satan

1 Peter 5:8; Satan prowls around looking to devour us.

Satan promotes, greed, dishonesty, selfishness and takes advantage of unresolved anger

  • Look out for number one
  • Forgive but don’t forget
  • Don’t get mad, get even
  • I deserve better than this

Satan wants us to see others as our enemies (1 Peter 5:9 and James 4:7).

Satan is the enemy, but we need to take responsibility for our choices.

 Lawsuits Among Believers

1 Corinthians 6:1-8; Paul’s frustration with Corinth; Peace and Unity are so important that God commands us to attempt to resolve disputes through the church before going to court.

Warren Burger- See quote on page 54

Antonin Scalia- See quote on page 54

Churches need to take notice of Paul’s words to the Corinthians. Lawsuits increase tensions and destroy relationships. Lawsuits tend to distort reality. Judges can be limited in solutions (damages, specific performance, etc.)

We must preserve our witness.

Trust in the Lord and Do Good- The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him. Psalm 32:10b

God is Sovereign

It is impossible to trust God if we don’t understand His sovereign power (Proverbs 16:9).

We judge God’s actions based on what we think is right (Isaiah 29:16).

Painful suffering is sometimes allowed by God to accomplish his purpose (trial and execution of Jesus); even the sin and rebellion of God’s enemy cannot frustrate God’s purpose- John Piper

We have control over our immediate lives, but God will hold us responsible for our actions (Romans 14:12).

If God ordains the conflict then he is watching to see how we respond.

God is Good

God is not arbitrary; He is good, but that does mean we will not suffer (Isaiah 43:2-3).

Our suffering can be used to minister to others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

God is more concerned about our character than our comfort (1 Peter 4:12-13).

“rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3

The Path Has Been Marked

We are human, so how do we overcome our doubt in the midst of conflict?

Job

Joseph

David (Psalm 37)

Paul

Introduction to the Class

This is the accompanying blog for the “Becoming A Peacemaker” series taught in the fall of 2010 at “The Fellowship at Cinco Ranch”.  The facilitating teachers for this series are Ken Gross and Darrin Coker.  This topical bible study is based on the material in the book “The Peacemaker – A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict”.

Class Objectives

We have several objectives to aim at for this class:

  1. To demonstrate that church can and ought to be a place where conflicts can be brought forward for just resolution.
  2. To clearly delineate the biblical standards for conflict resolution.
  3. Identify the most common barriers to biblical conflict resolution.
  4. How to use biblical approaches to conflict resolution to demonstrate love for and obedience to Christ, thereby glorifying God.
  5. To specifically improve our understanding of the biblical principles of forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation in personal relationships.
  6. How to deal with people who are unreasonable.

Each week the teacher’s lesson notes will be posted for those students that want to go through them.

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