Everybody faces conflict. It’s nothing new. From the cosmic conflict between Lucifer and God before creation to the conflicts in the early church to the conflicts Jesus often faced with the Jewish legalists, it’s a given in life. Conflict is not sin in itself, but sin can cause it and we can sin in how we respond to it. Wise leaders, however, know how to manage conflict when it comes.
4 good questions arise from Acts 15 in the account of the early church’s conflict with those who believed that non-Jews (Gentiles) could become Christians, but only after they first became Jews.
4 Good Questions to Ask When You Face Conflict:
If the early church had not resolved the conflict with the Judaizers, the results could have been disastrous. In a similar way, when conflict arises in our churches, unless we wisely resolve them, we can lose momentum, people, and resources.
Question 1: The conviction question. Is the conflict you are facing a matter of deep conviction that you can’t resolve through personal prayer and processing?
In the early church’s case, the issue of salvation (was it Jesus plus works or Jesus plus nothing) was a significant issue. It could not be overlooked. Paul and Barnabas had to deal with it.
Many issues are simply issues of personal preference, hurt feelings, or simple misunderstandings that we can pray through and move on. We don’t need to confront every person over every issue. However, some issues are too significant to overlook.
I suggest these five thresholds that can help you determine if you need to take it further than prayer and personal processing.
- The issue is seriously dishonoring Christ. In some sense God’s reputation is being dishonored or damaged. In the Judaizers case it was well within this threshold.
- This issue is damaging your relationship with that person. Were you not to try to resolve the issue, it could seriously hurt and undermine your relationship with that person.
- The issue is hurting others involved.
- The issue is causing hurt to the offender.
- You just can’t shake it through prayer.
If the issue meets one of these thresholds, then take it further.
Question 2: The counsel question. Do I need a third party to help?
In Matthew 18.15-18, Jesus says to first go to the person one-on-one if you have a conflict with someone. Usually that’s the proper procedure. But sometimes I believe it’s appropriate to bring in a wise third party even before you do that.
Paul and Barnabas felt it necessary to go to Jerusalem to include the elders and apostles there for them to weigh in on this issue. They needed wisdom.
Sometimes we do need to include the counsel of others even before we escalate a conflict to a one-on-one conversation. What might justify doing that?
- You need wisdom from an objective third party to help you discern it you really need to confront the other party.
- You need wisdom to know how to confront the other party.
- You need to be encouraged to confront the other party and a wise person can give you the confidence to take that step.
If you do bring in a third party, check your motives. Make sure you’re not doing this to make the other party look bad or to win the person you’re seeking counsel from over to your side.