When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. [Galatians 2:11-16]
Conflict is an inevitable part of life. But if we choose to react in humility and forgiveness, we can avoid becoming bitter and resentful toward others and the Lord. God can use disagreement and criticism to teach us about ourselves, improve our relationships, and mature us spiritually.
He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. [Acts 15:9]
Conflict affected the first Christians. Peter said that God “made no distinction between us and [Gentiles], cleansing their hearts by faith”. Later, the apostle separated himself from those who weren’t Jews by refusing to eat with them. He acted as if they were still unclean in God’s eyes.
When Paul publicly confronted this hypocrisy, Peter didn’t try to justify himself. Instead, he humbly acknowledged his error and changed his stand.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. [1 Peter 2:9-10]
First Peter 2:9-10 reveals his conviction that through faith in Christ, Gentiles could now be called “the people of God,” on equal ground with Jewish believers.
How can we confront conflict?
Recognize the cause. Conflict may result from different opinions, a personality clash, miscommunication, or jealousy. A person who is angry with someone else—or even with God—may take it out on you. Other conflicts have their root in rebellion against authority or emotional baggage from childhood or previous relationships.
Consider the effect of conflict. There are at least two wrong responses to disagreements. First, some try to suppress conflict—they recognize a problem but decide to do nothing about it. Second, people may repress it. In other words, they deny that conflict even exists.
When conflict is not dealt with properly, it affects most areas of our lives. Unresolved disagreement divides the mind, contributes to health problems, and hinders our emotions. It causes unnecessary pain and disappointment. If you are holding on to anger toward another person, you can’t truly love anyone.
Unresolved conflict also thwarts our fellowship with God and delays personal growth.
How can we respond wisely to conflict?
- Ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment. Since disagreements have various causes, begin with seeking God to learn the source in each situation.
- Maintain a quiet spirit. Our natural reaction is to defend ourselves when attacked. Instead, let the other person talk, and sometimes he or she will reveal the root of the conflict.
- Make no attempt to justify yourself immediately. When people are furious, they can’t listen to your perspective. If God leads you to defend yourself, wait until the other person finishes. He or she will be more likely to hear your side.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to guard your mouth. Psalm 141:3 says, “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Don’t blurt out the first thing that comes to mind.
… for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” [Luke 12:12]
- Carefully consider what you are going to say, and leave time for God to provide you with wise answers.
- View the conflict as coming from God. It doesn’t originate with the Lord, but He desires to use everything for good in our lives. When I learned to view discord as something the Father allows, it freed me to view such situations objectively. This perspective protected me from becoming bitter toward God or critical, resentful, and angry at others.
- Ask the Holy Spirit whether you are at fault. If you were wrong, immediately apologize and ask for forgiveness. When you feel unjustly condemned, learn to say, “I appreciate that you felt free to tell me this. I will prayerfully evaluate your criticism. Do you have any other suggestion that would help me?” Humility is always the right approach to disagreements.
- Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. [Ephesians 4:32]
- Forgive the one responsible for the conflict. Even if the other person’s analysis is wrong, forgive him for bringing discord into your life.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. [Luke 23:34]
Jesus provided the perfect example of this. During the crucifixion, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”
- Ask God to reveal His purpose for allowing the conflict. You may not know immediately why the Lord is allowing difficulty. In time, you should be able to see what He accomplished through each situation you faced. Pain, suffering, and heartache mature us spiritually and equip us to help others more effectively.
Conflict may be inescapable, but you and I can choose how to respond. If you are unable to agree with the other person, don’t feel like a spiritual failure. No one can force reconciliation, but you can choose to walk in forgiveness, regardless of any outcome. Ask God for wisdom, and He will be faithful to guide your steps. This hurting world needs a reason to hope—the Father desires that our response to conflict be a compelling demonstration of His power and grace.
In faithful service,