Today’s guest blogger is Martha Lawley, author of Attending the Bride of Christ: Preparing For His Return, speaker and Bible study leader from Worland, Wyoming. She has spent a great deal of time studying and teaching on the topic of conflict and biblical resolution. As leaders, we will struggle with this in our relationships with others. See her thoughts and suggestions to help us honor Christ as we find peaceful solutions:
Have you noticed that where two or more are gathered there is conflict? In my church, we sometimes joke that where three are gathered you will likely find four opinions! The longer I’m in ministry, the more I realize that most of the problems we face within the church are not theological, but relational. Our different spiritual gifts, personalities, ideas and opinions can make ministering together challenging. As believers, we are called to respond to conflict in ways that honor God and reveal His character to others. This is not an easy assignment.
At some point in our lives, all of us have experienced a painful conflict that did not turn out well. Understandably, many of us fear conflict and seek to avoid it at all costs. However, because conflict is an inevitable part of human relationships, effective conflict resolution skills are essential to successful leadership.
I’ve discovered that being a true peacemaker takes time, patience and unwavering commitment. Perhaps that’s why Jesus pronounced a special blessing upon those who devoted themselves to peacemaking- “they shall be called the sons of God”. (Matthew 5:9) I’ve learned valuable truths along the way that are helping me become a better peacemaker. Perhaps the most helpful conflict concept I’ve learned is: not all conflicts can be successfully resolved at a particular time.
One of our greatest frustrations in dealing with conflict is time. We want a quick fix to the problem – the longer it lingers, the more uncomfortable we become. But lasting resolution (true peacemaking) often takes time. Why? Because it can take time for all of the necessary elements of true peace to develop.
For a conflict to be resolved, three conditions must be met:
1. Those involved must recognize there is a problem.
2. A cooperative relationship must be established between the conflicting parties, with a genuine concern for each other’s needs.
3. A solution must be found that is acceptable to both sides.
Why was this understanding so profound to me? Because it helped me see where I should focus my efforts as a peacemaker. When conflict occurs, leaders should prayerfully and carefully work to create an environment where these three conditions can exist. For example, if one of those involved doesn’t recognize there is a problem, then we should help them understand a problem exists. If the relationship between the parties has been severed, we must do all we can to help reestablish enough of a cooperative relationship between the parties to begin dialoguing about the problem. All of that before we begin considering acceptable solutions. It takes time – in some cases weeks, months and even years. Blessed are the peacemakers!
Please understand that I’m not suggesting that as a leader you bear all the responsibility for these conditions being met. Each person involved in the conflict has a responsibility in the peace process. However, leaders often have a unique opportunity to influence the process and lead toward lasting resolution. Understanding the importance of these three conditions can help you become a better peacemaker.
I believe that with God’s help we can learn to work through our differences in a way that honors Him and strengthens His church. Blessed are the peacemakers!