Conflict Resolution God’s Way

biblicalcounselingpodcast conflictresolution counseling jeffchristianson Oct 24, 2020

Conflict Resolution God’s Way

Jeff Christianson


Prerequisites to Conflict Resolution

There is a passage of Scripture that, when violated, produces virtually every kind of interpersonal conflict. 

When the people I counsel have serious difficulties resolving their differences, before I even start exploring their backgrounds I know that at least one of them is out of sync with this passage of Scripture. 

It’s Ephesians 4:1–3.

Four character traits listed in this passage are essential to conflict resolution. 

“Therefore, I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance [forbearance] for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

The very last line of this passage is sort of a summary statement of the entire sentence. It is an imperative—a command that we are to obey.

The Holy Spirit, through the pen of the apostle Paul, is giving us a very important directive: “make every effort,” He says, “to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”

What precedes this summary statement are the four prerequisites: humility, gentleness, patience, and loving forbearance.


“Biblical Principles of Conflict Resolution”

  1. Personality and Conflict 
  2. Convictions and Conflict 
  3. Sin and Conflict

Personality and Conflict

  • God made individuals uniquely different, but this sometimes cause conflicts in a world cursed by sin 
  • Acts 15:39, “sharp disagreement” is not attributed to either’s sinful actions, attitudes, or motives
  • Philippians 4:2, Euodia and Syntyche were both exhorted “to live in harmony in the Lord”
  • Conflicts were result of issues that were not sinful 

Convictions and Conflict

  • Occurs when individuals have different views of what the Bible really says about a matter 
  • Romans 14 (between stronger and weaker brothers) 

Sin and Conflict

  • Most common form of conflict 
  • Human conflicts caused by sin 
  • Gen 4:1-16 (Cain and Abel), Gen 13 (Abraham and Lot), 1 Sam. 1-26 (David and Saul), Jesus and the money changers (Mark 11:15-18), Paul and Peter (Gal 2:13-14), John and Diotrephes (3 John 9-10) 
  • We are given specific directions about initiating confrontation with someone who sins against us


FORBEARANCE (Personality and Conflict) - each party must learn to put up with those idiosyncratic differences that he finds tedious or irksome about the other, when they are not the issues of sin. 

STUDY OF THE BIBLE (Convictions and Conflict) - both parties must study what the Scriptures (in their entirety) teach concerning the issue about which they disagree. 

REPENTANCE OR CHANGE (Sin and Conflict) - conflict will not be resolved apart from the sinning individual agreeing to repent of his sin 

Note: Sometimes these categories overlap each other. Implementing two or more of the solutions will be necessary to resolve the conflict 

Forbearance (Personality and conflict)

  • Seeks to put the other person’s interests ahead of one’s own
  • Dies to self (and to one’s own desire and expectations) 
  • Willing to yield to the wishes of another and to put up with differences of opinion and annoying idiosyncrasies for love’s sake and for the cause of Christ
  • Discussing the matter to see if a compromise may be reached (to determine swing issue and fire issue) 

Guidelines for talking to other Christians about your personality

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” 

  1. Remind yourself that God made the other person with his own unique personality for His own purpose. 
    1. 2 Cor. 10:12, “But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
    2. Guard your heart against making harsh judgments of others
  2. Guard against legalistic and judgmental attitudes that raise non-sin issues to the level of sin 
  3. Focus more on the interests of the other person than your own interest (Phil 2:3-4
  4. Be reasonable (willing to yield to the views and desires of others) 
  5. Be willing to put with annoying traits of others
  6. Try to determine for whom it is a “swing” issue and for whom it’s a “fire” issue 
  7. Allow the peace of Christ to be the referee of the conflict (Col 3:15

Convictions and conflict

  • Righteousness conflict - parental conflicts 
  • Basic solution - Bible study, investigate the Scriptures in its totality concerning the matter about which they disagree

Guidelines to talking to other Christians about convictions

  1. Confess and seek forgiveness for sinful words, actions or attitudes (James 5:16
  2. Try to express the problem from both perspectives (Prov 18:2
  3. Determine what things can be agreed upon 
    1. There may be more than one way to solve this conflict biblically 
    2. God wants us to come to a resolution of this problem as quickly as possible without either one of us sinning 
    3. We both have a responsibility to “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
    4. If we cannot solve this problem between the two of us, we may have to seek the assistance of another (mature) Christian
  4. Search the scriptures for any biblical directives and/or principles that relate to resolving issue (James 1:5

Sin and conflict

Correction of a sinning brother

  • “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3 
  • To rebuke is a command and not optional
  • We rebuke them in the hope that he repents and so we can offer to forgive him 

Restoration of a sinning brother

  • “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore  such a one in spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” Galatians 6:1
    • Restore a sinning brother to a place of usefulness
    • Habitual sin 
    • Gentleness - do not talk to your brother about his isn when you are sinfully angry 
    • Matt. 7:3-5 

Winning your brother (or go and show)

  • “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Matthew 18:15
  • Verb “go” - The initiative to resolve the matter is taken by the individual who has been offended (or at least who knows about the sin) 
  • Verb “show” - translated as convict, legal term to embody the idea of prosecuting a case against an individual so that he might be convicted for the crime that he had committed

Conviction of sin is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8) and the Scripture (2 Tim 3:16

  • Matthew 18 make it clear that part of our role is to gently point out others’ sin and sometimes not too gently
  • Preaching the Word is one conviction of sin, convict (2 Tim 4:2) and rebuke (1 Tim 5:20

Conflict resolution principle: the rule of privacy, keeping the circle of confrontation as small as possible. (Prov 25:9-10)

  • Matthew 18:15-17, a healthy church protecting the privacy of every sinner in the family 

Purpose: to win or gain a brother. As a result of the confrontation, we win our brother over at our side 

Guidelines to talking to other Christians about their sin

  1. Get the beam out of your eye first (Matt 7:3-5)
  2. Be sure that the other has done really a sin (Luke 17:3
  3. Examine your motives
  4. Use biblical terminology when talking to others about their sin (1 Cor 2:13
  5. Choose the right time (Eccl 3:7
  6. Choose the right words (Prov 15:28), (Eccl 10:12
  7. Be sure that you maintain a gentle spirit throughout the discussion 


  1. Have identified the problem in biblical terms?  1 Cor 2:13
  2. Are there any other directives in Scripture that we must obey in order to resolve this conflict?
  3. Are there any principles in Scripture from which a resolution to this conflict can be derived?
  4. Has anyone in Scripture ever faced the same (or similar) situation? Rom . 15:4
  5. In light of the newly discovered biblical data, propose what modifications you are willing to make in order to reach a mutually agreed solution 
  6. If the problem cannot be resolved in the period of time agreed upon by both of you in advance, seek the assistance of a “true yoke-fellow” 

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