I’ve been the pastor of this church for just shy of two years. I can’t believe it has been that long already, and yet, it still feels like I just started yesterday! In the time I’ve been here, I have met some amazing people, and learned a lot about their lives and the life of this church.
I have also heard about a lot of the conflicts and problems that have gone on in this church over the years. Thankfully, many of those have been resolved, and unity was restored, and growth came out of those situations. Sadly, some of those conflicts did not find resolution, and they resulted in people leaving the church, cutting off ties with the people, and harboring bitterness even to this day.
And there are some conflicts that are more recent, that are boiling just below the surface, threatening to destroy relationships and divide our church body even more. These unresolved conflicts, old or new, are dangerous, especially when we ignore them or run from them. If we are seeking to truly live into God’s calling for our church to Live, Love, and Serve, then having these unresolved conflicts will only serve as walls that block our path. We cannot afford to continue to let these disputes and disagreements fester and threaten to tear us apart!
So it’s time that we confront these issues and seek resolution.
I know, I know. Some of you are saying, but I don’t have any problems with anyone. I may disagree with them, but no conflicts. And if that’s the honest truth, then great! But I do know that there are conflicts and disputes, there’s bitterness and anger, there are things that are festering, that get in the way of you truly loving that other person. When we struggle to love someone, it makes it that much harder to work together to do the work God calls us to do.
Think for a minute about all the people in this church. Any of them you struggle to even be around? Is there that one person that, if they even say something in your presence, you begin to fume? Is there an issue that you simply refuse to talk about with someone because you know it will cause an argument or make you angry? Is there someone who, if they were at an event or party, would give you cause to not go?
You see, all these things are areas of conflict. And they are things that can get in the way of the “complete unity” that Romans 15:5 tells us is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus to live in. So we have to deal with them. That’s where the Rule of Christ comes in. This is the method Jesus gave us for dealing with our conflict in a God-honoring and loving way.
Matthew 18 spells it out for us. It involves beginning with ourselves and our role in the conflict, then talking directly to the person to seek resolution. Only if you can’t find an agreement from there do you take it further to a couple of friends, then to the church. Read Matthew 18 again. Review the outline from Sunday’s sermon to see more details.
As disciples of Christ, as those seeking to grow more and more into the image of Jesus, we have to learn to handle our conflicts the way God prescribed us to. And that includes both current conflicts, and those that have been around for years. If there is someone you have a conflict with, even if they don’t attend our church anymore, you owe it to yourself, and to God, to seek to resolve it. Go to God about it. Give them a call. Talk to them and try to find some resolution so your relationship can be restored. That’s why Jesus came, remember? That’s what we are supposed to do!
Sermon Notes for “LWOA: Conflict Resolution” from June 1, 2014
Definition of Conflict:
To come into collision or disagreement; a difference preventing agreement
Conflicts aren’t fun, they’re downright miserable. And conflicts between believers are even harder
We are to seek to resolve conflict with other believers so we may live in complete harmony with one another (Rom 15:5)
There are bad ways to resolve conflict- punching, hitting, screaming, ignoring, running
Then there is a better way: Matthew 18- The Rule of Christ
Allowing conflicts to go unaddressed is not healthy and can cause further division and destruction
Rule of Christ: steps we should take to resolve conflict as prescribed by Jesus Himself
Matthew 18:8-9: Look at yourself
Jesus tells us to take time to examine our role in the conflict
Ask yourself these questions: Can I let it go? What may the other person perceive that I have contributed to this problem? What is my role in the conflict? Am I the one in the wrong? What does God see? What does God want for me in this?
Then change your behavior based on these insights
If it’s not resolved with addressing the issue in yourself…
18:15: Have a one on one
The purpose of this step is to resolve the conflict, not to get mad or to get even
When confronting someone face to face, remember: speak for yourself by starting your sentences with “I”; Work hard to understand the other person’s point of view; work together to create solutions that work for the best of everyone involved
If it’s not resolved with addressing the issue one on one…
18:16: Get some objective help
Take someone with you to help mediate or facilitate the process
A common friend, a neutral party, someone both parties respect
This is a good time to involve a pastor or church committee to act as the witnesses
This is not meant to air dirty laundry, but to seek resolution and restoration of unity!
If it’s not resolved with addressing the issue with others…
18:17a: Take it to the church
If it gets to this point, there are serious issues at play that threaten to destroy unity, and it becomes the concern of all of us
This involves using the resources of the church to seek resolution: bringing in someone with skills in conflict resolution or someone with power/influence to resolve issues: Pastor, DS, counselor, mediator
At this point, the whole church should be praying about the issue, being aware of what is going on so that everyone can work towards resolution
If it’s not resolved with addressing issue with the whole church…
18:17b Shake the dust
Unfortunately, there are some issues that cannot be resolved. Let go of the disappointment and move on in ministry.
This involves wishing well to those that cannot or will not seek to restore unity
Continue to love them and pray for them, but allow them to move on
And remember: 18:20: God is there
This is God’s powerful promise to be with us in the midst of our problems, even when we can’t resolve our conflicts, when we seek to love God and others despite the conflicts, God is there and will be there for both sides
The reality is there is conflict in our own church!
We are not allowed to not deal with the conflicts we have because we are called to love others as God loves us
Jesus came to offer us a better way, He came to offer us healing and restore all our relationships, even those damaged by conflicts!
Cori Cypret is the pastor of The United Methodist Church of Coopersville.