“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.” (Matthew 18:15, NRSV).
Conflict is inevitable. To live, is to experience conflict on many different levels with many different kinds of people. The notion of living a conflict-free life or a trouble-free life is just not reality. Jesus said it simply, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33, the word in Greek for “trouble” has to do with conflict: the friction caused by rubbing two things together.”
The question is: how do we deal with conflict?
Today will be the first in what may be several sessions on dealing with conflict. Today we will look at how God/Jesus handled conflict in the following stories: The story of Cain and Able (Genesis 4:1-16), the conflict between Miriam and Moses (Numbers 12:1-16), Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), Jesus teaching on judgment (Matthew 7:1-4), and the conflict between Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). The questions we want to ask are these:
- What is the conflict about?
- How is the conflict expressed?
- How does God/Jesus address the conflict?
- What is a principle of conflict resolution we might glean from these stories.
In these passages, failed expectations give rise to conflict. People do not act as we expect them to act. When that happens, we become disappointed, frustrated, and perhaps even jealous or critical, thus increasing the intensity of the conflict. These stories illustrate that while conflict must be addressed, we need to look into our own hearts first and remember that we too are imperfect beings. Our handling of conflict must reflect an awareness of the grace and mercy of God that has first been extended to us.