How do you handle conflict?
- You might be like one guy I know who quickly and rashly confronts everyone who offends him, so much so that his nickname is lightning rod because he attracts so much conflict.
- You might be like another one of my friends who stuffs any offense against him, never confronting the person, just letting it stew.
- You might be the one who blows up on anyone who offends you. Yelling and screaming is second nature to you. As a result, your house is complete with holes in the wall and broken vases.
While we should and must deal with conflict, we should not deal with it in these ways.
So, how should we deal with conflict?
In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul uses the gospel to deal with conflict between Euodia and Syntyche. Apparently, they were in a disagreement. We are not told what that disagreement was over, or even who offended who. All we know is there is conflict that Paul seeks to rectify. In doing so, Paul does not tell these women to duke it out. Instead, he brings the gospel to bear on their situation. His gospel-centered counsel is exactly what I hope to bring out in this series.
Before we actually deal with how to handle conflict in a gospel-centered way, there are several things I want you to see first, and that is:
(1) Where conflict can occur.
(2) Why we need to rid conflict from among us.
After we look at both of those, we will then focus in on the how by looking at:
(3) How we can rid conflict from among us.
Before we leave the subject of conflict, I want to finish by taking up the subject of the Book of Life. From that discussion I want us to see that:
(4) Even though there is conflict, we are secure in our faith.
Now that you have the roadmap for this series, let’s begin today by seeing where conflict can occur.
Where Conflict Can Occur
First, conflict can and does occur in the church among believers.
It is apparent from the text that Euodia and Syntyche are believers. In verse 2 Paul implores them to be of the same mind “in the Lord.” Then in verse 3, Paul says that they have their “names in the book of life”. These statements by Paul shows us that these two ladies were believers. The fact that they were believers informs us that conflict can and does occurs among believers.
But you already knew that. I am sure you have experienced conflict in your church in the past. Whether it was small squabbles or large church splitting fights. Conflict is nothing new and it certainly is not unheard of.
But conflict not only occurs in the church among believers, conflict also can occur:
Second, among solid believers who are laboring for the gospel.
Paul tells us in verse 3 that these two women
“have labored side by side with him for the gospel”.
You see, Euodia and Syntyche were not your average back row Baptist quietly slipping in and out of church. They were involved. They worked side by side with Paul for the advancement of the gospel. They were in the trenches. Out proclaiming the gospel to their neighbors. They were probably persecuted, and maybe even jailed. And some commentators even considered them to hold places of leadership in the church.
All this tells us that conflict between Christians not only happens in the church, but it also happens among those who are working and laboring to advance the gospel to the community.
So then, we see that no matter our position, we must not think ourselves to be above conflict. It can happen to everyone. No matter how committed of a Christian.
Questions for Reflection
- How do you handle conflict? Do you resonant with any of the three scenarios in the introduction?
- Do you recognize that conflict does happen in the church?
- Have you ever thought that conflict doesn’t occur among committed Christians? Could that thinking be a form of denial?
A helpful resource to consult would be: Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Conflicts by Robert Jones
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