How the Gospel Deals with Conflict | Part 3

In part two of this series, I gave 5 reasons we need to rid conflict from among ourselves. Today I want to give you 8 ways to rid conflict from among us.

8 Ways to Rid Conflict from Among Us

Here is where the gospel comes to bare on our everyday lives. Up to this point in our letter, Paul has been explaining and expanding on the gospel. So let’s take some of what Paul has taught us in Philippians and apply it to this situation because that is exactly what Paul wants the Philippians to do.

In Chapter 2 Paul gives us the means by which we can be unified with one another. There he grounds his exhortation in the example of Christ, and in verses 5-11, he essentially gives us a gospel outline. Let’s look at the gospel outline before we dive into the 8 ways to rid conflict from among us.

The Gospel Outline:

INCARNATION – Jesus left heaven, came to earth, where He was a servant and lived a perfect life as a man. The king took up residence with those in His kingdom.

THE CROSS  But not only did the king take up residence with the people in His kingdom. He also went to the cross for them. So we have the second part of our gospel outline, which is: Jesus’ death on the cross

THE RESURRECTION/EXALTATION/REIGN – But things did not end there. Jesus was resurrected after three days, after which He was exalted by the Father to reign over His people. So we have the third component to our gospel outline: Jesus’ resurrection, exaltation, and reign.

As we look at this outline, and the text there in chapter 2 we learn a number of things about how to handle conflict and be unified with one another:

(1) We are to humbly count others to be more significant than ourselves

Jesus counted us to be more significant than Himself. So much so that He left His heavenly abode, took up the body of a man with all its sufferings, hardships, diseases, heartaches, and death. Then He willingly went to the cross to pay the price for mankind’s sins when He could have skipped out on it. But you remember what He said to the Father in the garden,

Not my will, but yours.”

And with that, He subjected Himself to beatings, ridicule, and death.

So then, because Jesus counted others to be more significant than Himself. We are to do the same. When we do, we remind ourselves that everything is not about us, which is often why there is conflict in the first place. You see, counting others more significant than ourselves kills our pride and shows us that others do matter.

(2) We are to do nothing from selfish-ambition

Jesus’ ambitions were not for Himself. He went to the cross for us. He told His disciples that the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve. We too are to be about the business of serving others, which means everything we do should not be for our own benefit.

Selflessness is important to practice because conflict occurs or continues when we seek our own benefit.

Occurs – It occurs because we want things our way. When someone hinders us from getting our own way, we feel offended and conflict ensues.

Continues – Conflict continues because we are not willing to concede our desires and wants. As well as it continues when we are not willing to confront the person who has offended us because we don’t like how uncomfortable it makes us.

When we do those things, we are allowing our own selfishness to take over. But that is not what the gospel models for us. Jesus died to Himself, so that we might live. We are to do the same. We are to die to our own wants and desires and feelings of uncomfortableness.

So, if we want to rid conflict from among ourselves, we have to kill our selfishness.

(3) We are to be humble not seeking to puff ourselves up

The gospel should humble us. Especially, when we think about salvation, because we did not save ourselves. When we are humble, we can admit our wrong, because we are not worried about our pride or our appearance.

Why?

Because we know that we are saved through the gospel and not through our own self-righteousness. We know that we are accepted in Jesus as sinners through faith alone. As sinners, we can admit our wrong. We can admit we have sinned against another and ask for forgiveness.

(4) We are to look out for the interests of others

Jesus looked out for our interests when He went to the cross to pay the price for our sins. He was not thinking about Himself. Rather, He was thinking about others and how He could benefit them. We are to do the same.

However, when there is conflict, we are not looking out for the interest of the other party we are in conflict with, nor are we looking out for the interest of those who need the gospel. We are only thinking of our own interests.

When conflict occurs or continues because we are only thinking of our own interests, accountability and growth in the church body will decrease, and we end up being a hindrance to the spread of the gospel.

All this means that if we want to remove conflict from among us, we must look out for the interests of others.

(5) We are to keep our gaze on heavenly things, not earthly things

In Philippians 2:10-11, Paul tells us that one day every knee will bow to Jesus when He returns. As well in Philippians 3:20 he tells us that our citizenship is in heaven and we are to focus on that citizenship.

When our focus is on heavenly things, we see this world for what it really is:

(1) Sinful – By realizing this world is sinful, we know that others will sin against us. This knowledge doesn’t make their sin any less hurtful, but it does mean that we don’t expect perfection. And when others do sin against us, we can forgive them knowing that they are not perfect just like we are not perfect.

(2) Temporary – By realizing this world is temporary, we know that a greater hope awaits in the future – a life everlasting. Those things that we put all our hope in on this earth are revealed for what they really are – temporary! So why argue and fight over temporary things? Our citizenship is in heaven. Our hope is there.

(6) We are to pray for one another

Paul is always praying for the Philippians. He opens his letter with a prayer for them. He tells them that he prays for them every time he remembers them.

We should use Paul’s example of prayer as a model. When conflict arises, we are to pray for the other person and ourselves. We are to pray that God would reveal our sins to us, and that God would reveal their sins to them.

(7) We are to include a third-party to help us mediate the conflict

In verse 3, Paul tells another person in the church, presumable an elder, to assist in the matter. This is important because when it comes to conflict, we often think that we are right and the other person is wrong. We don’t see our fault. We only see theirs. So we need a third party to help mediate the conflict, further the conversation, as well as provide scriptural counsel.

(8) Lastly, we are to preach the gospel to ourselves

By reminding ourselves of the gospel:

  • We remind ourselves of numbers 1-6.
  • We remind ourselves of Christ’s actions, which we should follow.
  • We remind ourselves that this world is not all there is.
  • We remind ourselves that God forgave us, so we should forgive others.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Can you think of another gospel-centered way to deal with conflict?
  2. Have you experienced conflict in your church? If so, which one of these points relates to your experience?
  3. How might you counsel someone who is currently dealing with conflict?

Resources

A helpful resource to consult would be: Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Conflicts by Robert Jones

Image

How the Gospel Deals with Conflict | Part 2

In part one of this series, I brought out the fact that conflict can and does happen in the church, even among solid believers, who are laboring for the gospel.

Today I want to give you five reasons we need to rid conflict from among ourselves.

5 Reasons We Need to Rid Conflict from Among Ourselves

In verse 2 of Philippians 4, Paul strongly appeals to Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mindset in the Lord. Then in verse 3, he asks the person he calls a “true companion” to help these women work out their differences. The fact that Paul includes this specific situation in the letter, appeals to these women publicly to work on their disagreement, and asks the church’s elder to help, tells us it is important for us to rid conflict from among ourselves.

So let’s ask and answer the question: Why is it so important for us to deal with conflict when it arises?

(1) Conflict hinders family unity

Those who are in the Lord should be united because they are family. The same Lord has died for all of us. The same Lord has called us to Himself. The same Lord will return for us, and it is this same Lord that we will be united to and live forever with in the new creation.

So then, we all experience the same thing because we are all in the same family, and those in a family should not be in conflict with one another.

(2) Conflict hinders our care for one another 

As family, we are to take care of each other, looking out for one another’s well being. When there is conflict, we cannot and do not properly care for one another. Nor do we hold each other accountable, or minister to one another’s needs, whether they be physical or spiritual.

So then, we need to rid conflict from among us so we can properly care for one another.

(3) Conflict hinders our working together to spread and advance the gospel 

In verse 3, Paul reminds these two women that they have labored with him to advance the gospel, giving them a reason they should settle their differences. You see, those who are in conflict don’t have a desire to work with each other. When that occurs, gospel ministry is hindered.

So then, we need to rid conflict from among us so we can work together to spread and advance the gospel.

(4) Conflict hinders our witness to the community

In Philippians 2:14-15, Paul writes:

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Conflict hinders our ability to work together, as well as it hinders our appearance to the world. The gospel is supposed to change us. It is supposed to create a community of believers who love and care for one another. If there is conflict, and we allow it to stew, there will be no evidence of love and care for one another. This means that nothing positive comes out of extended conflict in the church. It just gives the world an excuse to write the church off.

Recently, I read an article in a European publication about a church that had major internal conflict. Their conflict was so bad that they had actually hired two preachers.

But that is not the half of it. These two groups still met in the same building at the same time. They constructed two different pulpits. One in front of each of the two aisles in the church.What was supposed to be a time for the church to be fed from the Word of God turned out to be nothing more than a shouting match as these two preachers took the pulpit at the same time.

Of course, the article did not have kind words to say about the two groups. The churches conflict became more of a media spectacle than anything, ruining their gospel influence in the community. While that is an extreme case, it shows that conflict in a the church does real damage to our witness.

So then, if we want to shine as lights in the world, we need to quickly rid conflict from our midst.

(5) Conflict hinders our ability to glorify Christ

As Christians, our purpose in this life is to glorify Christ. If we are in conflict with one another, relationships are hindered, the gospel is not spread, accountability and growth does not occur, and we are not a light to the world. All this means that we are not glorifying Christ.

So then, we need to rid conflict from among us so we will not hinder our ability to glorify Christ, which is our God-given purpose.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Can you think of another reason we should rid conflict from among us?
  2. Have you experienced conflict in your church? If so, which one of these points relates to your experience?

Resources

A helpful resource to consult would be: Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Conflicts by Robert Jones

Image

How the Gospel Deals with Conflict | Part 1

How do you handle conflict? 

  1. 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.
  2. You might be like another one of my friends who stuffs any offense against him, never confronting the person, just letting it stew.
  3. 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.

Conclusion

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

  1. How do you handle conflict? Do you resonant with any of the three scenarios in the introduction?
  2. Do you recognize that conflict does happen in the church?
  3. Have you ever thought that conflict doesn’t occur among committed Christians? Could that thinking be a form of denial?

Resources

A helpful resource to consult would be: Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Conflicts by Robert Jones

Image