Conflict and Reconciliation
I read an excellent book regarding conflict and reconciliation. The book is called “The Peacemaker” by Ken Sande (2004:28) who believes that conflict always creates opportunities that is used in three different ways. There are people who tend to seek an escape from conflict, others who attack and then there are those who are the peacemakers solving common problems while Glorifying God. This book focus on how to become peacemakers glorifying God in difficult situations.
In order to become peacemakers in difficult situations believers need to centre their lives around Jesus Christ. Their goals have to change from winning the argument to glorifying God (Sande 2004:11). The book is therefore organised around four headings:
1. Glorifying God in conflict situations
Believers will have to stop being controlled by their emotions and learn to draw from God’s grace and bring His forgiveness, love, mercy and wisdom into difficult situations. They can do this by revealing God, His likeness and His involvement with mankind (Sande 2004:31).
Believers reveals God’s glory by trusting in Him (Proverbs 3:5-7). Paul declared in Romans 12:1 that willingness to sacrifice must be based on the believers trust in God’s mercies. Believers should therefore not trust in their own abilities, but in God’s ability to work out all things through sanctification and forgiveness even in situations that seems hopeless (Acts 16:22-41) (Sande 2004:31).
Obedience to God’s commandments also gives glory to Him (Matthew 5:16). Jesus’ command is to love one another and when believers love each other they display their commitment to Him (John 13:34-35) and glorify God the Father (John 15:8) (Sande 2004:31).
Believers can also glorify God by imitating Him in difficult situations (Ephesians 4:1, 5:1-2; 1John 2:6), which also brings peace and restoration in conflict situations (Philippians 1:9-11). Therefore focusing on loving those involved in the situation and restoring unity (Sande 2004:31-32). Jesus also taught believers that true unity and love is a compelling witness and clear evidence to the fact that God is present amongst His people (John 13:34-35, 17:20-23) (Smith 2011:21).
Acknowledging God’s gift of grace, which allows believers to establish peace and restoration through love and unity, always glorifies God (Philippians 2:13; 1Peter 3:14-16). One should not neglect to tell those involved that God has given His people the ability to handle conflict situations graciously (Sande 2004:32).
2. Getting the log out of your own eye
Jesus said in Matthew 7:3-5 that one should remove the log from his own eye in order to see the splinter in his brother’s eye, but it is easier to recognise the splinter and not see the log. People tend to focus on the other parties’ problems, sins or mistakes, but are blind to their own.
Overlooking the offence (Proverbs 19:11; Luke 6:37) of the other party softens the emotions (Proverbs 15:1) and displays how Jesus is at work in the lives of believers (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Believers should therefore not dwell on offences, but choose to treat the offenders with love and respect (Psalm 103:8-10; Proverbs 10:12; Matthew 5:44-45; John 13:35), because within love there is forgiveness for a variety of sins (1 Peter 4:8). This may seem hard or difficult, but when the believer turns his eyes to his own sin he realise the truth (Sande 2004:75-77).
Inspecting one’s heart is very important as it is here where the root of conflict is mostly found based on the desires that rages within (James 4:1). Sande (2004:101-102) uses Luke 12:13-15 to support that conflict starts in our hearts, and that the root of it is unmet desires in our hearts. Therefore it is important to examine our hearts to see which unmet desires and idols in our hearts are at the root of conflicts. After examining ourselves, if we acted wrongly towards our opponents, we need to confess our wrongs to them. When we confess we need to take full responsibility, and not make any excuses. James 5:16 is another example of a Scripture where we are taught to confess our sins to one another and also then that we should pray for each other. This inspection is the believer’s responsibility, but also God’s and He needs to be invited to be part of it also (Psalm 139:23; Proverbs 20:27). Knowing his own hidden darkness and sin makes the believer realise his need for Christ’s sacrifice and forgiveness (Sande 2004:78).
Acknowledging one’s own offence and confessing sin by taking responsibility for his part in difficult situations is the key to peace-making. This step of humiliation brings God’s freedom and peace into the believer’s heart (Philippians 4:1-10), opening the door for restoration (Sande 2004:78,100).
3. Gently restoring those who sin
Overlooking an offence or acknowledging our own sin most of the time moves the other party to do the same, or should open the way to help them recognise their wrong doing and need to alter their behaviour (Galatians 6:1) (Sande 2004:78, 139).
Thus if someone has something against you, you need to go to that person and talk through the problem (Matthew 5:23-24). If you know that person has something against another person or God they need to be corrected. A person who is involved with or doing something that threatens his relationship or anyone else’s with God also needs correction. When addressing these situations you need God’s grace and wisdom to approach this person with love, grace and respect (James 1:2-4). The goal should be to restore peace and to strengthen relationships (Sande 2004:148-149).
You need to choose the best way, time and place to address this person. The truth needs to be shared in love building the person up (Proverbs 12:18) and offering them God’s hope directing them to the Gospel. Also give him an opportunity to respond, listening carefully to what he is saying (Proverbs 18:13; James 1:19), trying to recognise his positive qualities. Applying it correctly may help him to also develop “loving confrontation” skills (Sande 2004:167-169, 183).
In the case where the believer did not succeed, the help of a mediator is needed. Jesus explains this process clear and plain of how to involve other people to help resolve a conflict situation (Matthew 18:16). The other party needs to accept and allow the involvement of a mediator who is respected and trusted by both parties. If the situation is still not resolved one may consider involving the church (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8), especially if the other party is a Christian (Sande 2004:192-193).
4. Going all out for reconciliation
Reconciliation begins with forgiveness and seeking the best solution to the conflict situation (Colossians 3:13). This can be done by demonstrating God’s grace and kindness with peace and restored relationships as its goal. God’s way of forgiveness includes not remembering the offence (Jeremiah 31:36; Isaiah 43:25), not bring it up, but removing it (Psalm 103:12) and not keeping record of it (Psalm 130:3-4; Proverbs 10:12, 17:9; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) (Sande 2004:204-207).
Forgiveness is therefore a choice that includes the believer’s thoughts, words, and deeds which no man can do alone and needs God’s grace to do so. It includes the four commitments: not to brood on it; not to return to it and use it as ammunition; not to mention it to anybody else and not let it destroy relationships (Sande 2004:208-209).
Believers struggling with unforgiveness need to establish repentance (Mark 6:12), relinquish sinful mannerisms and anticipations (Luke 17:3-4), evaluate the extent of their share in the situation (Philippians 4:2-10), remember God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9) and His sovereignty (Romans 8:28) and trust in His mighty power (Colossians 1:11) (Sande 2004:213-218).
Forgiveness also includes reconciliation by giving the person an opportunity to exhibit his repentance even if it takes time (Luke 17:3-4). This requires one to also look to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4) (Sande 2004:219).
The process of looking to the interests of others requires the believer to properly prepare for negotiations with the other party to come to a fair arrangement. The believer needs to affirm the relationship with his opponent by showing concern and understanding regarding his feelings and interests and seeking for constructive answers by evaluating all options (Sande 2004:224, 231-240).
The believer needs to overcome evil with good by avoiding any worldly strategies and taking hold of God’s (Ephesians 6:10-18). He must allow the life of Christ to become his guide and motivate him to do everything he can to resolve conflict situations in peace (Romans 12:14) (Sande 2004:242-250).
In conclusion conflict and reconciliation should be part of the daily living of all believers, because God requires His people to behave toward others with the same love, mercy and grace He had bestowed unto them (Matthew 18:21-35). Believers are enabled to live God’s way (Ezekiel 26:25-27) and should therefore aspire to live God’s way (Colossians 3:12-17), because they were preordained to become like Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29-30).
Sande K 2004. The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (3rd ed.). Grand Rapids: Baker Books.