“CONFLICT RESOLUTION” By Pastor YAU
Text: Philippians 4:1-5 January 17, 2010.
1) On international level: October 15 was set and observed in some countries as the International Conflict Resolution Day. Its purpose is to promote the use of mediation and arbitration rather than the legal system to settle personal differences. I personally wish this would truly be on the international level to resolve differences and conflicts between nations instead of the use of forces as we see throughout history. The use of forces to resolve differences is always disastrous and destructive.
2) On interpersonal level: It has been said that: “church fights are the worst fights” perhaps because they break out among people who claim to believe in love and unity. Many churches had been destroyed, faith among Christians was wiped out and the name of the Lord had become target of mockery in the secular world. This happened in the early church some 2,000 years ago and it continues to happen today. Just study the initial stages of all the churches in any given location, we see many of them are results of internal fights and splits of otherwise harmonious and growing churches. This is a black mark of church history.
REASONS OF CONFLICTS: No one knows all the reasons that start conflicts, here are just a few common samples.
1) People are different: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) When God created human being, he created them male and female. The mystery of gender has been the focus of scientific and psychological studies for centuries and so far no one can say all the differences between the male and the female. When you add to the list of biological, emotional and social elements into each human being, no one may find an absolute identical among all the people in the world. Even identical twins are vastly different in so many ways that no one can tell they are twins except their look. We were created different and were born different. Having differences is part of human nature.
2) People are selfish: “Each of you should not look only to your own interest, but also to the interest of others.” (Phil. 2:4) This is another reason why we have conflicts: conflict of interest. We all were born with that evil nature: I, me, mine and myself. Although we are reminded by the Bible not to do so, we still have the strong tendency to think and do things for our own interest. When our interest is in conflict with that of others, we will fight to protect our own interest. Selfishness is the biggest reason for most conflicts in human relationship, be it at home, at work or even in the church: we want things go our way.
3) People are blinded: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:3, 5) This is another reason we have conflict with people: we are blinded to see our own problems and are keen to see problems in others. Most conflicts start with our seeing problems in others from own distorted perspectives. We are blinded by our own problems so we can’t see the truth in others and we want to make things right from our perspective. Unless we fix our distorted perspectives, we will have conflicts.
4) People born to fight: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1)James was talking about the natural intent to fight for survival, to win, to subdue others, human or animal or environment. We all were born with that fighting nature that is why we love bloody boxing and wrestling, violent movies and games, competitive sports and many others that demand fierce fighting. Some may be more controlled on the outside, but the fighting nature is always there. To fight, to win and to subdue is part of our human nature. Unless we submit to God and allow Him to change us, we will continue this destructive route of life.
HURTS INFLICTED BY CONFLICTS: Too many to count.
1) It hurts the fighters: No one will deny the price a fighter has to pay to win over his opponent. Sometimes, he pays with blood like in boxing and wrestling, other times he will pay with his heart, soul and spirit. Still others he will pay with material possessions. There is no fight without paying a price: some are heavier than others. In all fights, at home, at work or in the church, the fighters suffer the loss first, loss of many kinds we will talk about them later. You will pay to start a fight.
2) It hurts others: Be it international or interpersonal, it always hurt the relationship between the fighting parties and related others. Look at the hurts on children and relatives by fights between married couples. The damages, long term and short term, inflicted by fights is inevitable. If you take it to a higher level, fights in churches or the power struggle of a nation and the hurts inflicted on all parties. Fighting is never good no matter in what situation or level.
3) It hurts the church: Internal fighting in a church, no matter who is more right, it always hurt the spirit of unity, the growth of ministry and the faith of all the members. Many churches and Christians get hurt by church fights and never recover from their wounds. Unless it is for doctrinal and moral integrity, fighting in a church always causes the weakening of God’s people.
4) It hurts God’s good name: We often times see the secular world pointing fingers at a fighting church and mock the God whom that church claims to serve. Nothing damages the glory of God worse than his people fighting against each other. Paul rebuked the Roman Christians that “God’s name is blasphemed because of you.” (Romans 2:24)
HOW TO RESOLVE CONFLICTS: Knowing the hurt of conflicts Jesus gave instructions on how to resolve them before they cause further damages in Matt. 5:23-24 and -17. In today’s passage, Philippians 4:1-5, Apostle Paul dealt with an existing conflict in a church, we find steps to deal with conflicts in God’s church.
1) Seek spiritual foundation: “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord.” (4:1) Except for doctrinal and moral integrity, conflicts breakout, almost without exception, is because of weakened Christian walk in the Lord. Conflict in a church is always a spiritual problem, not a superficial issue problem. If Christians truly ground their life in the Lord, truly seeking His will and are obedient to His lead, they won’t start a fight nor escalate the fight. The Lord says: “Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Matt. 11:29) Spiritual deficiency and uncheck evil of the fresh could lead to chaos and struggle in God’s church.
2) Seek unity in diversity: “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other.” (4:2) No one knows why Paul listed out the names of two seemingly dedicated and active members of the church who had conflicts with each other and it had caused hurt to the church. Paul asked them to seek unity in face of diversity, seek agreement in disagreement. “Jesus said to them: Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” (Matt. 12:25)Seeking agreement in conflicts is not an option but a command because it affects the stand or fall of God’s church.
3) Seek spiritual guidance: “Yes, I ask you, loyal yoke-fellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel.” (4:3) Paul encouraged a loyal brother to help these women to resolve their conflicts. It is imperative that when there is a conflict, honorable, recognized spiritual men be consulted to help seek common solution to resolve the difference. Spiritual guidance plays important role in resolving church difference. In premarital counseling, the final request I make to the couple: Just in case you come to irreversible conflicts, call your pastor before you call your lawyer.
4) Seek the spirit of humility: “Let your gentleness be evident in all (that you do).” (4:5) The Greek word translated “gentleness” here is the same word as “humble in heart” in Matthew 11:29. Most, if not all, conflicts started and continue to fight because of pride in human hearts: I am right, you are wrong and I must win. The Bible has so much to condemn pride and its evil effects in Christian life and God’s churches. In dealing with conflicts in the Corinthian Church, Paul asked “why not rather be wronged, why not rather be cheated.” (1 Corinthians 6:6) Even if you think you are right, why continue to fight until the church is divided and destroyed? Let God handles the problem. He can do much better than you can to solve the conflict. God will always make the wrong right.
1) Nail the fresh to the cross: In Romans 6, Paul urged Christians to crucify the fresh with Christ. On this, let us nail the lower fighting nature with Christ. Be it at home, at work or in church, we are God’s children. We need to live a new way of life in harmony to glorify God and protect His name and His church.
2) Submit to one another: “Young men, be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God oppose the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Try to lower our pride and respect others who may be different from you. We are all in God’s family. Be humble and receive grace from the Lord.
3) Submit to the Lord: The most important humility is toward God. We all need His grace and mercy to forgive our sins, to lead our life and to grant us eternal life after we finish our journey on earth. Ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior and receive from Him the blessings of salvation and meaning of life.