Christian Conflict Resolution Part 1

Christian Conflict Resolution Part 1 cover for post

Anytime there is more than one sinner somewhere, there is potential for conflict. Simply being around other humans in any capacity can result in conflict.

This can also be true in the church since it is the devil’s activity to accuse, divide and conquer. Jesus, on the other hand, assumes conflict in the church and shows us a different path than the world’s path. One of grace, truth and forgiveness.

There is a uniquely Christin

approach to conflict that can

be applied in all kinds of

situations in your life.


Specifically, our Lord commands this radically honorable way to pursue reconciliation in the church. What he lays out here is not a suggestion for us to consider, but rather, as Lord of the church, he gives us good commands that bring peace. It’s not advice we can either take or leave.

The primary passage on conflict and reconciliation to come out of the Christian tradition is Matthew 18:15-20. Today, I only want to cover verse 15 and I will write about the rest in the coming weeks. Here is the verse:


“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him ALONE. If he listens to you you have gained your brother.”


The natural thing to do when we are offended by someone is to go to someone else who may have a sympathetic ear to “process it” (aka gossip). When we present the issue we, of course, present one side of the story channeled through hurt and negative emotion. This is also natural, it is what the flesh wants.


A bit of venting, airing out of frustration and hearing another person sympathize can have some temporary favorable effects on our wound. 

But we have just done something that the devil hopes and plans for. These conversations can become the seed of an ugly fight or a church split. It can get pretty bad if multiple people are all now forming a false-biased narrative around one side of the story.


Trust is broken right out of the gate and it is hard to get the toothpaste back in the container.

It’s best to stop doing the “natural” thing and start doing the supernatural thing that Jesus commands here. To do this we will probably need to pray for the Holy Spirit to help us. 

Step one, if implemented the way Jesus commanded, would eliminate 90% of gossip, drama, and conflict in the churches. Pastoral stress would go down drastically, and joy, comfort and contentment would be more common in the church.

Here is why:

Possibility 1

Your brother or sister has hurt you, sinned against you, ignored you or offended you. You go to them ALONE and they own it and ask for your forgiveness. You extend grace. Everybody wins and the devil loses. Your bond with that person and the church is strengthened. 


Possibility 2

You begin to think about the offense and the situation and decide that through prayer you can just let it go. The stress of confronting the person actually might clarify things for you and lead you to have a more level head. You have a chance to extend grace that only God can see and experience the joy of pleasing him.


Possibility 3

You go to your brother or sister ALONE and find out that what you assumed about them was not true. You had some wrong facts and some wrong perceptions. You can be relieved to find out that the situation was not what you thought it was and you can be challenged not to trust your own internal opinions. The benefit here is that incorrect information has not spread anywhere else and there is no "clean up" from your incorrect perceptions.

Possibility 4

You go to the person ALONE and can’t find agreement or full reconciliation. Maybe the emotion is too high, the wound is too deep, or the same facts are interpreted in different ways and you find you need some help from other Christians. Without poisoning the well and pitching one side of the story, you invite 2-3 mature Christians into the situation to be a non-biased presence. Everyone feels safe and there is a path to peace. Next week we will pick up here.

In all of these scenarios there is love, respect, no gossip and an attempt to assume the best of each other.


The quest is for peace not punishment.


The key to this step is to pray first, then go ALONE and seek to “gain your brother.”


The goal is reconciliation not retaliation.


Here is the truth:

Most Christians will not do this. In my experience, many pastors will not do this and can sometimes be the most guilty of causing division (I have seen this in churches, denominations, church networks, parachurch organizations). 

Some won’t because they don't know about Jesus’ teaching, others because they are addicted to gossip, and still others think their situation is different and Jesus' words don’t apply to them.

It is also so uncommon that if we approach it this way we will feel like the odd man out: that feeling is what we call holiness. Holiness, in the long run, leads to happiness for us and the others around us.

Which path will we choose the next time we have a conflict or a hurt or an offense?

The path of the cross or the path of this world?

More on this in next week's Letter to All Souls.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Harvey