Taking Initiative to Resolve Conflict
In the previous M3 Weekly article, we considered the idea that the first step in addressing conflict is to examine the conflict within.1 The article described a conflict with a co-worker (“Joe”) which really started with a conflict within myself. I took offense at some of the things he was saying. He too was noticeably offended by certain things I was saying. We could have left it at that. But that wouldn’t have been good for our business relationship.
From a biblical perspective, I’ve found over the years that Jesus offers us some very good instructions that have helped immensely over the years:
- So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24
- 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. Matthew 18:15
In my conflict with Joe, we were kind of in no man’s land – an undefined place or state. But if we read these two passages carefully, it becomes pretty evident that regardless of who may be at fault in any conflict, the onus is on me as a follower of Christ to try to resolve it.
As a missional entrepreneur who claims Christ as my Lord, it’s my responsibility to reach out – whether I’ve been offended or sense that I may have offended someone else. In this particular situation, I was not even sure if Joe was a Christian. Even if he is a Christian, it’s always my responsibility to make the first move, to take the initiative in the reconciliation process. That’s a hard truth to swallow sometimes. But I think that’s part of what John the Baptist meant in John 3:29-30 when he said, “He [Christ] must increase; I must decrease.”
In apologizing to Joe, I took a step toward reconciliation – and took the log out of my own eye before even trying to take the speck out of his eye (Matthew 7:6-7). Once that gets taken care of, I’ve found that cultivating an environment of reasonableness can benefit both parties:
- But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17 ESV
- Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand… Phil. 4:5 ESV
At this point, I had to admit that something had triggered a harsh response from me. I had to acknowledge that I was part of the reason for the conflict. Regardless of how right or wrong my perspective may have been about the assumptions I had made, how I’d responded to Joe’s comments was inappropriate – and neither gentle nor peaceable.
At some point, there will be the opportunity to go into more detail about whether both Joe and I really are as open to reason as we need to be. And there are times for correction, reproof or even rebuke – but that’s a topic we will explore in a future article. However, as a follower of Christ, I need to continually remember that I cannot control how other people act. All I can do is ask the Spirit of Christ to control how I act.
Being open to reason encourages others to be open to reason.
Verse(s) of the Week:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17-18 (ESV)
Let’s take a few minutes to meditate deeply on this passage and ask God to equip us to be sowers of peace in the enterprises we lead so that we will eventually reap a harvest of righteousness.