How to handle conflict in community

Ashley Dickson

“Community” is a word we hear a lot in church. Our community are the people we share our everyday lives with — the people we eat dinner with, laugh with, cry alongside, or call when we’re in a crisis. 
 
Community provides joy, relationship, fun, and belonging. But with all the good can come the ugly. Community can also provide conflict. When people are together, differences are sure to arise — differences in thought, opinion, and experiences. 
 
As Christians, we’re not called to run away at the first sign of conflict, but rather lean into it. Jesus said the whole world would know Him by the way His followers love each other (John 13:35). That means we are to see through the mess and work toward peace. That’s where the good stuff is. 
 
When Jesus gave what may be His most famous sermon of all time, He addressed conflict. We can learn three important truths about conflict from what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5

3 Truths About Handling Conflict as a Christian 

1. We must go first (Matthew 5:23-24).

When we experience conflict, the tendency is to draw back, to isolate ourselves from our friends so we can avoid pain or discomfort. But Jesus shows us another way. He says we should actually go to the person we’re experiencing conflict with and work toward peace. 

Seeking peace requires work, and work requires getting our hands dirty. Working through conflict may mean we sweat through seemingly endless conversations, exhaust ourselves in tears of anger and sadness, or even bear the weight of ongoing struggle to reach understanding for a season. The point is, we can’t expect peace to come without a concentrated effort on our part.

2. There are no exceptions (Matthew 5:43-47).

To whom should we show peace? Everyone. The apostle Paul reminds us of this in his letter to the church in Rome when he says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Paul was writing to a church with a mixture of Jewish and Gentile believers. These church members came from different religious, ethnic, and social backgrounds. So as you might imagine, they had some conflict. 

As humans, we have a tendency to gather with people who think, look, act, and believe like we do. But as followers of Jesus, we’re called to work through conflict and pursue peace even when we experience tension due to differing thoughts. Because Jesus died for every single person, we must work through conflict with everyone because they are valuable and worth it. 

3. Working through conflict leads to a better relationship with God (Matthew 5:9).

Jesus was blatant when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers…”.  In other words, Jesus said we will experience closeness with God when we handle conflict by pursuing peace. 

Not only that, Jesus says we should work through conflict with our brothers and sisters before we engage in an act of worship to God (Matthew 5:23-25). Jesus puts the emphasis on loving our neighbor before we worship, because working toward peace and loving people well is an act of worship. God doesn’t want our hands lifted high in song if we haven’t gotten our hands dirty seeking peace with the person we’re fighting with. 

Are you currently experiencing conflict with someone in your life? Here are some practical tips on how you might work toward peace: 

  • Pray for them. It’s been said before, “You can’t hate someone you’re praying for.”  We can pray for God to invade the heart of our friend as well as our own. 
  • Reflect and search your heart. Pray and ask God to reveal any wrong thinking, bitterness, or sin in your own heart. Ask God to give you the right motives and the ability to love. 
  • Work toward forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus gives us steps for talking through reconciliation with our friends in Matthew 18:15-16. First, go to them one-on-one to talk out the issue. If another step needs to happen, ask a trusted, godly person to mediate and help work toward a solution. 

As we start dealing with conflict, we know it won’t be easy. But Jesus promised not to leave us on our own as we try to obey Him (Matthew 28:20). In fact, Jesus has given His very Spirit to live inside those who follow Him and help us in everyday life, as well as in the hard moments like resolving conflict (John 14:26). The hard work is worth the effort, and the peace in our relationships, as well as in our own souls, will be the fruit of our labor. 

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