What does the Bible say about conflict resolution?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

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Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
Conflict resolution in the body of Christ is crucial for several reasons. Avoidance of conflict, with no effort to resolve it, postpones a proper response and exacerbates the problem because confli...

July 01 2013 6 responses Vote Up Share Report

Image41 Ezekiel Kimosop
Conflict resolution is a critical issue of concern for the body of Christ. Conflicts vary from leadership related to congregational or interpersonal conflicts. The Bible provides a number of exhortations and guidelines on conflict resolution. Matthew 18 provides a suitable illustration the resolution of interpersonal offences within the Christian community. 

In Acts 15, a major conflict between the Jewish and Gentile churches was resolved under the famous Jerusalem Council. 

Paul and Barnabas sharply disagreed over John Mark accompanying them in a missionary journey in view of his conduct in a previous missionary assignment and this saw the two temporarily splitting up (Acts 15:36-41). It appears that the two ministers subsequently reconciled because Barnabas and John Mark are later mentioned as being in the company of Paul (Galatians 2:9, 13, 4:10). 

1 Corinthians 5 reveals that moral conflicts involving believers should be mediated by the congregational leaders. This is also implied in 1 Timothy 5:19 that relates to accusations of sinful conduct touching on a Christian elder. The Bible provides a higher threshold of two or three witnesses in this context. This is perhaps intended to avoid unjustified or malicious accusations against elders given the sensitivity of their roles. 

A conflict of opinion appears to be contemplated in the case involving two women leaders in the church of Philippi (Philippians 4:2-3). The issues behind the conflict are not explicitly revealed in this context but Paul asks the Philippians elder or overseer to reconcile the two women. We can only conclude that the matter was brought to Paul's attention because of its gravity. 

The Corinthian church conflict appears to have been partly precipitated by divided loyalties in the congregation. Sections of the congregation were reportedly allied to Paul, Peter, and Apollos, respectively. Those allied to Peter perhaps consisted of radical Jews that questioned the validity of Paul's apostolic authority (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:5-33). Paul was commissioned by Jesus as the apostle to the Gentiles while Peter, John and James were in charge of the Jerusalem church. Apollos was a visiting evangelist who was instructed in the way of Christ by a faithful Jewish couple, Priscilla and Aquilla in Ephesus (Acts 18:24-28). He later left Corinth in circumstances that appear to be linked to the Corinthian conflict. He was reluctant to return to Corinth despite Paul imploring him to do so (1 Corinthians 16:12). 

It took Paul's apostolic intervention to contain the Corinthian conflict. Paul reminded the Corinthians about the preeminence of Christ in the church and the fact that church ministers were merely stewards of God's grace (1 Corinthians 3:1-17, 4:1-2). 

Paul's second letter to the Corinthians reveals that the conflict had yet to fully dissipate even though it had been considerably buttressed. Some emotional wounds were yet to heal. Paul was conciliatory in tone and this could be evidence that his first letter was fairly harsh (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:2-12)

As regards doctrinal conflicts, Scripture reveals that they are to be resolved within the authority of sound Christian doctrine. Paul excommunicated two heretics in the hope that they would cease to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:20). Other passages of Scripture reveal that heresy and apostasy would be a defining feature in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-9; 4:1-5; Jude 1:1-19). 

Scripture requires that Christian conflicts should be resolved for the sake of the unity of the body of Christ. We are to forgive one another and to mind one another's welfare. God reconciled us in Christ Jesus. He took the initiative in providing the atonement for our sin such that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). We too should seek to be reconciled to our brethren whenever we offend them and forgive those that offend us. In all circumstances, the authority of Scripture remains paramount in conflict resolution.

April 13 2023 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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