Resolution in Church World
The ways conflict is resolved as discussed in the previous section all involved a third party intervening and driving a solution home. Interestingly, Gangel’s first remarks on how to handle conflict suggest diplomacy and negotiation. Gangel rightly states that walking away from a problem or pretending it does not exist is not a solution and that confronting the problem must take place. This is the approach used by Christ.
We see twice in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus addressed the issue of conflicts caused either by others offending or being offended by those early Christians. “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24 NKJV). Jesus again addresses this type of conflict. ““If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matt. 18:15-17 NIV84).
It is interesting that Christ’s instruction began with those in conflict first trying to work their differences out between them before involving outside parties. It is equally interesting in Matthew 5:23-24 Christ was more concerned with the resolution of conflicted relationships than He was with religious practices. Notice also in both passages that Christ instructs believers to go to his brother. It does not matter who committed the perceived offence! The believer is to go to his brother regardless of the circumstances from which the conflict arose. This is a stark difference to the secular response to conflict in which someone in a leadership position initiated the conflict resolution.
This notion of confrontation is again taught as a biblical behavior in Paul’s epistle to Philemon. “Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.)” (Phm. 8-11). Paul could have commanded Philemon yet he chose not to do so. He instead chose a gentle approach to make his case for Onesimus. Yet in each instance, the approach is the same; address conflict directly and personally.