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Every church member is a sinner. One implication of this fact is that every church will experience conflict, both big and small. Churches are wise to cultivate a culture of conflict resolution.

Resolving Everyday Conflict (Updated) Sande, Ken cover imageOne of the things we did as a part of this is to buy a case of Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson to give away to our members. This doesn’t mean that people will read it, and try to implement it. One of our members is seeking to become a certified conciliator, part of that process is facilitating a series based on the book. Next month we will begin 12 weeks of instruction on the principles of conflict resolution taught in Scripture and summarized in this book.

“Conflict is a normal part of life. … Many relationships are too important to walk away from. Some issues are too big to give in to. And some people won’t let go until they get everything they want. Add a variety of intense emotions to the mix, and conflict can get messy and painful.”

Resolving Everyday Conflict is a greatly shortened version of Sande’s The Peacemaker. This makes it easier to read, and apply, in the ordinary conflicts that people will find themselves in the family, church and workplace. One of the key words is “everyday”. This book is not intended to deal with more profound conflict that results from trauma.

The book begin with The Nature of Conflict. This chapter is largely focused on James 4:1-10. Conflict is about unfulfilled desires both proper and misguided. Being a Christian doesn’t exempt us from these desires, and engaging in conflict to fulfill our desires.

“Many of our differences aren’t about right or wrong; they are simply the result of these God-designed personal preferences.”

Some of our conflicts result from our God-given diversity. We want everyone to share our preferences and opinions. We see uniformity instead of unity. Our unmet desires become cravings and begin to control us, and we begin to try to control other people.

Sande and Johnson then remind us of The Hope of the Gospel. Our fundamental hope for conflict resolution is the gospel. The gospel enables both parties to humble themselves instead of pressing on to a battle to the death. The gospel helps us to be honest with/about ourselves because Jesus has removed the guilt and condemnation of our sin. We don’t need to be afraid anymore.

“Because running away delays finding a real solution to a problem, flight is almost always a harmful way to deal with conflict. … Peacefaking happens when I care more about the appearance of peace than the reality of peace.”

They then discuss Escaping, Attacking and Peacemaking. The first two are among the works of the flesh to avoid or win a conflict. Peacemaking moves us thru conflict toward reconciliation thru confession and forgiveness.

“People who use attack responses when they are more interested in winning a conflict than in preserving a relationship. … Peacebreaking happens when I care less about our relationship than I do about winning.”

They then shift to the 4 G’s. Sande loves his acronyms to help you remember the process. The first G is Go Higher, or bringing God back into the picture. We want to remind ourselves that we are not simply called to win a conflict. We are intended to glorify God in how we go about the conflict. We are reminded that every horizontal issue also reveals a vertical issue. Our conflict with our brother or sister also involves a conflict with God. We can’t love them unless we love Him, and while we are focused on our glory, kingdom, or agenda we are opposing God’s glory, kingdom and agenda. In this section they also discuss overlooking sin: choosing to forgive without confrontation. They help you to sort out when you should and shouldn’t overlook.

Image result for sande slippery slope

Then we are to Get Real, or own up to our own contribution to the conflict. This is getting the log out of your own eye, which is painful and avoided by most people. Most people are highly defended and overly focused on the other person’s sin (real or imagined) instead of humbled by their own sin. This section includes what Sande calls the 7 A’s of confession to avoid a bad confession which will usually prolong and exacerbate a conflict.

The 3rd G is Gently Engage. You will not this is not “confront”! We are to restore gently (Gal. 6). The goal is restoration, not pummeling the other person into submission. It is established by your own confession and seeking of forgiveness.

“We often stomp into a situation with heavy boots. We lay into people for their sin. That’s a sign of peacebreaking, caring more about getting our way and fixing a problem quickly than preserving a relationship.”

The 4th G is Get Together, Giving Forgiveness and Arriving at a Reasonable Solution. This is about working together to resolve the material issues because the personal issues have been addressed. This includes a discussion of what forgiveness is and isn’t.

The final chapter is Overcome Evil With Good. Hopefully you won’t get to this step because it means one person won’t be reconciled to the other. Peacemaking takes two. Some people want to cling to their peacefaking or peacebreaking. Doing the right thing doesn’t guarantee that the other party will own their own part of the conflict, and work toward gentle restoration.

“Although some opponents readily make peace, others stubbornly and defensively resist our efforts to reconcile. Sometimes they grow more antagonistic and even go hunting for new ways to frustrate or mistreat us.”

We are to love them, do good to them and give them space at times. There are times only God can work in them, so pray instead of push. This is hard because living with the reality of a former friend out there hating your guts is really hard to deal with.

This is a helpful little book that gets to the heart of the issues. It isn’t overly complicated which is important because when you are in a conflict, you don’t have the brain space for complicated. Sande & Johnson keep it simple and sweet. There are plenty of personal illustrations to show you what it looks like.

Doing what this book says to do is not easy (as I speak from firsthand experience). It requires faith. And that faith and obedience may not see the short-term results you would like. You aren’t responsible for the results, just whether you trust and obey, whether you seek reconciliation or you seek your own way.

 

 

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