How to Deal with Conflict the Biblical Way

Conflict is a part of life.  People have different personalities, different preferences, different backgrounds and experiences.  When you put us all together on one planet, one neighborhood, or in one house, there will be conflict.   That’s true whether you are a Christian or not.  What matters most for the Christian is not that we have conflict, but rather how we choose to conduct ourselves in the midst of conflict, how we express ourselves, and how we treat those with whom we might disagree.  Listen to the May 6 sermon, “The Temper Test.”

In the Epistle of James, we are given a great prescription for dealing with conflict.  James 1:19-20 states the prescription in a simple and straightforward manner: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

  • What does it mean to be quick to listen and slow to speak?  It means we work really hard to truly listen and try to understand the viewpoint of others, especially viewpoints that we don’t share.  It has been said that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.  It’s always a good idea when we encounter a conflict with someone, to go into discovery mode rather than attack mode.  That requires being quick to listen and slow to speak.
  • What does it mean to be slow to become angry?  It means that manage our emotions in such a way that we can remain calm and courteous in the midst of conflict.  Two disciplines to help us are deep breathing and prayer.  When our physical body begins to feel anger, deep breathing helps to relax the body and reduce the stress hormones running through our veins.  Deep breathing also sends more oxygen to our brain, so that we can think clearly rather than react foolishly.  Prayer helps us stay focused on the presence of the Holy Spirit, and our desire to demonstrate the love of Jesus even when it is difficult to do so.  I’ve experienced times when I’ve been in a difficult conversation or a difficult church meeting, where I could feel the anger and tension level rising in myself and others.  By pausing for a deep breath and offering up a prayer, I have experienced the Holy Spirit bringing peace and calm into my heart and into the situation.

There’s an old expression: “To live above with those we love, oh that will be the glory.  But to live here below with those we know, well that’s a different story.”   There’s a lot of truth to that.  But we get a little closer to heaven and we bring heaven a little closer to earth when we are quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

Pastor Mark Miller