Part 1: Conflict Management, Taking Initiative to Settle the Matter
Embroiled in Conflict?
(This post takes about 3.5 minutes to read)
I never cease to be amazed at the level of detail that God’s sovereignty permeates our lives. For too many very busy weeks, I’ve stockpiled my monthly copy of Reflections: The Teaching Letter of Dr. Ken Boa, hoping to find some margin to read them.
Then, ironically, I found myself deeply embroiled in conflict. By nature, I’d prefer to come out swinging and settle the matter on my terms. But I know that’s an “old self” behavior that I’ve worked to leave behind through intentional life change. Now my chosen approach is to “out grace” my adversary, at least when I’m thinking clearly and praying about the issue.
In contemplating how I’d navigate through the current relational minefield, I picked up the unopened March-June issues of Reflections for a reading respite in the storm. Go figure! Each issue dealt with a different dimension of “The Art of Conflict Management,” highlighting the model that Jesus offers—one that many of us totally ignore as we wade into the fray with a thimble-full of grace and a bushel-basket of hyped-up emotions.
In the first newsletter of the series, Boa tells the amusing story of the warning Winston Churchill’s wife, Clementine, leveled at him in a personal letter. “There is danger of you being generally disliked by your colleagues . . . because of your rough, sarcastic and overbearing manner.” Pondering Clementine’s counsel to England’s war-time prime minister, it didn’t take me long to realize that I have some Churchill blood in my veins; I like to be right, point out the weak links in my adversary’s argument, question his motives, and make it known that I have a strong spiritual grounding.
I think Jesus might say, “Don’t go there! I have a better approach.”
Here are some highlights. “Fill your bushel basket with grace and forgiveness and get rid of your hyped-up emotions. That’s not from Scripture, but this is: “Love your enemies, do good . . . and bless those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). Hate may be a strong word, but in a biblical context the words hate (and love, for that matter) are not always limited to an emotional response to someone—they also represent an attitude reflected in actions or behaviors.
Here’s what you and I are called to do to “manage” interpersonal conflict and settle the matter.
§ Even if we are the obvious offender, we’re obligated to be the initiator of the solution. Says who? Well, that’s the implicit “gospel” message from Genesis to Revelation . . . and ultimately modeled in the person of Christ. Think about it . . . in the God-person relationship, God has always been the Initiator; he alone took the initiative to solve mankind’s dilemma by sending Jesus to rescue us from ourselves.
§ Set pride and your bushel basket of emotional weapons aside. Then, approach your adversary with humility, but also head-on in truth about the issue. Leave out the Churchill bluster and sarcasm that creates a no-win scenario. Absent that, Jesus suggests that fellowship with him is compromised. Relationships, Jesus says, are more important than Bible knowledge and ritual (read the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7).
§ Begin the process of reconciliation quickly; don’t dilly-dally in the weeds of hesitation and allow the issue to fester. Furthermore, avoid involving allies to bolster your case. Keep the conflict initially on a one-to-one plain.
§ Set aside any agenda for an apology from your adversary; if it’s meant to be, it will come. Instead, be committed to the imperative in Romans 12:18 . . . “to the extent the solution depends on you . . . do it!”
I’m praying to follow Boa’s counsel myself in this nagging conflict. I believe it will only come, in God’s grace, after I toss my bushel basket of angst overboard . . . and attempt in good faith to forgive and settle the matter.
“First, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24)
 Kenneth Boa. Conflict Management, Part 1: The Model of Jesus. Reflections, March 2019. (Connect with Boa’s insights at www.kenboa.org).