Biblical Conflict Resolution

The secular method for conflict resolution is for some authority over both parties to enforce peace. That could be one of the parties if he is in authority over the other, and there is no available superior to appeal to, in which case he wins and the other guy loses. **it happens. It happens often.

God could do it that way -- and eventually, He will -- but there is a much better solution for here and now.

Before we can look at how to end it, we need to understand how it started. That part is simple:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:1-3 (oNIV)
Conflict comes from wanting something you don't have. Maybe it was rightfully yours and somebody took it away, or maybe it was never rightfully yours, it's the same thing: you want it now and somebody else has it (or destroyed it).

There is no conflict when you recognize that God owns it all, and God is Good, and God is sovereign. The Muslim word for that is "inshallah" but not all Muslims practice "the way of peace." Mostly I suspect that is because the Qur'an is somewhat inconsistent.

But today we are looking at the Christian way. Very few Christians attain it, but Jesus set the example. He never started any fights, but the authorities of his time thought he was taking something from them. In a sense he was, because they had no right to that kind of power over the people. Nobody has that right (see Luke 22:25,26) but God allows it as part of this wicked age, so that wicked people can prove themselves unfit for His Kingdom and His Heaven. The oppressors have their reward, Jesus said, it's all they get. Their victims are compensated in Heaven [Matt.5:11,12].

The Christian God does not oppress anybody. The language of the Bible makes it seem like sending people to Hell is oppressive, but not when you consider that those people would not like it in Heaven. Like the people in the parable [Luke 19:14] they do not want God telling them what to do. So God graciously gives them their wish, and sends them to the one place in the whole created universe where He is not. It's rather unpleasant there (because God alone is Good, and He is not there), but He can't have them in Heaven messing things up for the rest of us, can He? It wouldn't be Heaven if He did that. And (Calvinists to the contrary) God doesn't seem to be into forcing people to be good against their will. You must want to. Otherwise it's not good, it's just mechanical.

Jesus also provides for us examples of how to deal with conflict not our doing. Sometimes it is by walking away, as he did in Nazareth when the Bad Guys wanted to throw him off a cliff [Luke 4:30]. If God gives you that opportunity, take it. But it is a particular case of the more general solution, which is -- by "walking away," by accepting the loss quietly, as Jesus did on the Cross.

Yes, God's command to His people when conflict arises, is to let the other guy "win." He gets his benefit today, and that's all he gets. God is Just, and the loser today gets a far greater reward in Heaven (if he wants it). This idea is so counter-intuitive, it gets repeated all over the Bible [Deut.10:18, Psa.68:5, Matt.5:39, 1Cor.6:7, Jas.2:5]. God never commands self-defense, but rather the reverse.

On the other hand, God cares a lot about Justice, and if He put you in a position of authority to enforce justice between two combatants (not yourself, you have a conflict of interest), then you should do that. The government "is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer," Paul told the church in Rome. Where there is conflict, at least one of them is wrong, and if God gave you the authority to stop it, you should do that. God said so (mostly in the Old Testament, where some of His people were in that position and had that authority).

We have a lot more government today than when Paul wrote that, but there are yet far more situations when no established authority is available to enforce good. So the fundamental principle is still to walk away, to accept whatever evil is forced upon you and to thank God because He is Good and He will bring true Justice in His time. Your reward in Heaven is great because things are bad now.

My heart goes out to the thousands -- perhaps even millions by now -- of victims of ISIS, and we (the USA) should help them, but our elected government hasn't learned much in six years, and I personally am not in a position to help. God cares.

Closer to home as I write this, I have my own injustices to endure, and writing this helps to remind me to walk away. God is Good, and God is bigger than my oppressors. God is also merciful, and maybe (and I hope) they will find mercy, or maybe they will be among those who Jesus said would be surprised on Judgment Day. It's their problem, not mine. I did my Matt.18 thing, and I lost, and that's OK, because God is Good, and God is bigger than my oppressors. Besides, I'm in good company :-)

Tom Pittman
2015 October 20