We’re talking about conflict resolution. Conflict happens to everybody, if not now, then you will hear about it happening to someone else.
I met a guy once who told me he had no conflict. I said, “Tell me your secret.” (I know that he is married and has kids.) He said, “Well, my wife left and now lives in North Carolina. I haven’t seen her in 23 years.”
That’s a joke, folks, just a joke. Unless you live on a remote island somewhere; unless you are without anybody around, you’re going to have problems. You are going to have conflict—you are going to have conflict in a work situation, you are going to have conflict in your neighborhood, you will have conflict. You just will. Wherever it is, it can sometimes turn into a battlefield. And when conflict turns into a battlefield, relationships become very difficult. We are talking about that a little bit here, but we are also talking about other things.
How about conflict within the body of Christ? Anybody ever see a disagreement in the body of Christ? Anybody ever witness a disagreement on the mission field or hear about it and have to have missionaries taken off the field?
Because we have conflict, those kinds of things happen all the time. Once I was sent to another country to try to deal with a conflict between some folks that were on the mission field. I was in Europe and they sent me to another country to visit these missionaries to try to help them mend their situation.
If you would, open your Bibles to Romans 12. I’m so grateful to take a little look at Romans 12. When I come to this passage, it tells me something here. Paul has given 11 chapters of theology and the first thing he jumps into is about presenting our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice that’s acceptable to God; to not to be conformed to the world because the world has its arguments.
Do we see anything like that on television lately?
Do we see anything like that with our government with people in our neighborhoods? Sure!
But then we get the verse 3 and I love it! He says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
Hmmm, not to think more highly of himself … isn’t that the problem? Isn’t that the issue? We think we know. We have the answer. We think we know better than everyone else. So, we want to let them know that we know better than them.
“… to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think but to think so as to have sober judgment each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” God has allotted to each “a measure of faith”; this is where to begin to right our thinking.
This morning, (or it may have been last night), I did a podcast. This particular discussion was about humility. We must have the humility of Christ.
Philippians 2:5-7 says, “Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
We must do this in the body of Christ. We should readily be able to do that and defer to our brother, and listen to our brother or sister, so that we can get wisdom so that we can understand.
But what about in the home? There are some people in the home who think they know better than their spouse. You’ve never had that in counseling, have you? I think that’s only what happens in California.
“Not to think more highly of one another …” Romans 12:4 says and 12:5 continues, reminding us that we are “members of one another.” We are the body of Christ.
It’s interesting. I’ve been asked to do a retreat for another church. The pastor asked, “Could you please do something on unifying my church? There are factions and there’s fighting going on. Can you help there?”
Can you imagine that in the body of Christ? What the pastor is looking for is found in Romans 12:9 which says, “Let love be without hypocrisy, abhor what is evil and cling to what is good.”As people who know the Lord Jesus Christ, we should be looking as people for what is good. We should be running towards that! As a matter of fact, Hebrews 12:14 says pursue peace! Go after it! Run after it! We should be pursuing it!
Romans 12:10 tells us to be devoted to one another in brotherly love, to give preference to one another and honor.
Now, I’m going to make a confession here. And if anyone tells my wife, who is attending here, that I said this I will deny it.
We were told not to bring any drinks in here that have color—black, green, or blue. My wife walks in with a steaming cup and I say, “You’re not supposed to bring that in here.” She replies, “I heard just as well as you did.” And she shows me it’s hot water. I spoke before I should have. I’ve never done that before. Oh my!
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love when you see disharmony in the body of Christ. Disharmony in the family is ugly. Our Christian testimonies are impacted by that.
Somebody was telling me that when you have a church split, in some of the smaller churches, it can linger in that church for 10, 20, or even 30 years. I have a dear friend who has just taken over a small church in the central coast of California. Everybody should love to go to that church! It is not too far from the beach, but they had a split. Then they had another split. The people in the neighborhood say, “Why go there? Those Christians don’t know how to get along with one another. Those Christians don’t know how to live with one another in peace.”
Verse 14 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” This whole chapter 12 written by the Apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit is saying be at peace with others. And, verse 18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
But it’s not just Romans 12, if you look at the Epistles, it’s written over and over again. One of key verses that I ask my counselors that I’m training—that I want them to understand, to know, and to have as a part of them—is 1 Timothy 1:5. “The goal of our instruction is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
That should be our goal with whomever we are ministering to. Our pursuit should always be for peace.
For it is then that the Christian will be heard. It will be then that the Christian will be listened to. It just doesn’t end with Romans chapter 12. See Romans 14. It’s the same thing. You can see that over again. Go to 1 Corinthians. We see Paul speaking to this church that doesn’t have a very good reputation. But he writes to them and he says this in 1 Corinthians 1:10, “I exhort you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
I don’t think he’s asking them to agree on the color of the gym wall, but to agree about biblical things.
Now some of you may know about my pastor. Next year, he will celebrate 50 years of being a pastor. When I came on staff, I had come out of the working world, and in the working world, you do have disagreements and you have arguments. One of the first things I asked him was, “What should I do if I disagree with you? Do I do it in public? Do you want me to meet with you in private?” He replied, “Bring your Bible.”
Bring your Bible. Folks if we’re going to disagree on something, let’s see what God says. We must keep that in mind if we’re going to disagree on something.
What does God have to say about it? Here we are in 1 Corinthians 1:10-11, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.”
Corinth had a terrible reputation as a church because they had quarrels. Your church should not be like that. It should be different.
Just a few other highlights for you, or lowlights, as you may want to take these.
See Galatians 5:14. It says, “Thus the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” We already love ourselves. We take care of ourselves. We feed ourselves. We make sure that we have good health by going to the doctor—all of those kinds of things, but then he says this in verse 15, “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”You love yourself, but you bite and devour one another. Most commentators say it actually means “biting.”
I haven’t asked my mother, but I think the last time I bit someone was when I was three. I have given it up since. But that’s what it’s talking about when Paul says, “biting and devouring one another”—it’s trying to get your pound of flesh.
Ephesians says the same thing as well. In Ephesians 4, Paul says you need to have certain qualities of humility and gentleness and patience and forbearance. Because that is what will bring about unity. Look at Philippians. Different book that says the same thing.
In Philippians 4, he urges two women to come together because they are in the cause for Christ. Yet, they are fighting with one another. They are not listening. They don’t have a heart of humility that James speaks of. We see that there is fighting there as well.
Obviously, ladies and gentlemen, what I’m trying to point out is the Bible gives us a very clear picture of how important this issue is to God and it’s not that our first century church was unique.
And it continues. How do we have first, second, third Baptist or 10 Presbyterian churches? How does that happen? It happens because we can’t get along.
Not only is an important topic to God; it is a relevant one for us as well. As biblical counselors, we try to help families come back together all the time. I was asked for help by a three generational family. They go to the same church, our church, yet they don’t speak to one another. And when I say don’t speak to one another—even on the church campus—they will walk by one another like they didn’t even know each other.
I know. I want to say, “Are you serious? Are you SERIOUS?” We sat down for four and a half hours to try to pull this thing apart and put it back together. Four and a half hours! But when they left, they were hugging and realized that their conflict was over something very dumb … over something very insignificant.
When you have a counselee, have you ever asked him, “So what was that last argument?”
“I can’t remember. Can you remember?” “I can’t remember …” Often, they don’t even remember what they disagreed about.
Where does all this all generate from? I mentioned the book of James. Why don’t we turn there to James? For, by the way, we’re still in the introduction.
Let’s turn to James chapter 4. What is the source? Just see verse 1! “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” You want something and you want it very badly, and you want it to your heart. You are lusting after something you cannot have. And so, you fight and argue about it.
Verse 2 says, “You lust and you do not have, so you commit murder.” Are you serious? You’re going to commit murder for this? You’re going to kill somebody for this. You are envious and cannot obtain it, so you fight and you quarrel. You want it so bad that you are going to fight and quarrel over this.
I got a call one day from the police department in Los Angeles, California, believe it or not.
A friend of mine who’s a police officer called me and said, “I have a pastor and his wife in the middle of the street fighting in Northridge. They are not from our church. Can you come and help them? Can you come here now?”
It took me 15 minutes to get there and to try to help them get it off the street, and at least get into my office to work this out. But we have those kinds of things—a pastor and his wife! We have fights. We have quarrels. We have conflicts. We need to understand what that is. How do we resolve these conflicts?
What is Conflict?
We need to understand what the conflict really is. We need to start asking the right kinds of questions. We need to let them know that this disagreement, this argument means that you are willing to strike against the other person. You’re willing to fight against this person. It could be physical or could be verbal or it could be both.
In this day and age, the police don’t do what they used to do. When I first started in ministry, they would just take names and say, “Why don’t you leave for the night” And the guy would be allowed to come back later. Well, what happened was the guy would come back and he killed the woman. Or the woman would come back and she would kill him. Now they separate them immediately and don’t allow them to continue.
I had one couple come in for counseling. They had a five-year restraining order that said they couldn’t be with one another for five years. That’s very difficult to counsel and try to put that marriage back together. But that was because of the number of times that the police had to come and the threats to life and that kind of thing.
Here’s a general definition of this: It’s fighting. A conflict is when both parties sinned against one another. They sin in their communication; they sin in their actions. They sin in their opposition to one another.
In some cases, these folks can’t even agree on the colors of the wall. One would say, “Oh, that’s green.” “No,” the other one would say, “It’s yellow.” And it doesn’t matter. Whatever one would say, the other one would say the opposite.
We have to see differently. We have to ask ourselves, “What does God think of conflict?” I’ve given you some verses already, but there’s so much more!
In Matthew 5, God thinks it’s grievous.
Matthew 5:21 says, “You have heard that the Ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder and whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good for nothing’ shall be guilty before the Supreme Court. And whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be guilty enough to go into fiery hell.”
Our thoughts, our words, mean something to God. Our hearts mean something to God. It’s grievous. He does not want that to happen. It’s bad enough that you are guilty into hell.
We know what God thinks about sin. We saw what Jesus said in Matthew 18. He says, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” I don’t think he’s looking to have a bunch of pirates in the church. He’s looking for us to deal with the seriousness of our sin. It’s grievous. Do not participate.
He wants His children—and that is what you are, His children—to not participate. He does not want you doing this. If this is a regular action in your life, you better start questioning whether you are a believer or not. You better understand: Are you truly saved? Second Corinthians 13:5 says to test yourself to see whether you are in the faith. That is what it’s about. It grieves the Holy Spirit. It quenches the power of the Holy Spirit. It tampers the working of God in that church body.
He doesn’t want us to identify with Him.
I had a young boy brought into my office. I don’t normally counsel young people, but his dad was overseas and was going to be there for a couple of years. And so the mom wanted me to speak to this young boy. He said he’s a Christian but he’s getting the fights every day at school. I said, “So have you how many people have you told? Is it cool that you’re a Christian?”
And he said he had told everybody. I said, “Would you please tell them that you’re really not a Christian? You’re a crusader and that you are there to fight.”
“No!” he said.
I said, “Well, that’s what you’re doing. You’re not really a Christian because it Christian is not going to be fighting each and every day. What does he want us to do? Pursue peace.”
Pursue peace. That’s what we should be doing—going after peace. Trying to settle the issue. If you think someone has said something evil against you, go to them.
I missed an elder meeting one day and supposedly this elder said something critical about me. And I wasn’t there. So, instead of taking that as being gospel. I called that elder up and I asked, “Are you doing anything for lunch next week?” I took him to lunch and I said, “Supposedly this is what you said about me at the elders meeting.”
He said, “Yes, I said that, but let me give you the whole context.”
I said, “Fine. And now that I have the whole context, can I get you some pecan pie?” Because it was nothing, it was absolutely nothing. That brother and I are still very good friends today. Don’t assume that what you’ve heard is gospel.
He wants His children to pursue peace.
Let’s look at Ephesians 4 where Paul instructs, right after all that deep theology, he turns around and what does he say in Ephesians 4? He says, “I, a prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called with all humility, and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
You need to go after is the unity of the spirit.
Peace should be our pursuit, not war. He should be our pursuit.
I’m going to admit it in front of some of my friends. I do not read all the stuff on social media about what so-and-so said about what so-and-so said about what so-and-so said.
Because sometimes it’s not true, sometimes it’s not right, and so we must be very careful to get that as gospel. This is it right here. Some of that is not true. Pursue peace, not war. Yet, I know you are counseling families that are falling apart.
Husbands not loving wives. Wives not loving husbands. Children not obeying parents. Don’t give up! Don’t give up! God has the answer. But we need to let them know they cannot give an offense. They shouldn’t give an offense. They should still pursue the right kind of things.
As 1 Corinthians 10:31-32 says, whether then you eat or drink, or whatever you do—do all to the glory of God. If I asked you what you had last Tuesday for lunch, you probably couldn’t tell me unless you eat the same thing as Wimpy did on Tuesday and that’s a hamburger. You may not remember, but that’s important to God. And this should be important to God.
If you going to give Him glory, verse 32, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.” We should not be giving an offense to anyone our on our council or the folks we work with. We need to understand that what God wants for us to do is to be a blessing instead.
Look at Matthew 5:44-45. It says this, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who was in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” We are to be a blessing to others.
Your neighbor is doing something in the neighborhood that you don’t like. Bring them over some cookies and talk to them. Make them your friend, not your enemy. Do something that will settle that.
In 1 Peter, after Peter has given instruction to the husbands and wives, he tells the husbands to understand their wives and in 1 Peter 3, he then ends with this (and I love it!). 1 Peter 3:8-9 he says, “To sum up all of you, be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted and humble in spirit, not returning evil for evil or insult for insult. But giving a blessing instead.”
This couple had come in to see me. They came in separate cars as they had been separated for two weeks. The gal was living with mom and the guy wanted her back, and all of those kinds of things. They come in to see me and I’m in this very tense office. They are not looking at one another, and basically, they move their chairs. So, they are looking away from each other and not interchanging at all. I talked to them for about an hour and a half and gave them Scripture.
And I said, “This is what you’ve done, you built a brick wall between you.” And I did some sketches. I’m not very good at it, but in the sketches, I started to write down how they sinned against each other in these bricks. And I said, “This is what’s happened. You guys have to start removing those bricks.”
“I can’t do that.”
“But you have to start coming to each other and asking for forgiveness. How do we know that? Because 1 John 1:9 says if we’re faithful God will forgive us but we also need to go to the other person and so you need to do that. Ephesians 4:32 talks about forgiving others as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you. You need to get that settled. I have to go now. Can I let you leave this building together?”
I was afraid they were going to get in the parking lot and there be fisticuffs. I was actually going out of town. I went to India for three weeks. When I came back, my first appointment is with them. They walk in and they’re smiling and they’re holding hands.
“My,” I said, “What are you doing? What’s going on here?”
“Well, we went downstairs, and we started dealing with the bricks and we took them all down.”
That’s what happens. Sometimes in a marriage, they build up these bricks between one another and live two separate lives without dealing with the sin that they have toward each other. They did it! They didn’t want to do it. They did it because they want to heal, and they began to seek God. They sat down in the front of our campus for three hours taking the bricks down and doing it the right way.
Did you realize that we are different? These folks are different, they come from the differences in backgrounds and differences are essential to the issue here. That’s another place where conflicts come. Folks from even the same ethnicity are going to have problems. I do a lot of premarital counseling and wherever those differences are, I want to point them out and say, “How are you going to deal with that?”
I had two folks getting married. There were two different races, fine. I have no problem with that. But you know what I did? I brought somebody who was already married and in that kind of situation. I said, “What is it like in the world? Is there prejudice because of what you’ve done?”
“How about in the church?” I’m thinking it’s going to get a little better.
They said, “It’s a little bit better.” And so, we have differences and it shouldn’t be like that. If we are in the body of Christ, if we are brothers and sisters of one another, it should never be like that.
The question that they need to begin to ask themselves is this, “How can I give glory to God in this situation? Even though we have different backgrounds, different family structure, different sizes, different traditions, different economics, different education, how do we do that?”
Then you put on top of that the different personal tendencies that we all have.
My wife and I have two daughters. My wife actually had the children. I just watched.
And the night before they got married, I had my last Bible study with them. I said, “Well outside of the Bible, there are some other things that happen when you get married. We have personal tendencies. Have you noticed any of those?”
“Yes,” they replied.
I asked them, “Can you live with those personal tendencies that are different than yours for the next 60 years?”
And they said, “Yes.”
“Fine,” I said, “You’re not coming back.”
Because there’s going to be differences. There’s going to be different ways that we handle things, we have unique gender differences, we have different perspectives. We have different convictions. We have different likes and dislikes. We have differences and we need to understand those things. We have different capabilities and in capabilities.
But then there’s another way that we have conflict. It’s called offenses.
By offending someone else, you are trying to cause them to sin; trying to do these things against them. Proverbs. 17:27 says, “He who restrains his words has knowledge…,” but you know what? Sometimes people are foolish, they let their mouth go, and they get themselves into trouble.
But you see, if you are a believer, if you are living for Christ, you are to never offend anyone needlessly or sinfully. You should always be in the posture of humbly forgiving them and towards the gracious ends of ending that conflict.
In the flesh, we see the pride. See Galatians 5.
Years ago, I counseled a couple that seemed like endless, endless, problems over and over and over again. I went to Galatians 5 and pointed out the deeds of the flesh and the deeds of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I asked him, “In your marriage, do you have this?” I got 18 no’s!
That’s scary. You get 18 no’s to the fruit of the Spirit. Then I went to Galatians 5 verse 19, and I said, “Now these are the deeds of the flesh are evident immorality and impurity.”
No, they didn’t have that sensuality. No idolatry. No sorcery, you know. But as soon as we hit strife, yes. Yes to jealousies. Yes to outbursts of anger. Yes to disputes. Yes to dissensions.
And you get to the end, they are at the next verse and it says, “If you practice these things you will not inherit the kingdom of God.” And I said to them, “How much do you think practice is necessary here?”
And it was silent.
I said, “Folks you are already practicing this. If you come in week after week after week after week with the same offenses, then you are practicing it. I have a fear that you are not a Christian.”
Guess what his answer is to me? The man’s answer is to me, “As somebody who attends Grace Church, goes to a fellowship group, and comes back on Sunday evening. I thought everybody came back on Sunday evening must be saved, right?” And he says to me, “Bill, all you are is a fruit picker.”
I was shocked. A fruit picker. That morning, I had my devotions in John 15. This is where Jesus said that he would know you by your fruit and your fruit is not showing that you’re really a Christian. Sometimes you are trying to put back Humpty Dumpty in a relationship here when they can’t be put back because they’re not really believers.
You have to make sure that they are believers. Make sure that they know the Lord Jesus Christ. Make sure that they are followers of Christ, because if they are, they should be changing, right?
Without a doubt there should be something that happens.
So, pride and flesh sometimes step in.
Disagreement vs. Conflict
The difference between a disagreement and a conflict. There are times that a disagreement is okay. The difference between disagreement and the conflict is the emotional element that is added to it.
The emotional element that’s added to the desire. If I’m going down the street and I think I’m supposed to turn left, and my wife says to turn right, and she gets angry at me for turning left. There’s something wrong with that. That anger is displaying, “You’re not doing it my way and I want my way now!” My wife would never do that, but I thought it was good example.
The problem is in this emotion. It is fraught with selfishness—the emotion is fraught with selfishness and it’s fraught with pride. “I must have what I want now!” It is in the desire that there is an unwillingness to yield. It brings about jealousy, this emotion. It contains anger and fear. I must have it!
Our expectations should always line up with God’s Word. They should always line up with what the Scriptures have to say—not our own desires.
What are some benefits, though, of differences? There are benefits in differences. We need see that there are benefits even in differences that are not clear in the Scriptures. In Acts 15:39, Paul and Barnabas are out on their mission trip. We don’t know exactly what the difference was between Paul and Barnabas, but here it is described in verse 39 as a sharp disagreement. It’s giving you a picture here, that there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another.
I wasn’t there, but more than likely this disagreement began with a preference issue. Where we do ministry, how we do ministry, to what group of people we do ministry … that kind of thing. There’s probably a disagreement, folks. Disagreements are to be expected, disagreements are to be expected.
Two people with different ideas, backgrounds, theology, gender, of upbringing, education—just mentioning a few things that lead to disagreements.
On that trip that I made to India, I had the opportunity to counsel with a man who was there. He asked me, “Have you ever done marriage counseling with an arranged marriage?” I thought about it for a little while, and I said, “Yeah, as a matter of fact.” All of the counseling I do for marriage is arranged.
It’s arranged by God, maybe not parents. We need to remember that marriage is arranged by God. I mean, sometimes, people will come in and say, “I married the wrong person.” You know so-and-so was over here and loves me and I didn’t go with them, but I went with this one. No, no, you married exactly who God wanted you to marry because He doesn’t make any mistakes.
Benefits of Disagreements
Disagreements do not need to turn into conflicts. You see, if they have the right kind of attitude, if they are the right kind of person, that is a biblical person, a God-fearing person, then they will know exactly what Paul said in Philippians 3:15. He says, “
Therefore, all who are perfect, let’s have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal it to you as well.”
What is “it”? What you must do is to serve Christ Jesus our Lord. He’s paramount. How am I doing that? Living to that standard of loving Christ, see verse 14. That’s the goal that we have when we become Christians, when God saves us.
What are the benefits of differences and disagreements: What are some of the benefits? Number one we are encouraged when they can encourage us; Psalm 119:71 says, “It is good that I have been afflicted that I might learn your statutes.”
That’s why we are afflicted. That’s why you have trouble. It could be affliction because of a bad marriage; a poor marriage.
Verse 71 says it is good that I have been afflicted and the verse 72 goes on to say, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” It doesn’t matter what it is. This is what’s important to me.
What disagreements also do is make us search the Scriptures. What does God have to say about this? We need to teach our counselees how to be Bereans. Teach them to go to the Bible and how to use it. Show them a quick Scripture reference. This is wonderful to give to folks and for them to have it. Let’s go there and see what the Bible has to say about it.
Disagreements can cause us to seek God in prayer. And of course, that’s who we should be consulting anyway. It helps us to grow in understanding God’s Word tremendously and will help us with the more conflicts that we have.
But we resolve those conflicts and we will grow other in other benefits as well. It makes us think differently about how you see folks. I do know not you. I do not know what has happened here in this group of counselors that made you pursue ACBC. But whenever it happened, there is a danger in that we sometimes think that we’re always right. I sometimes come home, and I’ve been at the office, and I’ve been helping people all day long giving counsel. I walk in and my wife starts to speak, and I am tired and do the same thing.
“You know what?” she says to me, “Can’t you just listen?” Sometimes you have to listen, I don’t always have the answer. I have to listen. You see, we assume we know, and we assume we’re right. I assume that my view is legitimate. It must be because I’m a biblical counselor and a pastor, right?
The question I should be asking myself is, “What do I need to change here?”
How about the counsel? You have a counselee and you say to them, “What if you said this to your wife?” “What if this were your husband?” You know, I never thought of it that way. Instead of saying that was stupid. I never thought of it that way.
Work at communication, teach them how to communicate, teach them how to speak to one another and make sure that they are communicating.
Well, you know, the four rules of communication. You probably have seen that if you have done any kind of counseling. You make sure that their words are timely, that it’s a word that’s going to give grace at the right time (Colossians 4:6).
Ask yourself before you even start: Is this appropriate to bring up at this moment? Those kinds of things are important. There are benefits which produce maturity. How does it produce maturity? Because, you know, that going through disagreements are not easy. Working through having a different opinion about something is not easy.
But in James 1 he says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren when you encounter various trials …” Here’s a trial. We should be accepting it, “…knowing that the testing of your faith will produce endurance and endurance have it’s perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.”
The next verse is the key verse, “…but if any of you lack wisdom, ask…”
Ask. We have a good God. He wants to give His children good things, but you don’t ask. Okay, He wants to give you good things. He wants to give you wisdom on how to work through these issues. That’s what He does. He produces maturity. It can challenge us to godliness.
Disagreements should be sharpening us. Sharpening us to think a different way, sharpening us to act rightly towards our husband or wife. I had this man who used to listen to talk radio on the way home in California. It’s wretched talk radio and I don’t mean Todd Friel’s Wretched Radio. I mean, it’s terrible. They’re arguing, yelling, screaming at one another instead of listening. Shut it off and pray on your way home and ask, “How can I be a blessing to my wife when I get home?”
It challenges you to godliness. Next, is that it strengthens our belief. Do we believe that the Bible is true? Do we actually believe that the Bible is true? You know, we throw this verse out there: Romans 8:28. God causes all things to be good.
Is that true? Is that right? It means all things to be good. You mean that bloody battle I had with my spouse last night. Yeah, there’s something good going to come out of that, if you handle it God’s way and we need to teach them those things to strengthen them.
When we need to have the right kind of attitude. The right kind of attitude is a servant attitude. We must learn to practice that servant attitude. Philippians 2:3-4 says, do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind to think more highly of the other person. A servant attitude towards husband or wife.
And the next is to give glory to God in all things.
Here’s a suggestion—jolt. Jolt. I try to give this to my counselee. J is to help jolt their memory. That’s why we do this. Remember the person that you’re talking to is not your enemy. The person you’re talking to is not your enemy. God has allowed the differences here for your good. Do not make judgments of the other person. That’s the first thing that we need to understand.
The O is overlooked. Now some may want to debate but sometimes we just need to overlook the idiosyncrasies of our spouse or the other person. Maybe they have a different background or whatever it is. We need to overlook that 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Let love cover a multitude of sins.” It’s okay to do that. The time that you don’t overlook that sin is when one that’s going to be harmful for somebody. The other time that you don’t is when you have overlooked, but this sin has become a habit from that person. Now it is time to begin to point that out to them.
The L is listen. Listen, listen to the view of the other person. Listen to what they wanted. Let them tell you about their situation and/or their stance on a particular issue. Listen. If you want to resolve conflicts—listen.
You say, “But I know the best way.” Well, that just shows your pride. It can’t always be your way. Because your way can’t always be God’s way.
And the last thing is “T” Treat them as more important than yourself. Treat them as more important than yourself.
You have this husband and wife. He comes home and as he’s walking in the door his wife greets him, hands him his cool drink and gives him the remote and his slippers. I don’t know anybody like that. But he feels he doesn’t get treated fairly when he comes in. “I worked hard all day. I put in 8 hours and now she wants me to go take care of the kids. And what has she been doing all day just sitting down watching Oprah.” I don’t even know if Oprah’s on TV anymore, but that’s the way some people think. No, now it’s time to come home and serve your family. That’s what you need to do, begin to forget about yourself and think about your wife. That’s what you need to do.
What are some other God-honoring ways to avoid conflict?
First of all, you need to know that husbands are told to know their wives in an understanding way.
I know, you know your husband already and I’m talking to you, to your counselee. Okay, I know the wives think they know their husband, but they really need to know them as well. I know they’re not told but they see their habits. They see those kinds of things, but they need to know them as well. So know them, seek to know them.
Ask questions. Sit down and read a book together. Listen to one another reading that book and ask questions about it. One of the greatest discoveries I had was to find a book. We would read it to one another and then my wife would be asking me questions. Why did Athanasius do that? We’re reading about Athanasius. Why would he do that?
We got to learn together. Gather plenty of information.
In my first counseling experience, I’m sitting there, and Bob Smith is my supervisor and he’s actually in the room with me. Okay, you know may not know Bob Smith. He hasn’t been around a few years, but he’s at Faith Lafayette and Bob’s a sweet guy and he’s sitting there.
This lady is telling me about her husband. I want to jump out of my chair and go get the husband and shake him. The husband’s not there. I start to explain that to Bob after this lady leaves. He says, “But what about the other side? You haven’t heard it yet. The first who plead his case sounds just until another comes in. Examine him in the next counseling situation when he comes in.” And you know, the picture was completely different.
You need to get all of the information, as much of the information as you can possibly get—even asking other people that are in the home what it looks like there. Ask what is going on, find out if there’s any history. You can find out the history maybe from another pastor of another church or those kinds of things.
Next thing is to study and pray. What I have discovered that has been the most helpful thing for me and my counseling is that even when I’m here and I get a break, I remember the folks that I’m counseling. I pray for them and then I send them a text, “Been praying for you. How are things going today in this area?” Do you know what happens on the other end? They actually read it and they say, “You know what? My pastor cares about me.” My pastor, my counselor, he cares about me and he’s interested in me and he’s actually even doing this for me.” You know what it turns into? They listen the next time they come in. Try those kinds of things with your folks—study and pray.
The next thing is to demonstrate love, and folks, it’s not just bringing home flowers to the wife or chocolates or something like that. But demonstrate your love even in the midst of disagreement. Show them how to do that. I had this big fellow in counseling. I mean, he was a big fellow! He could fill up the door when he came in and he’s got this little wife with a low voice.
He’s got this big loud voice. I said, “When you speak to your wife, would you just grab her hand and hold on to her and say, “Honey. I really do love you, even though my voice is overpowering.” Those kinds of things show love, even the midst of disagreement.
Next thing is to listen. Listen more than you speak. You’re going to hear that over and over. Listen in matters of sin and approach in love. Approaching in love because you want them to change for the glory of God. That’s what you want them to do. You want them to get to the point where they will confess their sin to the glory of God. This is not for your relief, but for the glory of God.
Next is to the search the Scriptures, we’ve talked about that. The next is to refuse to sin yourself in your communication. Refuse to sin yourself and in your communication.
Next is to be more interested in God’s glory and the others’ good rather than having your own way.
And I think in our society, folks, and I’m very, very, frightened about what the next generation is going to be. I’m serious. The children have been given things over and over and over and over and there’s an expectation that “I deserve this. I deserve a problem-free life.”
That’s what we’re going to be facing in the future here, but it’s all about God’s glory and whatever happened. These were God’s glory. Respond in such a way that you’re giving glory to God.
Now, how can they resolve conflict biblically? They need to get to the point where they can start confessing sin. Remember I talked about the bricks. I also have another way that I asked them to look at their own sin. Because if it’s a married couple, they’re always wanting to point their fingers at one another. I say to them, “Look, you cannot tell me about your spouse’s problem of sin, only your own.”
I have to tell you it gets very quiet. When you do that, it gets really quiet. There aren’t too many people in want to jump up and say, “Well Pastor, I sinned against my wife this way, but she did this …” That’s what they always do.
Ladies never do that, right? But I say, “You know, what I want you to do is write out your sins and how you sinned against your spouse. I want you to give me 50 points of how you did it.” Next week, the wife comes in. She’s got all 50 down there nice and neat on a yellow pad of paper and hands it to me. The guy has three. You can’t count. No, no, he thinks he’s pretty good. He doesn’t know that I’m going to ask her to fill in the other 47.
Then we start to work on those biblically, right in my office of confession of sin, but it’s not just confession of sin. “You know, I yelled at my wife.”
“Do I want to know what you yelled?”
“Pastor I can’t say that word here.”
“No, I want to know what you yelled. And I want you to confess to God that that is not the kind of language or the kind of way to speak to a person.”
And so, we start to go through those things, and we take time in each sin confessing it and guess what?
They begin to forgive one another. They begin to, because in all of that, I’m teaching them about how to forgive because it says in Ephesians 4:32 forgiving others as God in Christ. Jesus has forgiven you. How did God forgive us, Isaiah 43:25. God says, through the prophet Isaiah, He says, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgression for my own good.”
I stopped and I said, “Folks, did you realize this is not for your good? It’s for God’s good.”
Why is it for God’s good? And I’m asking them to help them understand. It’s about God’s glory. When you’re sinning against each other, you’re tearing at God’s glory. You forgive each other because God receives glory.
And I say to them, “Look, I didn’t get saved until I was 31. I had this much sin since I’ve been saved. I realized I have a whole lot more sin, but different kind of sin.”
But why would He save me? Because He receives glory for doing that. For recognizing that He’s God, and I’m not, and so forgive each other. You know that Isaiah 43:25 doesn’t end there. It says this in the next verse, or the next part of that verse, and it is that God will not remember your sins anymore.
That’s the greatest thing for us as believers.
He’s not going to remember our sin anymore, and that’s what you are to do —forgive each other and not remember that sin.
Years ago, when computer paper was always attached (remember those days for us older folks?), I had a lady bring in a raft of paper that was connected with all the sins of her husband on there. I said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but 1 Corinthians 13 says love does not keep an account and you did so.” She had everything there. No, we’re not to remember that. We forgive and God does as well.
Remember, He is the king of the universe. He’s the one who knows the beginning and the end. He chooses not to remember it. Confession of sin in 1 John 1:9 and 10, seek forgiveness and ask for forgiveness, and we just told you how to do that. Express a desire to resolve the conflict fully. It’s complete and you do it together. You decided to get there when you can come together. The best time, the best place, and the best way of doing that. You come together at that appointed time, you pray together for God’s wisdom because you need it. You pray together for God to give you self-control—self-control in your speech, self-control in your actions, self-control in allowing your mind to be kept captive and not flying off (Proverbs 16:32).
Then review the rules of communication.
Take turns, maybe even put it on a timer. You can put this on a timer, and say, “Okay, you get 15 minutes. I get 15 minutes.” And we do this every 15 minutes. We each get 15 minutes to explain and we don’t have to rush it and we don’t have somebody going over. You take turns and then you discuss the issues.
Write out what the issues are so it doesn’t go off into other things when you have this disagreement.
Now folks I have one minute left. I can’t do what I want to do at the end. But let me give you a scripture—Colossians 3:12-17. It comes to the context of the husband-wife relationship.
But that passage is so very important in biblical counseling for resolving conflict. Why? Because it speaks to the issue of relationships, and it speaks to the issue of relationships within the body of Christ. Yes, it can be used for husband-wife relationships. But for the body of Christ, it says this and I’m just going to give you the beginning, “ So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved.” You are the chosen people of God.
Are you? And that’s the question to ask those who are in conflict. Are they really the body of Christ?