Nothing is more emotionally draining than walking through conflict. But in the church, conflict is a spiritual battle, and like all spiritual battles, it provides us with the possibility of spiritual growth.
In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul counsels those entangled in personal conflict, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of us should look not only to your interest but also to the interest of others.”
His advice is appropriate and timely because individuals who find themselves enmeshed in conflict often consider only their interests. Paul is teaching us that intentionally looking out for the benefit of others and doing what is right prepares the parties’ hearts for reconciliation.
Jesus gives similar advice in Matthew 5:41: If a man forces you to carry his bags one mile, offer to carry them another mile. Consider the comparison below in the struggle between our self-interests and the interests of others:
Placing our attention on the interests of others creates an atmosphere where reconciliation and restoration are possible. If the other party does not respond, at least you have created a buffer that will prevent you from being consumed by resentment.
We glorify God by demonstrating the grace he expressed toward us in that while we were sinners, he sent his son to die for us (Romans 5:8). That passage encourages us to forgive others, and enables us to demonstrate to our foes the same forgiveness God granted us. In time, God’s spirit will soften the heart. It takes time for restoration of relationships; in the meantime, we are to, “As far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18).
Sylvan Knobloch is IBSA’s director of church health and leadership.