We glorify God by demonstrating to others the grace he expressed toward us, in that while we were sinners, he sent his son to die for us (Romans 5:8). The passage encourages us to forgive others, and enables us to demonstrate to our foes the same forgiveness God granted us.
But when a church faces conflict, reconciliation often requires a mediator—faciliators that have been trained to help individuals in the church who are caught up in conflict. When is it best to invite a mediator to help? When both parties acknowledge they are stuck and request help.
A mediator can help the parties break the deadlock and untangle conflict’s knot. He can listen to the parties as they identify the issues that are at the root of the conflict. Here are some characteristics of a helpful mediator:
• He recognizes the spiritual nature of the battle.
• He is a skilled listener and observer of non-verbal communication.
• He can work hard to prevent a root of bitterness from growing up in the lives of those involved.
• He can encourage their capacity to forgive, as Christ forgave us.
• He can help the parties realize this conflict does not define the other person’s identity in totality, and to see and affirm the good qualities and characteristics in each other.
• He will be able to clarify limits. Every person travels through conflict at a different pace. The mediator understands that some individuals will need more time and may even choose to harden his/her heart for a season.
• He recognizes that God measures faithfulness by your obedience (Romans 12:18); therefore, when people confess their contribution to the conflict, God asks “…as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all.”
• He can help the parties to resolve that they will never give up on a biblical solution.
A mediator is helpful in times of conflict because he will be able to explore solutions with the parties and lead them to a permanent resolution. However, it is important to remember this is a spiritual matter, and it may take time for God’s Spirit to soften hearts.
Sylvan Knobloch is IBSA’s director of church leadership.