CHRIST-LIKE CONFLICT RESOLUTION

.By Ray Foster

 

Did Jesus have any experience with conflict resolution when He was on earth as a man? Did the Son of God have any experience with conflict resolution in heaven before coming to earth in fallen human flesh? Yes indeed.

Revelation 12:7 "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,"

That was the record of the conflict resolution in heaven. Did the war in heaven end the conflict and resolve the issue that the conflict was over? No! you say. So does that mean that God failed to resolve the conflict? No again! What it means is, that there is more to the resolution of the conflict in heaven than the war in heaven. The war in heaven tells us that God uses war as part of His conflict resolution process. If that is surprising to you listen to Jesus in person in conflict on earth:

John 8:44 "Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."

So it sounds like Christ-like conflict resolution includes you-words and war! Stand by for the rest of the story.

There needs to be a definition of the cause of the conflict. What the problem is, must be defined. We have to know what the conflict is about. The solution is going to be related to the problem. We have two parties and two areas that need definition. We could diagram the outcome possibilities like this:

My Problem (P) and Solution (S) Definitions

 

 

PP

 

 

PS

 

SP

 

SS

 

 

The PP or SS part of the diagram means that we agree on the definition of the problem and on the solution. The PS and SP squares mean that we have different definitions of the problem and so of course, also the solution are different, your solution and mine.

When our girls were little we would listen to one girl’s story and it sounded water-tight. She had been wronged. When we listened to the other girl’s story it was just as convincing. However we knew that both stories could not be accurate for the same event.

The importance of this diagram is to illustrate that with two variables (The Problem and the Solution Definitions) with two different people (You and I – or the two parties involved in the conflict) that these are the only four possible outcomes. For the definition of the problem – you agree or you disagree. The same is true for the solution.

This is helpful in as much as it is obvious that if there cannot be an agreement on what the problem is, it follows that it will be impossible to reach an agreement concerning the solution of that problem. The diagnosis of the problem first needs to be agreed upon.

Each part of the problem must be taken up separately. Conversion is on a point. Obedience is on a point. The Christian walk is step by step, point by point.

"God leads His people on, step by step. He brings them up to different points calculated to manifest what is in the heart. Some endure at one point, but fall off at the next. At every advanced point the heart is tested and tried a little closer. If the professed people of God find their hearts opposed to this straight work, it should convince them that they have a work to do to overcome, if they would not be spewed out of the mouth of the Lord. Said the angel: "God will bring His work closer and closer to test and prove every one of His people." Some are willing to receive one point; but when God brings them to another testing point, they shrink from it and stand back, because they find that it strikes directly at some cherished idol. Here they have opportunity to see what is in their hearts that shuts out Jesus. They prize something higher than the truth, and their hearts are not prepared to receive Jesus. Individuals are tested and proved a length of time to see if they will sacrifice their idols and heed the counsel of the True Witness. If any will not be purified through obeying the truth, and overcome their selfishness, their pride, and evil passions, the angels of God have the charge: "They are joined to their idols, let them alone," and they pass on to their work, leaving these with their sinful traits unsubdued, to the control of evil angels. Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation." 1T187

 

In the case of God in heaven with Lucifer, we are told that "God bore long with Lucifer". How long "long" is for God to bear with Lucifer we do not know. We do know that the 6,000 years of this world’s history is described as being "short" in God’s view. The fact that there was war in heaven tells us that the problem solving mechanism broke down or at least came to an impasse.

This should be a strong precedent for separation at least where it is impossible for spouses to agree on perhaps what the problem is. It must be noted that after the war in heaven there was still communication between Christ and Lucifer for we have two recorded instances of this. One from Spirit of Prophecy when Lucifer asked to be taken back into heaven and was told that he had gone too far, that his sin was incurable at its present state of development. The other record of dialogue between God and Satan is in the book of Job when all the sons of God assembled and Satan came to attend the meeting as the representative from this earth. His attendance was challenged and Job proved that God was right and that Satan was wrong in his assertions.

What this tells us about Christ-like conflict resolution is that we do not need to give up even when every attempt to solve the problem fails. It is apparent from the first meeting after the war in heaven, that the continued conflict resolution attempts of God with Lucifer is not for the ultimate restoration of Lucifer. It is for the salvation of as many as possible of the sons and daughters of God through Adam. It is also for the complete resolution of the problem of sin that started in heaven. The war in heaven did not solve the sin problem. We still have the sin problem and the results of the sin problem with us today. We are told that when God has fully and finally solved the sin problem that it will never arise again. (Nahum 1:9)

The first meeting between Christ and Satan after the war in heaven tells us something about both Christ and Satan. Christ still loved Satan. Jesus wept at having to tell Satan that he had gone too far and that his sin was incurable. Satan did not know that his sin was incurable. He was blind to this fact. The love of God is unchanged by incurable rebellion. Doing what God needs to do in order to solve the sin problem is also unchanged by the love of God. Rather it is because of love that God does what He has to do to solve the sin problem.

This tells us that we too, must, by God’s grace, love the party with whom we are in conflict. Agape love is not blind. Agape love is forgiving. The love of God is perfectly compatible with forgiveness, war and the total destruction of sin and sinners. We too, must be willing by God’s grace to be loving, forgiving, and do what we need to do to resolve conflict. This is "tough love" at its finest.

 

Step one in our conflict resolution is to have an authority outside of ourselves that we can appeal to. If the parties cannot agree on an external standard of reference, there is little likelihood that any lasting resolution of any significant conflict will be possible. For mankind, that external authority is God and His law as communicated and illustrated in Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy.

Having accepted Scripture and Spirit of Prophecy as the external authority reference, there is still the problem of interpretation. What does it mean? The gold standard here is that the Bible interprets itself and that the Spirit of Prophecy is in harmony both with itself and with Scripture. The other reference point is that God must be accepted as saying what He means and as meaning what He says in Scripture and Spirit of Prophecy. If these two methods of interpretation are not agreed upon, the parties are still at sea, in terms of making any sense of either Scripture or Spirit of Prophecy.

So both spouses or parties agree on the external authority of Scripture and Spirit of Prophecy and the fact that God has said what He means and means what He says and that Scripture and Spirit of Prophecy interpret themselves. What is the next step?

The next step is to forgive the wrong the other party has done you for God’s sake. You have been wronged. You have been injured. The next step is to act on the external authority of God. God says that every day we are to pray: "Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." God has forgiven your debts and sins because that is a function of His character. Before you even ask, He has answered you and forgiven you. It is this same attitude that God wants us to have and to exhibit for His sake. So even before you talk about the conflict with the other party, you have already forgiven him or her for the wrong that they did you. Your own heart is yielded to God. That is God’s way of conflict resolution. It is so simple and yet so powerful.

I am reminded of a friend of mine that is bitter, bitter, bitter. He is involved in going through a divorce from his estranged wife. The children are estranged from him. He is a lonely, bitter man. He is an excellent correspondent. He has beautiful penmanship. He writes all of his letters to me longhand. At the appropriate time, I thought, I suggested to him that a Biblical, and simple solution to all the problems he has suffered at the hand of his estranged wife, is just to do what Jesus told us to do. Simply forgive his wife for all the harm and all the damage that she has done him. This man is a professing Christian. I was a bit surprised at his response. He wrote back and said: "If I have to forgive her, then that is where I and Scripture part company." This is a key element in Christ-like conflict resolution. If we leave this key out, thousands of dollars later in lawyer’s fees, the conflict is still not resolved in most cases. Without this key, there may be a surface resolution, but the hurt in the heart that forgiveness will heal, is still live and sore years and years later. "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

 

Now we come to the communication part of the program. The communications protocol is given in Scripture:

Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

Matthew 18:16 But if he will not hear [thee, then] take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

Matthew 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.

The next step is communication between the involved parties. Each party is to take the initiative. You take the initiative. Don’t wait for the other party to come to you. You go to him or her. It is privately between you and your spouse or between you and whomever the conflict is with. The agenda for the communications is to arrive at a diagnosis of the problem and the solution. Tell him or her of the previous step. Tell him or her that you have forgiven the hurt and harm that you have felt. Right here is a powerful illustration of the gospel. Does forgiveness solve all problems? It is a great simplifier of the problem. However forgiveness is not the whole process.

My present conception of the popular evangelical gospel that is being preached in the popular, crowded churches, is that forgiveness is the sum and substance of that gospel. The "good news" is that Jesus has forgiven you all your sins, past, present and future. This gospel does not require any change, any victory in the life in order to be genuine. It is a lifeless, Christless, vanity fair gospel. Forgiveness is a key element of the gospel, but it is a part and not the whole. You have forgiven your spouse or friend or enemy the damage and the hurt that you have suffered. Now there is more to the conflict resolution process. The process has well begun. The process is not completed with the prayer: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." There remains to define the problem, the solution, and make restitution for damage done and put into operation the solution to the problem that will cure and remove the problem so that the problem is gone and never comes back again. This is genuine Christ-like conflict resolution.

This point needs emphasis because of the widespread confusion the vanity-fair gospel idea has caused. "So if you are prepared to forgive the other party – just walk away from it. What more is there to do?" There was war in heaven. Before the war in heaven, Jesus forgave Lucifer for all the damage that he was doing the government of God in heaven. The war in heaven was post forgiveness. Why the war then, if before the war started, Lucifer was forgiven? Lucifer did not accept the forgiveness offered. Lucifer did not enter into the forgiveness, by forgiving God for the perceived damage that the government of God was doing the universe in Lucifer’s view of truth. Had Lucifer accepted the forgiveness offered and taken the position and made the restitution and confession required, no doubt the war would have been avoided. The forgiveness was there. It was not accepted and entered into and the forgiveness did not change Lucifer. Though fully and freely forgiven, the war went on in heaven post forgiveness.

What was the prayer Jesus prayed as His hands and His feet were being nailed to the cross? "Father forgive them. They do not know what they are doing!" Was that prayer answered? Did God forgive those who nailed Jesus to the cross? Yes, Jesus was verbalizing the feelings of the Father at that moment. These men were forgiven at that moment. If that is so, why is God going to resurrect them to see His Son coming in the clouds of heaven? Why are they going to die with the brightness of His coming, and then still be resurrected again to die the eternal death in the lake of fire? The answer is simple. They were forgiven from the Father’s and from the Son’s side, but they never accepted that forgiveness. At least, not all of them accepted the forgiveness. Not having accepted that forgiveness, the sin remains and the penalty returns on their own head. This is a powerful illustration of the fact that there is more to the gospel than forgiveness. The whole world has been forgiven for all of their sins, but they do not all accept that forgiveness. Not all enter into that forgiveness, being changed by the acceptance of it. Not all forgive others as they themselves have been forgiven. In not accepting their own forgiveness and in not forgiving others as, in the same way, unilaterally, unconditionally, unreservedly forgiving others for the hurt done them, they do not receive the benefit from the forgiveness that they could and would should they accept it and enter into it. Forgiveness is part of the everlasting gospel. The everlasting gospel is more than forgiveness only. The everlasting gospel includes being changed into the very image of the Son of God in character, thoughts, feelings and in wisdom and righteousness, redemption and in sanctification. Praise the Lord!

If this is impossible to bring the conflict to full resolution privately between the two of you, then the next step is to take one or two others in whom you have confidence with you and continue the communication with the other party. Scripture has many examples of the value and wisdom of good counsel. If even with good counsel, agreement concerning the problem and solution is not possible, then the final step in the Matthew 18 advice is that the whole church body should appeal to the parties and make a decision. If this last step is fruitless, the church should work for the party or parties as earnestly as they do to draw, and love and bless an unbeliever and a stranger. Appeal to them to accept and to enter into the forgiveness and acceptance and change into the likeness of Christ that is so fully and freely offered.

The last step recorded in Matthew 18, is followed by no other step. The last step is a continuous step that does not stop. The gospel commission is to go into all the world to every heathen and to every tax collector. There is no time limit put on the everlasting gospel. However there is presented in Scripture that there is a time limit. Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

 Let us review the Christ-like conflict resolution steps:

  1. Accept an external authority such as Scripture and Spirit of Prophecy.
  2. Love the other party for God’s sake and forgive, unreservedly, unconditionally the damage and injury that you have suffered.
  3. Take the initiative to communicate, one on one with the agenda being to define the problem and agree on the solution that would include restitution and restoration and confession and forgiveness and put in place whatever mechanism needs to be to completely resolve the conflict. This needs to be done point by point.
  4. Communicate two or three on one on the basis of love and forgiveness, seeking to define the problem and to come to a solution based on the external authority principles.
  5. Communicate as a corporate church body with the individual on the same basis as before.
  6. Continue to work with the individual as a church and individually until the close of probation.

 

 

How to Handle Differences in Marriage 

"We must have the Spirit of God, or we can never have harmony in the home. The wife, if she has the spirit of Christ, will be careful of her words; she will control her spirit, she will be submissive, and yet will not feel that she is a bondslave, but a companion to her husband. If the husband is a servant of God, he will not lord it over his wife; he will not be arbitrary and exacting. We cannot cherish home affection with too much care; for the home, if the Spirit of the Lord dwells there, is a type of heaven….If one errs, the other will exercise Christlike forbearance and not draw coldly away.

"Neither the husband nor the wife should attempt to exercise over the other an arbitrary control. Do not try to compel each other to yield to your wishes. You cannot do this and retain each other’s love. Be kind, patient, and forbearing, considerate, and courteous. By the grace of God you can succeed in making each other happy, as in your marriage vow you promised to do.

 

 "In the married life men and women sometimes act like undisciplined, perverse children. The husband wants his way, and the wife wants her way, and neither is willing to yield. Such a condition of things can bring only the greatest unhappiness. Both husband and wife should be willing to yield his or her way or opinion. There is no possibility of happiness while they both persist in doing what they please.

"Unless men and women have learned of Christ, His meekness and lowliness, they will reveal the impulsive, unreasonable spirit so often revealed by children. The strong, undisciplined will will seek to rule." AH 118

When you have differences, here are some points to remember:

 

     
  1. Submit your feelings about the subject to the Lord, and ask Him to take away the irritation and emotionally charged feelings that naturally come when we differ. Also, things look better in the morning; leave it with Him and rest in the Lord. "Let not the sun go down in your wrath" Eph. 4:36
  2. Think it through rationally and remember that there are 3 categories of differences:
  1.  
    1. Those that are only a preference, and can be surrendered;
    2. Those that can be compromised; (60-60)
    3. Those with a principle involved that you cannot compromise.

(We must not be conformed to the world, and not try to force the other into what we see

should be done. Pray that the Lord will enlighten them if it is His will.)

  1. Remember that the other person also has "good" reasons why they think the way they do, and respect their ideas, as well.
  2. Look at your own motives and reasons for a different viewpoint.
  3. Seek to make time for both parties to discuss the issue without being hostile or upset. Put down the pros and cons and look at it from each other’s views.
  4. Most important of all, recognize that God is the ultimate authority, and if it is an issue that He has a preference for, be submitted to His authority. Pray and study to that end together if possible, or on your own, if not.
  5. Remember, love is a choice, not a feeling, and freedom of choice is something that each party must allow the other party. Each one must be allowed to have their own personality. Love wins, not demands. When the other party lets his desires be known, love will desire to please, if at all possible.
  6. Whatever decision is made, choose to be cheerful. A grumpy submission to the other party will only put a wedge between you.

Some Helpful Quotes:

 

Eph. 5:21-25 Submitting yourselves one to another.

"God requires that the wife shall keep the fear and glory of God ever before her. Entire submission is to be made only to the Lord Jesus Christ, who has purchased her as His own child by the infinite price of His life. God has given her a conscience, which she cannot violate with impunity. Her individuality cannot be merged into that of her husband, for she is the purchase of Christ. It is a mistake to imagine that with blind devotion she is to do exactly as her husband says in all things, when she knows that in so doing, injury would be worked for her body and her spirit, which have been ransomed from the slavery of Satan. There is One who stands higher than the husband to the wife; it is her Redeemer, and her submission to her husband is to be rendered as God has directed—"as it is fit in the Lord." AH 116

"If the husband is tyrannical, exacting, critical of the actions of his wife, he cannot hold her respect and affection, and the marriage relation will become odious to her. She will not love her husband, because he does not try to make himself lovable. Husbands should be careful, attentive, constant, faithful, and compassionate. They should manifest love and sympathy….When the husband has the nobility of character, purity of heart, elevation of mind, that every true Christian must possess, it will be made manifest in the marriage relation….He will seek to keep his wife in health and courage. He will strive to speak words of comfort, to create an atmosphere of peace in the home circle." AH 228

"When the practices of the people do not come in conflict with the law of God, you may conform to them." 1MCP 560

"When fathers and mothers are converted, there will be a thorough conversion of their principles of management. Their thoughts will be converted; their tongues will be converted….

"There will be no loud, angry talking in the home. The words will be of a character to soothe and bless the hearer…Take all the ugly features out of the voice." AH 436

"If Christ indeed is formed within, the hope of glory, there will be union and love in the home. Christ abiding in the heart of the wife will be at agreement with Christ abiding in the heart of the husband. They will be striving together for the mansions Christ has gone to prepare for those who love Him." AH 120

"The wife is to respect her husband. The husband is to love and cherish his wife; and as their marriage vow unites them as one, so their belief in Christ should make them one in Him. What can be more pleasing to God than to see those who enter into the marriage relation seek together to learn of Jesus and to become more and more imbued with His Spirit?" {AH 114.2}

"In the married life men and women sometimes act like undisciplined, perverse children. The husband wants his way, and the wife wants her way, and neither is willing to yield. Such a condition of things can bring only the greatest unhappiness. Both husband and wife should be willing to yield his or her way or opinion. There is no possibility of happiness while they both persists in doing as they please." {AH 118.3}

"We must have the Spirit of God, or we can never have harmony in the home. The wife, if she has the spirit of Christ, will be careful of her words; she will control her spirit, she will be submissive, and yet will not feel that she is a bondslave, but a companion to her husband. If the husband is a servant of God, he will not lord it over his wife; he will not be arbitrary and exacting. We cannot cherish home affection with too much care; for the home, if the Spirit of the Lord dwells there, is a type of heaven. . . . If one errs, the other will exercise Christlike forbearance and not draw coldly away." {AH 118.1}

"There is a sacred circle around every family which should be preserved. No other one has any right in that sacred circle. The husband and wife should be all to each other. The wife should have no secrets to keep from her husband and let others know, and the husband should have no secrets to keep from his wife to relate to others. The heart of his wife should be the grave for the faults of the husband, and the heart of the husband the grave for his wife's faults. Never should either party indulge in a joke at the expense of the other's feelings. Never should either the husband or wife in sport or in any other manner complain of each other to others, for frequently indulging in this foolish and what may seem perfectly harmless joking will end in trial with each other and perhaps estrangement. I have been shown that there should be a sacred shield around every family." {AH 177.1}

"The home circle should be regarded as a sacred place, a symbol of heaven, a mirror in which to reflect ourselves. Friends and acquaintances we may have, but in the home life they are not to meddle. A strong sense of proprietorship should be felt, giving a sense of ease, restfulness, trust." {AH 177.2}