Saturday, 16 March 2013

Conflict Resolution, the Christian Way

That God desires His children to live in peace and exhibit genuine love towards one another is an essential dogma in Christianity. The need for agreement among believers is so crucial that God, through Amos the prophet, asked, “Can two walk together? Except they be agreed” (Amos 3:3). It can be sufficiently said that majority of us are aware of, and would really love to live harmoniously with each other. No matter how we try however, jealousy, hatred and contentions set in and some even become more fierce and deadly than we ever imagined they could be. The end result is that friendships are destroyed, relationships broken, and members of families turn against each other. This is something we are often not particularly happy about. The need for conflict resolution thus comes to play.

In this little write up, we are going to look at two important keys that the early Church, particularly, Apostle Peter, used to resolve a contention that ensued between himself and “the apostles and brethren at Judea” ( read Acts 11:1-18). I am of a strong believe that these conflict resolution keys, which have been discussed below, are particularly applicable to resolving conflicts between Christians, Churches and even organizations.

1. Patience
The first key to resolving conflicts among us is patience. In Christianity, many a time those who contend with us do so because of great concern either for our present situations as well as future and eternal consequences. This is why patience is extremely important. The "apostles and brethren in Judea" (Acts 11:1) were unhappy and ended up contending with Peter about his dealings with the gentiles because there was an outstanding instruction in the Law of Moses that Jews should not mingle with the gentiles. Moses faced a similar contention from his brother Aaron and sister Miriam when he married a foreigner (an Ethiopian woman, see Numbers 12:1).

Now before anyone rules out the "apostles and brethren at Judea's" attitude as misbehaviour, we must be reminded that they did what they did because they were very concerned about the Word of God being fully obeyed and also concerned about Peter not erring from the faith.

I am confident that Apostle Peter was fully aware of their concern for him and that is why he exhibited patience in handling the situation. The scripture says, "But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them..." (Acts 11:4). This is sheer patience at work. Peter had other choices such as brushing them off, or even counter-contending with them for disputing with him for doing the Will of God. Instead, he chose to use patience by taking his time to explain the whole issue from the beginning. This clearly depicts to us how powerful and necessary it is for us to exhibit patience when resolving conflicts among ourselves.

2. Details matter
This is yet another great lesson that Peter left for us. In addition to being patient he was also detailed in his explanation to the apostles and brethren that contended with him. He actually told the story from scratch, told every detail, and ensured they were orderly presented. He explained to them the trance he had about the "heavenly vessel" (see Acts 11:5-10), then spoke about the vision that Cornelius had and the subsequent action that he took which led to the involvement of himself with Cornelius, and also gave details of all that went on when he visited Cornelius (see Acts 11:6-17).

Guess what happened after Peter told them all these details of the matter? The Bible says, "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." (Acts 11:18). Hallelujah to that! Many times people dispute and fight things they don't understand. It is therefore not surprising that after expounding everything to them in detail, they now held their peace and glorified God.

As Christians, it is imperial that we live together and in harmony with each other. However, things get screwed up sometimes and we find ourselves contending each other and disputing among ourselves. I believe God, through these two conflict resolution keys would help us settle our differences and live harmoniously as Jesus want us to be (see Psalm 133:1, Acts 2;44), and we would be blessed as take practical measures to avoid conflicts, resolve existing ones, forgive each other and live peacefully with one another.

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