Do Christians engage in conflict like children play dodgeball? I notice many believers either dodge conflict or hurl disputes at opposers from safe distances. A recovering conflict-avoider, I tend to duck from disagreements, dismissing them with “turn the other cheek.” Other Christians wallop their opposers with chapter and verse flung from the distance of social media. Brené Brown, author of Braving the Wilderness, describes such social media encounters as “opinions disembodied from accountability, truth, and worst of all, identity.” The Bible instructs believers in scriptural steps for conflict resolution that honor God and love others—not just those on our side.
Step One: Cry out to God: 1 Peter 5:6–7.
God cares. He invites me to bring my concerns to him in prayer. Prayer shifts my perspective of God, myself, and my offender. Prayer elevates God (Ps 86:3–10) and humbles me (1 Peter 5:6–7). Prayer reveals God’s perspective toward my offender (1 Jn 4:9–21). God’s Word challenges me to pray for my enemy (Matt 5:43–48). As I seek God in prayer, he reminds me of his mercy toward me and gives me the ability to extend mercy to my offender
(1 John 4:9–11). Prayer uncovers God’s desire for my relationship with my offender—restoration not retaliation. I’ve heard it said, “Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes me.”
Step Two: Contact my offender privately: Matthew 18:15.
Unlike dodgeball, biblical conflict resolution requires no teammates. Informing friends of my concerns invites them to take up my offense and falsely strengthen my sense of justice. It does nothing to solve the problem. Spiritualized solicitation sounds like, “Please pray for me in this situation.” “Does this seem right to you?” “Should I let this bother me?” This approach seems harmless. But when I act on the urge to share my offense with friends, I dishonor God and disrespect my offender. In short, I sin.
Initiating a private conversation takes courage. I fear further hurt and risk an uncontrolled outcome. I must trust God.
I ask to talk to my offender in person. If distance prohibits a face-to-face conversation, I ask to talk with her by phone. I do not attempt to communicate my concerns by text or email. Both risk misunderstanding and conceal emotions. Face-to-face encounters break down barriers. Conflict resolution deserves every communication advantage.
Step Three: Create space for reconciliation: Colossians 3:12.
How would I want someone to approach me with a complaint? Gently. Kindly. Respectfully. I wade toward my offender through the awkward and uncomfortable. My concerns may take her by surprise even when expressed graciously and honestly (Ephesians 4:25, 29). I recognize her position and allow her time to process the situation. Her need for time to pray and process may require we come back together later. When we meet, I listen to understand in the hope of reconciliation. I lean in to learn my offender’s perspective.
Step Four: Call on a neutral party for help: Matthew 18:16.
Fresh eyes expose blind-spots. If we cannot resolve our differences, Scripture instructs us to seek help. We ask an impartial, mature believer to meet with us. We trust her to honor God, keep our confidence, and value each of us in the restoration process. The peacemaker’s perspective uncovers common ground and prepares us to apologize where wrong and extend forgiveness.
Step Five: Counsel others in biblical conflict resolution: 1 Thessalonians 5:14–15.
Resolving conflict God’s way takes training. I can coach my children in these five scriptural steps— then make my kids practice on each other. Imagine the impact if our children enter middle school or leave for college equipped with these skills. Much more difficult, but equally as impactful, I can combat the urge to take up a friend’s offense and counsel her instead to go directly to her offender.
God calls you and me as believers in Jesus Christ to approach our conflicts differently than non-believers do. When Christians practice biblical conflict resolution, we honor God, love others, witness to a watching world, and leave dodgeball for the playground.
 Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone (New York: Random House, 2017), p.63.
About The Author
Peggy Howard is a student at Dallas Theological Seminary where she is surrounded by professors and peers who weekly challenge and enlarge her view of God. Mom to four adult children, Peggy lives in Houston with her husband Neal and their elderly Miniature Australian Shepherd, Lucy.