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Conflict Resolution

Solving Problems with People

CONFLICT RESOLUTION: Through the Mind of Christ

James DeFrancisco, Ph.D.


Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the
children of God. - Matthew 5:9 KJV

Human relationships can be very difficult. This is often obvious
in international politics and diplomacy, which is universally
vicious and self-centered. In an effort toward self-serving
initiatives, governments strictly comply with their plans for
carrying out policy dictates. The following is a list of what
politicians, diplomats and military officers are trained to do, I
alongside (below) how Jesus teaches us regarding our behavior:

WORLDLY APPROACH

Pride

Get our way Cover up our mistakes

Elevate ourselves Retaliate 

Hate our enemies 

When attacked, return more force 

When cursed, retaliate 

Emphasize only facts/data 

Exploit people

Strive to get as much as possible 

Friendship and love are conditional 

Depend on one's own strength 

Respect status

Strive to lead and control

Be independent 


JESUS' TEACHINGS

Humility 

Obey God's commands and follow His way 

Confess mistakes and release them


Seek to elevate others   

Forgive   

Love our enemies

Pursue peace   

Pray and show mercy for those who curse you

Vision and faith

Serve people

Give and share as much as possible  

Cultivate friendship and unconditional love

Allow God to perfect our strength in weakness

Do not value one person over another    

Submit as a servant 

Be intra-dependent and one with God and others


     What military general would consider "turning the other
cheek" when struck by another or "blessing" their enemies, or
telling their troops when persecuted or even taken away by force,
to pray for them?
     How many human and civil rights activists when being
confronted with injustice by those in civil authority, choose
nonresistance? Contrast this with Jesus' teaching to surrender
and turn the other cheek. How would community leaders be
perceived if they loved those who do not love them and actually
delivered more than expected? That's exactly what Jesus
instructed us to do! His teachings are totally contrary to
current values and common practice.

     Conflicts in the family, workplace, church, or anywhere,
superficially may appear to be between two people or two parties,
but in reality, the conflict exists within the individual. At any
level, individual or group, the conflict continues to exist
within individuals who have polluted and continue to pollute a
group identity. Anger, anxiety, mental illness, and other factors
relating to conflict that are affecting business and other areas
of life. As we address the internal source of the conflict with
the individual and transform the individual perspective, conflict
may be resolved and the process will transform not only the
individual but the community around the individual as well.
     
     Much of conflict resolution training and literature assumes
that the persons involved want to resolve the conflict and that
positive thinking, conflict resolution techniques, and
communication skills are all that is needed. Although win/win
approaches, active listening, negotiation techniques, conflict
mapping, mediation, assertiveness training, and related
approaches are helpful, alone they are often not enough to
resolve deep rooted conflicts.
     In "From Conflict to Unity," an article I wrote that
appeared in the April 2006 edition of ACTS, I mentioned that the
purpose of the creation of human beings is companionship and that
the Bible is a story of human relationships. I also mentioned
that at the root of most (if not all) conflicts is selfishness
and that Jesus described the steps to resolving conflict in the
Beatitudes and the entire Sermon on the Mount. The Two Great
Commandments are the important foundation in resolving conflict
and achieving unity. General steps are 1) Obedience to God's law;
2) Submission to God and one another; 3) A desire for oneness
with God and His people.

     In that article, we looked at the concept of a house built
on a solid foundation with seven pillars to illustrate how we can
overcome conflict and achieve unity. The seven pillars presented
were:

1.   Power Over Conflict

The first step to both wisdom and harmony is to overcome ego.
Humility is essential in human relationships.

2.   The Power of Commitment - Cleaving together

The Holy Scriptures present covenants and commitments in
relationships.

3.   The Power of Submission

A key that can help in this area is responding instead of
reacting. Each party in a relationship must learn to respond to
issues with patience, love, and thought, rather than quickly
reacting emotionally.

4.   The Power Of Unity

The power of unity is the power of one. The walls of division and
competition are preventing many from experiencing the love,
peace, and joy, of the Holy Spirit. Competition and pride breed
division.

5.   The Power of Communication

Improving communication involves "judicious editing" of
conversation, and communication styles is helpful in developing a
stronger bond.

6.   Power of Love

Unconditional love is enhanced through promoting value by
communicating that others are persons of great value, resolving
conflicts without putting others down, and respecting them as
individuals created in God's image.

7.   The Power Of Forgiveness

We can choose to rise above reactionary "fight or flight"
responses when dealing with conflict. We can choose to flow in
forgiveness, rather than suffer in bitterness. Beware of the
destructive root of bitterness.

     See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no
     bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many -
     Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)

     Whether our relationships are in business, marriage, or
friendships, the enemy of our souls has a very specific strategy
to destroy them. A conflict arises, judgments are made, and
feelings are hurt. What happens next is the defining point of
whether the enemy gains a foothold, or the grace of God covers
the wrong.


     When a root of bitterness is allowed to be planted and
grown, it is like a cancer, affecting that person and also
affecting all others who are involved.

     Breaking Satan's foothold requires at least one person to
move into God's grace. It won't happen when either party "feels"
like it, for none of us will ever feel like forgiving. Few of us
feel like talking when we have been hurt. Our reaction is to
withdraw or lash out at the offending party. It is only obedience
and true love in our heart that allows God's grace to heal the
pain that has been inflicted by another person. This grace
prevents the parties from becoming victims who will seek justice
for their pain.

     Although conflict seems unavoidable in our relationships, it
can be overcome. When we hate and resent our enemies, bitterness
is born within ourselves. To promote peace, we must begin by
looking within and changing ourselves to conform to God's will
before we attempt to change others. The next time you are hurt by
someone, realize the significance of the crossroads where you
find yourself. Choose grace instead of bitterness, life instead
of death and destruction. Then you will be free to move past the
hurt, and a root of bitterness will not be given opportunity to
grow. Be aware of your own emotional reactions and overcome them
with God's race and seeking His assistance in prayer.

     When we consider our own sins first, ask God in humility,
incline the ear of our hearts toward Him, and surrender ourselves
as living sacrificial witnesses for His will, we can seek God's
wisdom and the desire of His heart. When you pray for an enemy,
ask  God if He loves them. When He responds, "Yes, of course;"
ask Him how much He loves them.

     You will find the answer in the familiar words of John 3:16
and the outstretched arms of the crucified Savior.

FINALLY ... 

     When we are in a conflict, is it possible that we can learn
something from those who do not agree with us? Are we open to
discussion? Do we respect their position? Could we listen and
then present our view without trying to convert them, persuade
them, control them, or condemn them? We must consider all of this
and more as we humbly listen and speak the truth in love.   

     To resolve conflict takes much wisdom and discipline. It
also involves control of speech. It requires dealing directly
with individuals rather than going around them or gossiping about
them. It is effective to seek peace and win-win objectives in our
relationships. If you truly do everything you can and the
conflict continues, rest assured that what you have done is
sufficient to satisfy God's expectations. Not everyone will
respond to your attempts at peacemaking.

Conflict Resolution resources and training are based on
techniques and skills which may be relevant to solving any con-
flict. Pick and choose the skill - or skills - appropriate to
your particular issue or crisis. Above all, pray, repent,
forgive, and humbly approach the situation with the empowerment
of the Holy Spirit. Conflict resolution works best through the
compassion and mind of Christ.

                              ..............


Jim DeFrancisco serves as President of Miltha Ministries and
Institute of Christian Principles.

Dr. DeFrancisco is on faculty as a professor at Maranatha College
and has courses on the Gospel of John and Christian Counselling
for Church of God (7th Day) ministerial students. He lives in
Mishawaka, Indiana with his wife, Sandy. Together they have 3
sons and 6 grandchildren.

July/August 2007  -  ACTS   -  a publication of The General
Churches of God, 7th Day, Meridian, ID, USA.


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