Thursday, June 13, 2013

Conflict Resolution

What are words that we think of when we hear the word conflict:
War, power,stress, expectations, fear, rejection. 

Rejection is one of the main reasons we choose to avoid conflict.  As I quoted in your bulletin…  You cannot really resolve conflict and at the same time want to please people.  Conflict is not an event, it is a process and so you have to be able to deal with the tension.  Staying underneath the process requires perseverance.  There is no one size fits all formula.    

Your belief about conflict will greatly affect how you engage in it or your lack of engagement. 
Some people might look at conflict in a “mind map” sort of way and see this as  a psychological thing….

(look at slide)
Some of you may look at conflict as more of a personality type of thing and see 4 basic types

I’m going to look at from more of a graph

The negative side of conflict is:

   Competive – I must win at all costs
   Avoid and withdraw – I will not engage and stuff my feelings, beliefs and ideas deep within
A neutral approach to conflict is to accommodate; however if this constantly happens, it eventually leads to bitterness, may damage trust.  When you come the attitude is what do you want now.
Compromise - allows diverse opinion to work together.  Transactional. I do this,you do that.  Might lead to mission confusion, keep something that is working but does not fit the mission
Collaborative - may slow the process down, but is the highest form of resolution.
Conflict does cause tension; however tension is an essential component for our personal growth and maturity.

This morning I want us to look at answering the question   How do we end conflict in a way that glorifies God?

I believe there are three truths that we may need to embrace and it may include all three truths or possibly just one of these truths or a combination.

1.                    We end conflict well when we learn to agree to disagree.  Compromise
2.                    We end conflict well when we confess our sins.  Confess
3.                    We end conflict well when our perspective has changed.  Collaborate

1.       We end conflict well when we learn to agree to disagree.

A case study in conflict resolution.  Acts 13:13; 15:36-41

In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabus are commissioned to go out on a missionary journey to share the good news of Jesus.  They begin with a travelling companion,  John and their first stop is in Cyprus

5When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.
Then at their next stop in Pisidian Antioch, we notice this:
13From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.

We pick up the story in Acts 15

36Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Earlier in the series I spoke about Paul’s personality as one who was a planter.  You could also say that he was a A-type personality. He was driven, a much focused man.  When you listen to verses on how he described the Christian’s life, it resonates with perseverance, running the race, laying aside every weight.  1 Corinthians 9:26  He wanted to surround himself with similar type people.

Paul made a judgement call on Mark’s abilities based on his past performance.  You may have heard the saying “past performance determines future behavior”…  well, Paul lived by that.

Enter Barnabus and his name means “son of encouragement”.  I believe he saw something in John Mark that others didn’t see.  He may have seen someone with great potential.  He may have seen someone who needed a second chance.  He may have seen someone who had been written off but he was going to be used of God to bring out the best in him. 

Don’t forget it was Barnabus who was the first person to really vouch for Paul after Ananias initially prayed for Paul to be filled with the HS.

Acts 9: 27But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

 Acts 11: 25Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.
You can imagine how many Christians really wanted to trust Paul (formerly Saul)

It was a sharp disagreement. 

When someone raises their voice, some might view this as fighting and others simply as just the ‘entry into the debate’.  There is no mention that Barnabus or Paul had sinned in this situation.  However, it is clear that it most likely was a heated exchange and no doubt there was tension in the room where they had their discussion.

If I could quote Rodney Cooper again he states,   as Christians we have come to believe that anger is sinful and as such we suffer from over controlled hostility. There is an appropriate anger, which is not an explosive anger.

There is a couple of sayings out there that sound biblical, but they are not:

If you can’t say something nice about someone, you should not say anything at all or can’t we just get along?  
They are simply conflict avoiders and they really don’t serve us any good in the end.  Conflict is not a sign of disloyalty because if it is done well, it can build even a stronger trust and respect for one another.

•             The art of listening

When we agree to disagree, we must first be willing to listen to each other’s point of view.

•             The art of humility

It is the realization that I may be wrong.

While serving as a youth pastor in a previous church, I had a youth leadership team that were always looking for new ways to reach out to the youth in the community.  We had some great "extreme sport" youthleaders!

I had a strong disagreement with some people in the church over the amount of black marks on the gym walls created by the skateboards. They were of the firm belief that this was lack of respect for the church building.  I also had people who saw youth wearing hats in a church service as again a lack of respect for God.  I was of the mindset that I was just excited to see them in a church service and I believed that God could overlook their hats and if that was a real concern to God, He could convict them of that.

I have also had disagreements with others about people and their potential

As a student, I had disagreements about eschatology… the study of end times.

2.            We end conflict well when we confess our sin

James 5:16  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Again, let’s affirm that not all conflict is sin; however when in conflict there is certainly the potential for sin and when we have crossed the line from a place of passion in our viewpoint to one that displays one of the following qualities, there is a need for confession with those around us.

In our human weakness we can either result to brute force, go for the knockout punch, or grace.  We need to sort out your own situation after conflict.  We should not let unresolved conflict fester indefinitely.  We need to admit (acknowledge) where we are at.  Here are a few potential sins in conflict.

•             defensiveness -   It is human nature to defend ourselves to the point of not admitting our mistakes.   SIN   It is defined as constantly protecting oneself from criticism, exposure of one's shortcomings, or other real or perceived threats to the ego.

•             intimidation – It is the use of a forceful nature to belittle someone else’s point of view.  SIN  It is filling someone else with fear as a result of our threats or ‘browbeating’

•             ignorance – Ignorance is a sin when we continue to live in it after being made aware of the truth. 
It is part of the futility of thinking in Ephesians 4:18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their

We need to come back and confess our sin when we have fallen short.

3.            We end conflict well when our perspective has changed

•             perspective on truth

When someone graciously shows us a new way to understand the Word of God, it takes humility.
A case in point is this very message.  My original title was how to redeem conflict that has gone bad and my original thought was that Paul had sinned in this situation and had judged John Mark prematurely.  However, it was Bryan who pointed out to me that there is no indication that any sin took place in

•             perspective on an individual

2 Timothy 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
Colossians 4:10My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.

Clearly something had taken place over time that had enabled Paul to gain a different perspective on John Mark.
In time, God had enabled him to look at John Mark differently.

In God’s family, we should never get to the place where we “write someone off”!

•             perspective on a situation

Two very different perspectives on the same situation:

Psalm 137:1By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yes, we wept, when we remembered Zion. 2We hanged our harps on the willows in the middle thereof. 3For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion

Ezekiel 1:1 In my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.

 Words play a key role in almost every conflict. When used properly, words promote understanding and encourage agreement. When misused, they usually aggravate conflicts and drive people further apart. If your words seem to do more harm than good when you try to resolve a disagreement, don’t give up. With God’s help you can improve your ability to communicate constructively.

Conflict can truly be our ally when it allows us to:
  • exposes problems and where we may have blindspots.
  • build relational capital - if you go through a conflict with someone, you feel like you can go through anything!
  • provides clarity.  We really can get to the depth of what we are really feeling and communicate it.

As we seek to resolve conflict, may we learn the principles that we can agree to disagree and still show love to one another.  God doesn’t call us to uniformity but unity.  There is rich diversity in the body of Christ and we need to understand and appreciate that as we see from all the different parts of the body in 1 Corinthians 12….some parts of the body may have stronger preference.
May we learn to graciously confess our sin when it has become an offence to another and may we gain a new perspective every day on the undeserved grace and favor that God has shown us  in that He does not treat us as our sins deserve  

Psalm 103:10  MSG

God is sheer mercy and grace;
    not easily angered, he’s rich in love.
He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold,
    nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,
    nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
    so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
    he has separated us from our sins.

Thanks to the sacrifice of His Son and the shed blood of His forgiveness, God has a new perspective on US. 
Ephesians 2:1-5 MSG   It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ


Stephanie L. said...

Someone recently shared one of the models you posted and I found your blog.

I am really interested in the conflict circle/bullet. Is this something that you came up with? How can I learn more about these four types (seeker, healer, sage, and healer) and what the different rings mean?

Thank you!

Jack Ninaber said...

Hi Stephanie,

Thanks for your interest and this is more of a journey of what I have learned and different models that I have discovered in my journey to do conflict resolution better! Jesus is certainly my ultimate example!

Rob Plese said...

Hi Jack,

I am curious if you could tell me about the conflict model you came up with. I, like Stephanie am interested in understanding more about the different personalities and components you came up with. Is it a hybrid off of other approaches, or is it from your own mind.

Couldn't back trace it anywhere, and I am almost certain it is the best model out there, with one exception. The interpersonal avoidance and interpersonal control areas should be switched.