Two Journeys Ministry
In-Depth Biblical Content by Pastor Andy Davis

Dealing with Conflict, Pt.2 (Proverbs Sermon 11)

Dealing with Conflict, Pt.2 (Proverbs Sermon 11)

June 16, 2001 | Andy Davis
Proverbs 1:1-31:31
Sinful Nature, Humility, Wisdom

Pastor Andy Davis finishes his survey of the wisdom Proverbs has to give us about handling conflict. 


- Sermon Transcript - 

Our discussion tonight on Proverbs deals with conflict resolution. There's an awful lot of Proverbs that have to do with relationships - one to another - and we saw some wisdom, and we got about three quarters of the way through the study that we had last time, and so I think it's beneficial for us to finish that tonight. It could be even that, sometime in the last week, you may have had a conflict with somebody. I don't know if it's... I mean, I don't know if maybe it's just me, but people - sinners living in close quarters with one another - sometimes there are conflicts. Is that true? Maybe it is just me. Maybe you all brothers and sisters can counsel with me afterwards. But could it be that there are conflicts, there are disagreements, there are arguments that the sin nature bubbles to the surface?   

As we've been looking in the book of Romans, we've got this strong emphasis on justification by faith alone through five chapters. It's very plain that there's nothing we can do to get ourselves justified. But then there's that whole sanctification thing in Romans 6, 7 and 8, and that's hard work to grow like Jesus Christ, to put sin to death, to be selfless, to walk with Jesus. Is that hard work? Oh yeah, it's difficult. And meanwhile, there's somebody else in your house or in your church that's doing the same thing, and so conflicts are going to come. And the book of Proverbs gives us some wisdom, I think, to help us to understand what to do. 

Now, last time we talked, just going quickly over the things that we looked at, we talked about God's attitude toward dissension in particular, that God hates, in particular, somebody that stirs up dissension or causes dissension among brothers. And there seems to be a category of people in the book of Proverbs, somebody that just seems to enjoy engendering strife, and that is a very damaging thing. Let's be positively - it is a very powerful thing and a sweet thing when Christian brothers and sisters get along and have good strong fellowship with each other. It's amazing the fruit that comes from that. Strong times of prayer, witness, fruitfulness, ministry, sensitivity to each other's needs. So, you can bet that Satan wants to damage that in any way he can, and so he's going to be trying as best he can to sow seeds of discord between people, and it's very important for us to know just the damage that comes from that, how important it is that we maintain unity in the spirit and in the bond of peace. 

We talked about the devastation to human conflicts. "Better a dry crust with peace... " Proverbs 17:1, "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife." You'd be better if you could have peace and starve than to have all kinds of feasting and have conflicts and dissension. And then in 18:19, I remember, "An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel." Once that rupture occurs in a relationship - very difficult to win it over. Unless you've got a gracious brother or sister who is quick to forgive, and that just like that, it's over. Isn't that beautiful? Christian forgiveness cuts across that, cuts those bars, that unyielding citadel, and just like that you've got good, solid fellowship again. 

And that's why it says that we are to bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances we have against one another. "Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you." And how has the Lord forgiven you? What did you do to earn God's forgiveness? We've talked about that. Zero. It's a free gift because of the blood of Jesus Christ, and so we are to forgive from the heart one another as quickly as possible. 

I. What Causes Conflicts?


So, we talked about the devastation of human conflicts, and then we looked at what it is that causes conflicts. Where do they come from? Where do these struggles come from? Well, they come from sin. There's no other answer than they're just sin. But the book of Proverbs breaks that apart for us. They come from pride - pride, the desire to be first, the desire to appear more righteous than you really are. The desire to appear more knowledgeable than you really are. Somebody's trying to give you some help or some encouragement, "I already know that. I already know." Well, that comes at an early age. You try to help a child with something, "I do it, I do it." Right from the start. I mean, that desire is, "I can do this. I don't need you." But the book of Proverbs says, "Pride... " - 13:10 - "Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice." Did you take any advice this week? Did you gladly receive a word from a brother or sister? I did. There were people that gave me some advice, and it was worth taking. And I say that, of the advice-taking situations, I had a better batting average unusual of responding graciously and saying, "Thank you for that, I appreciate that."  

Annoyance & Anger 

And then annoyance and anger - those things that we talked about. The devastation and the danger of anger. And it's a big problem, and the book of Proverbs has a great deal to say about that. 29:11, "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." Self-control. Were you tempted at all to get angry this week? What percentage... Think about this. What percentage of your anger is the kind of righteous anger and rage that filled Jesus as He cleansed the temple? Or that He demonstrated when He was about to heal somebody on the Sabbath, and He asked them a question, "Which is lawful? To do good or evil on the Sabbath, to save a life or destroy it?" (Mark 3:4), and they wouldn't even answer His question. It says Jesus looked around at them in anger because all they cared about was their own little rules, and they didn't care about somebody who could be healed today. What percentage would you say? 50%? I love that little laugh. I think the more you go on, you start to realize that very, very rarely is your anger righteous. It usually traces back to something in yourself, some way that you're inconvenienced, some way that you are made to look at the fool or something like that, and so you defend yourself.  


And then there's words. Words get us into trouble, don't they? Saying things you shouldn't say. Many words, reckless words. 12:18 says, "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." 12:18. Reckless words. Have you ever hurt somebody with your words, said something you wish you hadn't said? It's hard to take it back, isn't it? As a matter of fact, you can't take it back. The only thing that can heal it is the forgiveness of Jesus Christ flowing through that individual. "I forgive you, and I understand that other times I've said reckless words to you or to others, and I forgive wholeheartedly. I'm glad to forgive." That's the only healing for it, because once those words are gone, you can't take them back. And they hurt, and they wound. And harsh words. I told you that 15:1 may be one of the most important Proverbs in this whole category of conflict avoidance or resolution. Harsh words can stir it up. Look, 15:1 says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Right in the middle of that conflict, a gentle answer can stop it, but what started it? A harsh word. Deceitful words and gossip in insults. 


We also talked about hatred, people who don't overlook offenses, people who love a quarrel. And there's a lot of Proverbs about that - people who love a quarrel. Male and female, both a man who seems to enjoy a squabble or a quarrel, and then the quarrelsome wife who's in there four times. "It's better to live in the corner of a roof then with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9). So, it cuts both ways. This is a cross-gender issue. We both tend squabble and have conflicts, and God wants us to put it to death. Also, unforgiveness. And this one is so true. Misunderstanding, remember? 18:13, "He who answers before listening, that is his folly and his shame." How many conflicts are based on just you didn't understand what they were saying? It really ends up that you're in total agreement, but you just didn't get your words lined up, and so you answered before listening. And the whole thing could have been avoided if you had had an empathetic heart of saying, "What are you trying to say to me?" To reflect back and say, "Now, what I'm hearing from you is this. Is this what you mean to say?" "No, no, no, that's not it. This is it." Then you reflect it back, "Is this what you... " "Yeah, that's it." And then the whole conflict disappears because now you've understood each other, and actually you're in essential agreement. Misunderstanding.  

Sin: Alcohol, Drugs, Adultery 

We also talked about sin, alcohol and drugs, adultery. These kinds of sins cause deep, deep conflicts between people. And I mentioned them just because of the damage that they cause. Provocation from fools and greed.   

II. How to Avoid Conflicts

Be Patient & Even-Tempered 

Then we talked about how to avoid conflicts. Number one is be patient and even-tempered. Have a long fuse. And the reason I'm going over this at this point - understand it's better to avoid the conflict than to learn how to patch it up once you're in it. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's better to not have the rupture than to know the Biblical procedure for healing it up afterwards. So better to avoid it, and the best way is to have a long fuse. Don't have a quick temper. Everyone should be, it says in James, quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Slow to get angry. 

Okay, 14:29, "A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly." A quick-tempered man. So, a patient man has great understanding. And then 16:32, 16:32, "Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city." Along with being even-tempered or having a long fuse is the ability to overlook an insult, to say, "You know, I understand that you meant to hurt me by that." You don't have to say these words. You probably shouldn't. But within your mind, you're saying, "I understand you meant to hurt me, but I forgive you. I forgive you." And one of the things that helps me do that is for me to understand how many times I have spoken words that have hurt God, how many times I have insulted Him or blasphemed Him before I was a Christian, for example, or even now. There have been times that I've spoken against a brother or a sister, and James says they're created in God's image. "With the same mouth you praise God and you curse your brother who was created in God's image” (James 3:9). 

So, the thing is, how much has God overlooked? How many insults has He overlooked in your case? This is the whole… the arm-twisting that Jesus does when He says, "I've forgiven you 10,000 talents. Can't you forgive the 100 denarii?" in Matthew 18. And so, we should overlook an insult; we should be an active peacemaker, energetic in that. 15:18, "A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel." And then use gentle and healing words. We talked about that. "Forgive quickly and wholeheartedly as the Lord forgave you." 10:12. Look at that one as we did last time, but a very important verse. 10:12 says, "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs." Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. Forgiveness is a covering over, isn't it? I'm going to cover your sin just like Jesus covered mine. 

Have you ever heard of Yom Kippur? It's a day of atonement. You know the word Kippur in Hebrew means “covering.” It's a day of covering. It's the day that God covered the Jews' sins. Atonement is a covering; God covers our sins. “Blessed is a man whose transgressions are forgiven and whose sins” are what? They're covered, covered by the blood of Christ, and so we cover each other's sins. And we drop the matter quickly before it gets out of control. 17:14, "Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam, so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out." Don't hang around people who love to argue. 22:10 says, "Drive out the mocker and out goes strife. Quarrels and insults are ended." 22:10. 

So, you notice you've got a certain category of people that, just everywhere they go, there is strife and conflict. Don't hang around them because you're going to get into a conflict; you're going to get into difficulty. And then we finished up with observe proper social boundaries. Remember, "Seldom... " 25:17, "Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house. Too much of you and he will hate you." I'd rather have somebody wanting me over more than wanting me over less. You know? It's funny, we go on vacations, and we stay with relatives, and I always feel... I think about this Proverb frequently. I'd rather leave a day early or even a few early than and say, "Boy, so soon? Leaving so soon?" And if I can believe that they're really saying it from their heart, I feel like we've achieved something good. Rather than, "Can I help you pack? Is there anything I can do to help you on your way? Some gas money maybe or something to help you get going?" 

And then last, don't meddle in other people's private affairs. 26:17, "Like one who seizes a dog by the ears." Isn't that a funny expression? Have you ever seized a dog by the ears? I mean, I never have, but maybe Solomon did. He said, “Did that once, I'll never do it again. And so, here's a Proverb. "Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passerby who meddles in a quarrel not his own." Some things we're just not meant to get involved in. Some things that are within a family, or there's two people; they just need to work it out, and just stay out because you don't understand the history, you don't know. That's the wisdom there. 

III. How to Resolve a Conflict One It’s Begun? 


Alright, now how do you resolve a conflict once you're in it? Well, first, the first rule is listen. And we already talked a little about this, the misunderstandings, but once you're into it, you need to listen. 18:2, I like 18:2. It says, "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions." Have you ever played the fool in that sense? I don't care what you think or what your take on this situation is, this is my opinion. And then well, realize, guess what? They're doing the same thing. And you're not listening to each other. This can only make the situation worse. There comes a point, I think, in every conflict where somebody stops and says, "I want to know what you're saying. I want to understand what the deal is from your point of view." And so, the first rule is just listen, try to find out what they're saying, and get all the facts. 18:18.  

I think about this a lot as a parent, "The first to present his case seems right until another comes forward and questions him." So, you know, "So and so did da da da... " It's like, "Well, that sounds terrible; that sounds like grounds for eviction from the family as a matter of fact." But then the other sibling comes along, and there's some more information that was left out the first time. And the same is true in the middle of a conflict with one another. You know what I mean? The thing is, “Let me try to understand what your perspective is. If I'm not listening to you, I don't know what the facts are, I may be missing some things. So, let's get all the information before we come to hasty judgments on things.  

Use Gentle Words 

And then, as we've talked about, use gentle healing words. 15:1 right in the middle, I'm telling you, 15:1, has gotten me out more conflicts because if it comes from the heart, if it's genuine. It can stop the thing just like that, like a big bucket of water on that fire before it really gets going, and that is, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." And so really, at every moment in a conflict, you're like at every moment, you're at a fork in the road: gentle word, harsh word. You see what I'm talking about? If you go with a harsh word, you just signed on for another 20 minutes or more. You know what I'm talking about?  

Or, you can say, "Hang on, hang on. We're talking at each other." One of the most – best - gentle words is, "Can we pray? Can we just take a minute and pray and ask the Lord to come into this situation? I want to hear you. I want to understand what you're saying. I've got some feelings in the situation too, and it seems like we're just... We're letting Satan get the upper hand here. Can we pray?" "Well, I don't want to pray." "Well, can I pray then at least?" Sometimes it takes being persistent, but you know... Yeah, let's pray. But a gentle answer turns away wrath. "You may be right, I want to hear you, I want to understand what you're saying." And then 25:15 along that same line says, "Through patience a ruler can be persuaded." And it's very interesting, "A gentle tongue can break a bone.” Solomon, what did you mean by that? Well, I don't know. I've thought about that Proverb a lot, and, basically, it's saying, as you think of yourself in a struggle, try gentleness and you may get your way, is what he's saying.  

Try gentleness, try that approach, try listening. It's more effective than what you've been doing up until now, because what you've been doing up to now causes them to dig in their heels and want to resist, but a gentle word is very effective. Persuasion and a gentle word. 

Make Amends for Sin 

Make amends for sin. 14:9 (this is so important), "Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the righteous." This is so important. If you've done wrong, there's retribution to be paid sometimes. If you've hurt somebody, there are times that you have to make amends for it. You have to do more than just apologize; you have to make the thing right. We see that a lot with parenting, but I think it's also in all relationships. There are times if you have sinned, you have to go the extra mile and find out, "What can I do to make this up to you? How can I make amends?" Fools mock at that process; they don't think it's important. But wise people understand that it is. "Forgive quickly and wholeheartedly as the Lord forgave you." We already talked about this in prevention, it also works in the middle of it. At any time... Isn't this sweet? If you're a child of God, at any time, all the time, you're free from sin. Isn't that amazing?  

That is one of the greatest truths I have ever learned from Romans chapter 6. We will never be slaves to sin again. Isn't that great? So that means at any moment, I can stop and become a Christian again and start behaving. Not that I ever was... You know what I mean? But I mean, I can immediately start behaving like a sanctified believer of Jesus Christ right here, right now, and say, "What was I doing? What was I saying? I'm sorry." Just like this. And to also be forgiving and gracious. Right in the middle of the conflict, you can do that. I'm not going to read the verses again, or you can cite them. 10:12, "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs." And 17:9, "He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." And by the way, about that, 17:9, repeating the matter means bringing it up again. After it's over, it's done. Don't mention it again. "Don't forget that I forgave you that time, so you owe me one." No, that's not how that works.  

Don’t Feed the Issue 

And then, don't feed the issue. Let it die. Look at 26:20. "Without wood, a fire goes out. Without gossip, a quarrel dies down." Okay, now gossip is the culprit there, but other things feed a conflict, don't they? You know what I mean? There's like a fire, and you put another log on. You said another thing. Sometimes I liken those things to prairie fires. Do you know what I mean by a prairie fire? It's got no boundaries; it's got no topic. We're just roaming here. We're just going from one thing to another, and we're really just behaving to some degree as an instrument of the devil to hurt the other person. And who do you think is passing you those logs to throw on the fire? Could it be the devil in that particular moment? Just like Simon Peter played the role of the devil when he said... When he rebuked Jesus for saying He was going to go to the cross, and Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23). He said it to Peter. Sometimes we can be taken captive by the devil to do his will. That's what it says in 2 Timothy 2. “And I found myself becoming accuser of the brethren.” Sometimes people... I'm dealing with somebody, and all of a sudden, I've got accusations flowing through my mind. Where do you think they're coming from? And you're throwing another log on the fire, another log in the fire. 

Stop. Stop it. Don't feed the issue. Let it die. 26:21, the very next one, it says "As charcoal to embers and as wood to a fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife." Do you see that? He keeps it going; he keeps adding fuel to the fire; he keeps the conflict gong.  

Leave Retribution to God 

And then next, leave retribution to God. 20:22. "Do not say I'll pay you back for this wrong. Wait for the Lord and he will deliver you." Have ever heard of payback time? What goes around comes around. That shouldn't work in the Christian circles. Just drop it. 

It is not our place. It really isn't. Let God work with that person. If they're a non-Christian, let God deal with them directly. If they're a Christian, let God deal with them in terms of correction and chastisement. Just leave it. Leave it to God. And the next one is clear about this in the same way. 25:21 and 22, "Show kindness even to the worst enemy and commit the rest of God. If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat. If he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head and the Lord will reward you." This is quoted in the book of Romans, isn't it? "Do not repay evil for evil, or insult for insult, but with blessing." And then this Proverb is quoted by Paul. I think it's in Romans chapter 12 or 13, I think. "So show kindness even to your worst enemy."  

Give a Gift 

And then this one's interesting: give a gift. Now, I told this to one of my children and they said... Well, I'll read the Proverb. It says, "A gift given in secret... " 21:14, "A gift given in secret soothes anger and a bride concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.” Well, when I saw the phrase pacifies great wrath, I knew we were in the category of conflict resolution. I'm just telling you what's in the book of Proverbs. I don't always know. Someone said a bribe. You're supposed to bribe somebody back to friendship? I don't know. How would you interpret this? All I know is it says, "A bribe pacifies great wrath." Well, alright, bribes are, I think – obviously - have a very negative connotation, but could it be that maybe there's a rupture in a relationship and it might be enough for you to bring over a meal to them and say, "I just want to give this to you, and I just want to tell you I love you. I know we're having some struggles in our relationship, but here's something." Or to say, "You know, can I pray for you?" Or something. These are blessings that come. And they work both ways. They really do. It flows. It flows. And we all need it. There's not one of us that doesn't need love, forgiveness and mercy and care. All of us do. James says, “Drive out a mocker and those who love quarrels.” We already talked about that. 

And then this one, 18:18. This is an odd one. And like I said, I'm just reporting it because it's in the book of Proverbs. 18:18, "Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart." What is casting the lot? Well, I wrote here, “When all else fails, flip a coin. I don't know, and you can decide who's going to get that last piece or whatever.”  

IV. Application

But at any rate, these are all the Proverbs on conflict resolution. I guess what I would urge you to do is, if you feel in any way strife or conflict or difficulty with a brother or sister in Christ, don't wait. Don't wait. Resolve those issues. I was talking to someone saying that they felt that one of the most important parts of the service was the offer... It was you, Jeff, Jeff Melvin. Brother Jeff was talking to me about one of the most important parts of the service was the offertory, because if you're going to give your gift to the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, go and resolve that. I think we talked about that. And I think the point is, don't give sleep to your eyes. Don't let it go. Don't let it grow and fester, but go to the thing and restore your love relationship with that brother or sister in Christ. 

Alright, well, we've covered conflict resolution. Where we're going from here is - next week, I believe we have the fourth of July. David Barton is going to be coming. Is that next week, Scott? I believe so. So, that's next Sunday. You won't want to miss that. This guy is fantastic. So, let's celebrate America this next Sunday. The following Sunday will be, I believe, our final week in Proverbs. We're going to be looking, I think, at the Gospel according to the book of Proverbs. And then God-willing, I'll be gone for the following two weeks to a populous oriental nation. And after that, we'll be looking at, I believe - I'm praying about this - but at spiritual gifts, and the topic of spiritual gifts. A very important topic, and you won't want to miss that. So, Lucy, you're going to be in... Yeah? Scott, were you going to say something?  

Okay, did you hear that? 7:15 pre-service music next Sunday evening, 7:30 the thing begins. You won't want to be late; you want to come a little bit early and get your seat. And Lucy, you're going to be in the parlor to talk more about Belarus and the ministry that you're having there.  

Let's close in prayer. Father, we thank You for the time and just the way that You have blessed us today. Thank You for the Word of God. I thank You for Sunday School, all the things that we learned, Lord, this morning about the Lord's Supper and how beautifully it meshed with actually having the Lord's Supper. We thank You for that. Thank You for the testimony of the youth tonight. I praise You for them and for the way that they took courageous faith steps. And Father, we just praise You for what You're doing in their lines. And Father, we thank You for the book of Proverbs and the things that we've learned tonight. And Father, I pray that we'd put them into practice that we might not give the devil an upper hand and not let any root of bitterness grow up, but rather that sweet fellowship that You desire to have with each one of us and through each one of us. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

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