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Proverbs on Conflict Resolution

Proverbs on Conflict Resolution

September 27, 2009 | Andy Davis
Proverbs 10:12
Brotherly Love, Forgiveness


So, I want to set in your minds this morning as I begin just a picture of a lush and inviting oasis in the midst of a vast, howling desert. Probably very few of us will ever have the experience of crawling through a desert like the Sahara or something, wondering if we're going to survive the next hour. I don't know anybody that's ever been like that, though some people have been through that experience. And, imagine if you were like that and you crawled up to the crest of a dune - a sand dune - and you looked down, and there was the most incredibly inviting sight you've ever seen in your life. There was an oasis. There are 15 palm trees there for shade, and 30 fig trees fully ripe with delicious figs. You may not have liked figs before this moment, but now they're looking really good to you, and, most importantly of all, a pool of delicious, inviting clear, clean water to drink. And best of all, it's not a mirage. That's what I want First Baptist Church to be in this world. I want you to come here and be refreshed. I want you to be strengthened and invigorated in a howling wasteland of sin. That's what I want. I want the Bible to be that for you. I want you to come to the Scriptures and feed and be nourished and be refreshed in the Scriptures. I want that every morning for you in your quiet times; I want that when you hear me preach; that's what I want the gospel to be for you.

I want the Gospel to renew you and refresh you; I want your weak knees to be strengthened; I want your arms, that you feel are about to give way, I want them to be renewed in strength as you come again to the cross and the empty tomb, and remind yourselves, what Jesus did for you. I want you to picture this oasis as though there's this column of light going up to the heavens, and it's just cloudy and dark all around, but there's this beckoning, just column of light saying, “This is the place, come here.” Because I want you to have a sense that this is just an oasis, the real paradise is yet to come. These are just foretastes that we have, and so the desert is the world and all of its sin, but this morning, I want to speak specifically of the issue of conflict, of broken human relationships, of difficulty in relationships. And I would think that there's no one listening to me right now, that doesn't have a sense of that, that perhaps may not have even experienced it this very morning. I won't ask, "What was it like getting ready for church?" I won't ask that because it could be that it was a wonderful, delightful experience of the grace of God and the delight you have in one another, and maybe not, but in any case, I think you would be able to relate to the issue of conflicts.

We live in a world filled with conflict. To some degree, we were promised - we weren't alive at the time, but the human race was promised - that World War I would be the war to end all wars. I don't know whoever coined that phrase, because within a generation after that one came the one that it gave birth to, World War II, the worst of all military conflicts, ending in two hideous nuclear explosions and the revelation, the full revelation of the Holocaust, and just the depravity of human hearts, and so the United Nations was crafted so that we would never go to war with one another again, be able to talk things out and resolve things through political means and through negotiation. There have been 168 armed conflicts since then.

But you know that human conflict goes far beyond that global kind, goes far beyond just what you read and hear about in CNN. It goes far beyond anything like that; it hits close to home. It hits marriages. Half of marriages end in divorce, but even many that do not go through divorce, it's almost as if the husband and wife are just living estranged from one another. And, even in a good solid Christian family, they would testify that it's the conflicts that make it sour and bitter and not what it ought to be. And so, the conflict goes husband to wife, wife to husband, and also goes parent to child, child to parent. There's broken relationships there. Sibling to sibling. The first revelation of conflict was Cain and Abel and the way that Cain hated his brother and murdered him. So, it's been that way horizontally ever since, but, dear friends, the fact is the root issue is sin. It says in Isaiah 57:20-21, listen to these verses, “The wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud, there is no peace, says my God for the wicked.”

So, the real issue is not just what's going on between labor and management or what's going on in neighborhoods where there is strife and conflict and the police have to get called in and some kind of loud conflict, 2:00 in the morning. It's not all of that. The core issue is a vertical one, up toward God. We are not at peace with God apart from Jesus Christ. We're not at peace with God, and, so therefore, the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be the only answer there is to human conflicts. It's the only answer there is. And it holds out not just an answer, but it holds out a victorious answer. A sweet, victorious answer. Because here's the thing, dear friends, imagine that oasis with a column of light going up, you know what's going on up there, through that door, standing open in heaven, in Revelation 4? Zero conflict. None. From eternity past, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have been in perfect unity with one another. From eternity past, there has never been a shade of a shadow of a hint of a whiff of a conflict between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and there never will be. They were in perfect agreement about everything; they love one another deeply; they're in agreement about every detail.

And that spreads out from that central throne where God reigns out to those angels of 100 million angels that are standing around the throne - the Holy Angels in perfect peace with one another, never a shade of a conflict between them. And so it is the saints in heaven, the redeemed, those that have been reconciled with God - they love one another perfectly with a perfect love. They are perfectly one as the Father and the Son are one. That's where we're heading. We're going to get there too. The Lord is going to lift us up there, and we're going to leave conflicts behind; We're going to leave it behind. And why? Because of the work of reconciliation, worked by Jesus Christ at the cross through His blood, we who were once enemies in our mind and alienated from God, (Colossians 1), have been reconciled by Christ's physical body through His death to present us Holy and blameless in His sight. Free from all sin. We have been reconciled through faith in Jesus Christ, reconciled with God the Father. Romans 5:1, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:10, it says there, “If when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more having been reconciled shall we be saved through His life.

So, we Christians can be truly at peace with one another. Now, I am mindful - very acutely mindful - of the fact that there's every likelihood that I'm speaking to people who are not reconciled with God right now. You're not at peace with God. And, though you may not feel it, God is at war with you, because of your sins. And yet, for all of that, this is the nature of the love of God in Christ. He is welcoming you, beckoning you to come back and be reconciled to God. And so, it says in 2 Corinthians 5, "We urge you, we plead with you, we beg you, be reconciled to God." God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God. And part of that righteousness is a perfectly one relationship with God, that we are perfectly one with God, and that God is at peace with us and loves us. Come to Christ; come to Him because frankly, all of the practical details I'm going to give you from Proverbs will not help you at all. They won't stick. You won't be changed. Can a leper change his spots? Can an Ethiopian change his skin? Neither can you who are accustomed to doing evil and do good. You're going to go from this place in a conflict just like you always do, and you're going to have a week full of conflicts, and you're going to have difficulties because you're not a peace with God.

Can I just urge you? It's not complicated. You just need to trust in Him. You don't need to do anything; you don't have to move from your pew. While you're sitting here, you can just believe in Jesus. You can look to Jesus who shed His blood on the cross and say, "That's my righteousness. I'm a sinner, He died for sinners. I trust in you, Lord Jesus." God didn't leave Him dead on the cross; God raised Him from the dead on the third day. God has accepted the work of Christ. “I can be reconciled with God right now.” Can I just urge you be reconciled to God? There, now. So, I have hopes that some of you who are… now listen to some advice.

And, if you've already been reconciled and have been for years, you need some advice, don't you? How's it going in your relationships? Is it perfect? Is it wonderful? Well, you know why it's not because God has left us here to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and part of that work is work horizontally in relationships with sinners like you. And we need help, don't we in that because we have these habits of conflict. We don't deal with it well. We don't deal with it well, and we need some help. And you can get help from many books in the Bible, but the book of Proverbs is very practical in the help that it can give you. And so, I began the sermon not even really mentioning Proverbs because the exalted themes that I have been giving you since I began speaking are better found in books like Romans and other places, but, having been reconciled to God, we still need some help, don't we? Horizontally. And the book of Proverbs is an excellent book for describing conflicts and how to be resolved through them, and so I want us to turn our attention to the book of Proverbs.

Now, I was so excited. I mean, I was genuinely excited about this sermon this morning, you know why? Because it was just a little over eight pages. Anybody who knows me knows how short that is. You're like, "You're kidding, an eight-page sermon." I say, "A good thing too because we have the Lord's supper." Alright, and so we're going to be done by 12:05, and it's going to be exciting. It's going to be wonderful. Wrong! I preached it this morning like I always do, and what I realized was what I had here is just a categorization of a bunch of Proverbs concerning conflicts, no comments at all, just Proverbs categorized dealing with conflicts. And as I began commenting on it, it swelled up to its usual size, so I'm going to go ahead and do my best to preach this and not worry that much about time, but I'm going to say this: we have these deep, bitter habits in relationships that need to be uprooted, and they're only going to get uprooted by the Word of God, and all scripture is God-breathed and is useful. And this is a useful book for helping you horizontally with your marriage, in your family, with co-workers, with neighbors. This is going to help you.

God’s Attitude Towards Dissension

So, let's start with this first concept, and that is God's attitude toward dissension. Let's start at Proverbs 6:16-19. And I'm not going to read all of that, just a little section of it: “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him,” and then one of them is listed as, “a man who stirs up dissension among his brothers.” Hate, dear friends, is a very strong word, but let me say it to you plainly: God hates dissension. He hates it. He hates sinful, wicked conflict; He hates it. The unity that God intends between people is pictured, as I said, by the perfect unity in the Trinity, and when anything falls short of that, it falls short of the glory of God. It is sin, and God hates it. And so, He hates dissension. He wants to heal it though. It's not so much that He hates it and will pour out wrath because of it; God will pour out wrath because of unresolved dissension that wasn't brought to the cross. He will do that. But God wants to heal it. And so, God has sent the Gospel into the world. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and hid in a large amount of flour that worked all through the dough” (Matthew 13:33).

The Devastation of Human Conflicts

And so, God wants to heal our dissensions. He wants to heal it, and so He's sent forth the wisdom of God. And some of that wisdom is in the book of Proverbs. One of the things God teaches us in Proverbs is just how devastating and costly human conflicts are; they're devastating. Like this one, Proverbs 17:1 says, "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife." And then Proverbs 21:9 says, "Better to live on a corner of the roof than to share a house with a quarrelsome life." Basically, what these two Proverbs are saying is, it would be better to undergo extreme privations, even of basic physical necessities, than to go through strife and conflict. It would be better to roll out a sleeping bag in the attic with the rodents and the cockroaches than to have strife and conflict in your marriage. It would be better to have a moldy piece of old muffin with worms coming out of it, than to have the most lavish feast you've ever had, and there's conflict going on while you're eating it. And frankly, I've had meals like that from even when I was growing up. I've seen that, and it is absolutely true.

So, the biggest problem with human conflict is that it's just so difficult to recover from. Very hard. Proverbs 18:19 says, "An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel." It's like an iron bar, and you just can't break it. Have you ever gone through an experience with somebody in a relationship and you just can't seem to get past it, because maybe they won't let you get past it, or in your own heart, you're holding some bitterness that's because of the conflict? It's devastating and costly. So, these verses and many others speak of the cost of it.

What Causes Fights and Quarrels?

What about the causes? Where does conflict come from? What does Proverbs tell us about that? Well, many, many places. Proverbs actually has a lot to say about the root system of conflict, where does it come from.


Let’s start with this one: pride. So many conflicts come by pride, Proverbs 13:10, "Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice." Anyone who knows me knows that that's a key verse that helped me in my... Well, in my marriage. My wife just has better taste in clothes than I do, and she used to ask me as we were getting ready for an outing, "Is that what you're wearing?" Now, since I was a boy, I didn't enjoy playing dress-ups. I don't know about you men - do you enjoy just throwing on clothes to see what they look like? So, my pride would start to kick in. "What do you mean is this what I'm wearing? This is what I'm wearing both kind of now and for the rest of the day." But my tendency was generally to over-dress for certain occasions, et cetera, et cetera, and so it was a way of saying, “I'm offering some advice, if you'd like it.” Proverbs 13:10 helped our marriage. “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” We'll kick in Proverbs 15:1 later, but Proverbs 15:1 kicks in at that point and says, "Hun, I was just trying these on because they just... Well, what do you think I ought to wear?" Or even better, before I even put it on, say, "What do you think I ought to wear?" But in any case, pride is the root of so many quarrels. 

Instant Annoyance

Secondly: instant annoyance. Proverbs 12:16, "A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult." Instant annoyance, just hair-trigger. Have you ever met somebody like that? Have you ever been someone like that? That instant annoyance, they just tick you off, something happens and there it goes. 


Thirdly: anger itself. I think anger is like a drug. I really think it's like alcohol... People get... They're under the influence. And then when the head clears, they wonder, "What did I do? How could I have done that?" And anger is like that. Any of you ever gotten angry and said some things and done some things and they're like... Then it clears and you're like, "What did I do?" Anger is a devastating thing, a dangerous thing. Proverbs 29:22, "An angry man stirs up dissension and a hot-tempered one commits many sins." And so, anger is a root of many, many conflicts that moral filth that James calls of anger. 


Fourthly: words. What causes conflicts? Words. Well, what kind of words? Well, just words. Proverbs 18:21, it says, "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." Well, what kind of words? How about many words? Lots of words. Okay, maybe you're just given to talking. Proverbs 10:19 says, "When words are many, sin is inevitable.” One translation has that, "Sin is inevitable, but he who holds his tongue is wise." In other words, if you're just talking and talking and talking, sooner or later, you're going to say something you regret. I pray a lot, just in terms of my preaching ministry. I think God's called on me to do this, and I can't hide the talent in the ground for fear, but you look over 11 years of preaching and there's a lot of words and I say a lot. I keep this Proverb in mind, "Where words are many sin is inevitable.” Be careful what you say. But that's true, not just in preaching, but it's just true all the time.

Reckless words cause conflicts. 12:18, "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Again, saying something, you'll regret, something bitter and mean. Harsh words, says in Proverbs 15:1, second half, "A harsh word stirs up anger." Deceitful words. Proverbs 15:4, "The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit." It's so vital that we tell each other the truth. If there is deceit that comes in, lying comes in, it causes conflicts. It ruins relationships if you can't trust each other.

Gossip causes conflicts. Proverbs 16:28 says, "A perverse man stirs up dissension and a gossip separates close friends." So just sharing that little morsel, a sweet little morsel of some information, that can cause conflicts; it's very hurtful. Or insults, just insult, saying mean things. Proverbs 11:12, "A man who lacks judgment derides or insults his neighbor." But again, a man of understanding holds his tongue. You just don't say that clever put-down that… yeah, they laugh, but you know it hurts, and you may not have even known that you caused some damage. 


Fifthly, hatred causes fights and quarrels. It says in Proverbs 10:12, "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs." And so, what is that? It's just that deep-seated malice. You're just against somebody in your heart. And we're going to talk in a moment about unforgiveness, but that's generally what's caused it. Out of that comes the conflict, you're ready to have a conflict with a person because you just don't like them. You hate them, actually.

People Who Love Quarreling

Sixthly, there are just some people who enjoy a quarrel. They think they're good at it, and it's like a tennis match or a contest, and they just like to do it. They like to argue. And it says in 17:19, "He who loves a quarrel loves sin; he who builds a high gate invites destruction." There are some people that just love a quarrel. Proverbs 26:21 says this, "Charcoal to embers and wood to a fire so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife." Hold on to that one. Now I bring up its partner verse, Proverbs 27:15-16, "A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day. Restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.” There are verses about quarrelsome men and quarrelsome women. Don't be either one. Don't be a quarrelsome man. Don't be a quarrelsome wife. Ruins a marriage when you're bickering and quarrelling. And then the verse about the wife, it's like grasping wind or restraining the oil. You can't get hold of that, of a quarrelsome wife. She doesn't control her mouth, and so it's very, very damaging in the relationship. But I'm just saying, there are so many that... Men, don't just read that verse. Read the other one I just read to you because there are quarrelsome men too. And it's very, very damaging. 


Seventh: the issue of unforgiveness. Unforgiveness. This causes conflict. 17:9, "He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." In other words, “I forgive you,” but then a week later, “I'm going to bring it up again.” Repeating the matter, it ruins a relationship. It just ruins it. 

Poor Listening

Eighthly: misunderstanding or poor listening. That will cause a conflict. Proverbs 18:13, "He who answers before listening, that is his folly and his shame." Have you ever done that? "I know exactly what you're saying, you don't need to finish your sentence," and go forward and you make a fool of yourself. And then the individual says, "That's not what I'm talking about. You haven't listened to me." Do you answer before listening? That's folly and shame. Wait. Be slow to speak, quick to listen.

Alcohol or Drugs

Ninthly, alcohol or drugs causes strife and conflict. Proverbs 23:29 and following says, "Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife?" That's what the sermon is about. Who's got conflicts? Who's having conflicts? Who has complaints? “Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.” How many conflicts in this nation are caused by abuse of alcohol or drugs? Devastating.


Tenthly: adultery. I'm going to preach, God-willing, a whole sermon on Proverbs on sexual purity, but adultery causes conflicts. A majority of divorce in America is because of adultery. And so, it says in Proverbs 6:32 and following, "Jealousy arouses a husband's fury. He will show no mercy when he takes revenge. He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse the bribe, however great it is." That relationship broken forever. They're talking man to man and can never be friends again.

Provocation from the Fool

Eleventh: provocation from fools. There are just some people that are provocative. Proverbs 27:3, "Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but provocation by a fool is heavier than both." Do you know the kind of person that you just can't help but get in a conflict with them? And then you start to realize that the same thing's happening in all that person's relationship. It's best to just steer clear; they're provocative people. I'm not saying that you can't have a ministry, but if you try to have that ministry and it just isn't going anywhere, it's just difficult.


And then, the twelfth: greed. Proverbs 28:25, "A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper." These are just some of the root causes. It's an amazingly thorough list, isn't it? Of the cause, the root causes of conflict: Instant annoyance, pride, anger, words, hatred, people who love a quarrel, unforgiveness, misunderstandings, alcohol, adultery, provocation, greed. This is the seed bed of human conflict. These types of sins are at the root of every human conflict in history, both between a husband and wife, parent, child, but also nation and nation. You're going to find the root causes in that list I just gave you.

How to Avoid Conflicts

Alright, thirdly, how should we avoid conflicts? Isn't that good? As Ben Franklin put it, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Be better not to have it, be better to avoid it, to not have the conflict. How shall we avoid it?

Be Patient & Even-Tempered

Well, number one, how about be patient and even-tempered? Have a long fuse. Proverbs 16:32 says, "Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city." It takes strength of character to not go in for that conflict. Just be a strong man, a strong woman, be a warrior, and keep in mind Ephesians 6. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, dear friends. We're not at war with them. We're being Satan's fools doing Satan's work, so he can call the demons off for the day - the people are doing it. We'll come back and see, we'll get it going again tomorrow, but you don't need to do anything. You're doing his work for him. We should be helping each other in our battle against demonic forces, not hindering or not helping Satan to do his work. And so, just be patient and even-tempered.

Overlook an Insult

Secondly, overlook an insult. Charles Spurgeon once said about pastoral ministry - this is no offense, this is just some wisdom for us pastors - but he just says, "Every pastor needs to have one blind eye and one deaf ear and no one to turn them." Just, "I never heard it." Just overlook it. You don't have to take up the cudgels and go in and battle for your honor or for the validity of the ministry. Just let it go. Overlook it. But that's true of everybody. It's just to your glory to overlook an insult. You know how you do it? Get really, really humble about yourself. That is to say, get really, really true and realistic about yourself. Go to the cross and in effect say, "You don't know the half of it. You don't know the 120th of it. I am so great a sinner, and I actually deserve far worse insults than you've given me." Be humble, and you'll be able to overlook that insult.

Be an Active Peacemaker

Thirdly, be an active peacemaker. Be an active peacemaker. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the peacemakers for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And so, Proverbs 15:18 says, "A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel." There's just some people who know how to put out the fire. Yesterday, I was riding along Roxboro Road, and there was a house on the corner that was burning openly. Just burning. I hadn't seen that much. I mean, flames, licking fire going, smoke billowing. But I was okay because there were like seven or eight fire engines around it, and I have a feeling that the owners of the house wanted to have it destroyed it and they were allowing the fire department to burn it for educational purpose. I think that's what's going on because they were making no effort to put the fire out. So, as I was watching that... By the way, just good news, it was out this morning, so it all had a happy ending.

The bottom line is, I would like to be like a skillful fireman. I want to put the thing out. Do you know how to put it out? We talk in our family about putting out the fire with kerosene. Alright, are you that kind of a person? That's not how to do it. “Don't go into that situation and say that to your brother or sister. That's going to just make it worse.” Learn how to put the fire out. 

Use Gentle Words

Fourthly, use gentle healing words. Now, if you just get one proverb, this is the one. There a lot of good ones, but this is the one that was up on our mirror for years, I use it probably more than anything else. Proverbs 15:1, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Try it. Try it on for size. "You don't know my spouse." Just try it. "You're right, hon. You're right. I'm sorry, I should have listened better. You're right." And what happens to the conflict? In many cases, it goes away, and make it genuine too. Make it genuine. But try a gentle answer that turns away wrath. 

Forgive Quickly

Fifthly, forgive quickly and wholeheartedly as the Lord forgave you. This was on the cover of the bulletin, "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs." In this way, we are most like Jesus. We're most like God. God covers our sins; let's cover each other's. Forgive one another deeply from the heart.

Drop the Matter Quickly

Sixthly, drop the matter quickly before it gets out of control. Proverbs 17:14, "Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam." So, drop the matter before a dispute breaks up; just drop it. It just gets wider and wider. Just drop it quickly.

Don’t Hang Around Those Who Love to Argue

Seventh, don't hang around people who love to argue. Proverbs 22:24 and following says, "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man. Do not associate with one easily angered or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared." 

Observe Proper Social Boundaries

Eighthly, observe proper social boundaries. I like this one. I don't know what to do with it, but I like it. Proverbs 25:17, "Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house, too much of you and he will hate you." Alright? You just need to know when not to just show up. "Here I am to bless you." It's like that loud greeting early in the morning that Proverbs said... It's not a blessing, alright? Just knowing when... You should always leave them wanting more of you, not less. So, observe proper social boundaries.

Don’t Meddle

Ninthly, don't meddle in other people's affairs. Christians need to hear this. Proverbs 26:17, "Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passerby who meddles in a quarrel not his own." I can't imagine, I've never done it, but what it'd be like to seize a dog by the ears? I guess the advice is, don't do that. But I mean, as Christians, we are not to be - and other Scripture says this plainly - busybodies. If you're out in a public place and there's some conflict going on, you don't know the people, you are not called on to do anything but pray for them. Pray for them. Maybe God could give you a ministry. Who knows? They might invite you in, maybe not, but pray for them. Don't seize a dog by the ears.

How to Resolve Conflicts


Alright, well, how should we resolve conflicts? Well, listen to one another. Proverbs 18:2, "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions." Listen to each other. 

Get All the Facts

Get all the facts. Proverbs 18:18, "The first to present his case seems right till another comes forward and questions him." By the way, that's a great parenting verse. Remember how I told you about being a circuit riding judge sitting on cases? It's so good to listen to the first individual and then the second one comes along and the whole picture changes. Alright, but that's just a general principle. Let's get all the facts before we jump to a conclusion, and that way we can resolve a conflict.

Use Gentle and Healing Words, but Persuade

Again, use gentle and healing words, we've already talked about 15:1, but persuade. Now, here's a key idea with conflicts: Conflicts can be redemptive, can be necessary. And here's the thing, you know what I think happens? In God's wisdom, He gives - let's say a husband and wife - each of them part of the solution. Each of them have a valid perspective. Each of them have a valid thing to say. They need to come together to get the whole picture of wisdom there. Right? As iron sharpens iron, you need two pieces of iron to do it. If one of them runs away, then there's no sharpening that can go on. So, the thing is, come together and have the humility to say, "You have something I need to hear." But have the humility also to say, "I have something that I also need to say." Have the courage to say that. And so, you have to be willing to persuade sweetly and lovingly, but persuade. Proverbs 25:15 says, "Through patience a ruler can be persuaded and a gentle tongue can break a bone." I guess break a bone is a good thing. But, at any rate, the idea is, you can persuade, you can be powerful and effective through gentle persuasion.

Make Amends 

Make amends for sin, that is, ask for forgiveness. 14:9 says, "Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright." When you've done something wrong, will you go and ask forgiveness? When you've done something wrong, will you make restitution? Will you do what it takes to reconcile your brother to you? It's costly, and fools mock at the process. Don't be a fool. Go do what you need to do to make it right. And then ultimately, don't feed the issue; just let it die. Proverbs 26:20 says, "Without wood a fire goes out, and without gossip, a quarrel dies down." Don't feed the thing; don't feed it.

Wisdom from The Peacemaker (Ken Sande)

Well, there's so many things that we can say from the book of Proverbs. I want to give you just a book recommendation and just close with an exhortation. The book recommendation - the best book I've ever read on this topic - is Ken Sande's Peacemaker, and we have some copies of it out there in the resource center. Grab it. It is an excellent book. And Ken Sande does a great job at diagnosing just the different ways. He looks on conflict, just like I said a moment ago, as something that can be very constructive and helpful in growing. Don't run from it. Go into it wisely, and listen, and follow this advice.

But you said there are three types of responses to conflict: Escape responses, what he calls “peace-faking.” You know the fight or flight. These are the flight people, and they run away from the thing. They never resolve anything. There are extreme versions like suicide, flight denial. The faking, you're friendly but in your heart you're against them. That's not resolution. Escape responses. Then there are the attack responses, what he calls “peace-breaking,” so that's assault, litigation, murder, all the way down to arguing and verbal fighting, those kind of things. Both of those are to be rejected. In the middle is peacemaking, and that is such things as overlooking. It's reconciliation, negotiation, arbitration, accountability. There are various things in the middle. They're very sweet and helpful in Christian relationships.

The Four G’s

And he gives us four G's, and I'll close with this. First of all, glorify God in a conflict. You went to a conflict? Let's glorify God. You ask this question: How can I please and honor the Lord in this conflict? Secondly, get the log out of your own eye. How can I show Jesus's work in me by taking responsibility for what I've done? Thirdly, gently restore. How can I lovingly serve others by helping them take responsibility for their part of this conflict? So how can I restore? How can I work in this individual? And fourthly, go and be reconciled. How can I demonstrate the forgiveness of God that I've received by going and giving that same forgiveness to someone else?

Now we have the opportunity this morning to enjoy the Lord's Supper, and I think there's just a perfect fittingness to having a sermon like this on conflict resolution, and then going to the Lord's Supper. This, dear friends, this is an oasis, is what it is. This points ahead to a time in which we are going to sit in perfect peace with God and also horizontally with others. Every other Christian. We're going to get peace eating in the kingdom of heaven.

Now, the bread and the juice, they are physical things. It's literal bread; it's literal juice. I do not believe that they are transformed in the actual literal body and blood of Jesus. They're not, but they're physical, and they're real. And someday we're going to sit at a physical real table and physical real resurrection bodies with the physical real resurrected body of Jesus, and we're going to have a physical real feast there. And this is a foretaste of that, but it also calls on us to look back at how Jesus shed his blood on the cross that we might be forgiven with God and with one another.

I'm going to ask, if you have given your life to Christ, come to faith in Christ, and you've testified to that by baptism, you're welcome to come. If you've not, I ask that you not come or not partake. Instead, hear what I said earlier, come to faith in Christ. If you are a Christian and your relationship with the Lord is right but you know horizontally, there's a broken relationship, can you just resolve before you take the Lord's Supper? Take today, please partake, but you're going to go to that brother - that sister - and make it right. You're going to work on it according to the principles we've learned today. Won't you close with me in prayer?

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