two people with conflict November 21 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Acts 15:1-35

Conflict Resolution

What is one thing a mother is called upon to do with her growing children? Settle conflicts. How does she settle conflicts between her children? Does she referee, or does she lead them to work it out amongst themselves? How do we settle conflicts? Today we will look at how a conflict was resolved in a church. The same principles could apply to a family, friendship, business or other organization.

Resolving church conflicts are different than resolving personal conflicts. Many churches are independent and autonomous. In a fellowship of autonomous churches, when one church does not act with purity of doctrine and there is no repentance, the most the other churches can do is to not include them in their fellowship. Antioch was an autonomous and independent church from her mother church in Jerusalem.

Shortly after Paul wrote a letter to the people in the southern region of Galatia (eastern Turkey), a group of Jews from Jerusalem came to the church in Antioch (Antioch was composed of many Gentile (non-Jewish) believers). The Jews started spouting the same errors in doctrine that were deceiving the Galatian believers, namely that the Gentile believers had to keep the Law of Moses and be circumcised to become Christians.

This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question, (Acts 15:2, NIV).

The first principle in conflict resolution is this: If at all possible, handle the situation personally. Misunderstandings can arise from texts, e-mails, conference calls, snail mail, or telephone conversations. Rumors that may start from poor communication can be devastating to a relationship. Love is shown when you think enough of a person to give him or her your personal time. You cannot look into the face of those who are sharing their opinions, or observe their body language to judge their reactions if you cannot see them. Therefore, if at all possible, handle conflicts personally. If they cannot be handled personally, choose individuals who are responsible and levelheaded to do it.

Immediately after the conference began, the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) presented their case, saying that the Gentiles must be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses to be saved. The apostles and elders met to discuss this question. After much discussion, Peter reminded the believers how God showed him by a sign from heaven to accept Gentiles (Acts 10). He then testified that God “made no distinction between us [Jews] and them [Gentiles], for he purified their hearts by faith,” (Acts 15:9, NIV). Afterwards, Paul and Barnabus told the congregation about the “miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them,” (Acts 15:12, NIV). The second principle we can learn about conflict resolution is to have open communications with all who are involved and seek the truth.

After hearing all testimonies, James, the brother of Jesus, a leader and perhaps the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, sought a compromise. He recognized the truth of the doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ alone but suggested some concessions so that the Gentiles would not offend Jewish Christians in their synagogues. James said,

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath. (Acts 15:19-21, NIV).

The third principle in resolving conflicts is to be sensitive to the feelings of both parties, and if possible seek some compromises to remove offenses.

The assembly agreed upon this resolution. The messengers gladly took the decision to their congregation in Antioch and gave a report. Then on a second missionary journey, Paul and Silas shared the decision of the elders of the mother church in Jerusalem with all the other churches in Asia Minor. The fourth principle in resolving conflicts is to show leadership; come to a consensus and implement it, but do everything in love.

Lessons to live by: Principles in conflict resolution:

  • Salvation is by God's grace through faith in his Son, not by any works of righteousness (Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5-6). Jesus offers you forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...)
  • If at all possible, handle conflict resolutions personally.
  • Have open communications with all who are involved and seek the truth.
  • Be sensitive to the feelings of both parties, and if possible seek some compromises to remove offenses.
  • Show leadership; come to a consensus and implement it, but do everything in love. Handling conflicts are best done with a mixture of grace and truth.

Today’s memory verse: Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (NIV)

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