The holidays are right around the corner as I write this, and I began thinking of those holiday get-togethers. As much as we would like everyone to get along all the time, there can be conflicts that arise. The Bible is our “how-to guide” for all things, so I’ve compiled Bible verses about conflict resolution to help keep the peace! (As a confrontation averse person, I need this as much as anybody….)
Root Cause of Conflict
No surprise, the root cause of conflict is our sinful nature. Conflicts happen when there is poor communication and differences in values, goals, or ideas. Our pride, selfishness, anger, or jealousy can insert themselves into our relationships and cause conflict.
But we can manage conflict in healthy ways, and God has the remedy spelled out for us in His Word. The Bible gives us practical advice on how to manage interpersonal conflict, so that is what I am going to focus on.
Conflict in the Bible
Conflicts in the Bible range from hundreds of battles fought in the Old Testament to the many stories of conflict between Biblical characters. This is a far larger topic than I imagined!
Even the great pillars of faith sinned and experienced conflict in their lives. They were not perfect, but just like us- trying to live for God but falling short daily.
Examples of Conflict in the Bible
Joseph and his Brothers-
Joseph’s favored standing as the baby of the family compounded by his overconfidence, caused friction between him and his 10 brothers. They were jealous of Joseph’s favored status and his dreams of superiority over them. Their anger boiled over. They originally planned to kill him, but sold him off into slavery instead.
The brothers lied to their father to cover their actions, dipping Joseph’s cloak in goat’s blood and showing it to him to “prove” Joseph’s death.
Jacob and Esau-
They were twin boys of Isaac and Rebekah with night and day differences in appearance and personality. Esau was the firstborn which granted him the right of his father’s blessing (a double portion of inheritance and special privileges), but he foolishly sold it to Jacob for a bowl of stew.
Later, Isaac, blind and near death, summoned Esau to give him the blessing but asked Esau to prepare his favorite meal first.
Rebekah overheard the conversation, and calling to Jacob (her favorite), concocted a plan for Jacob to imitate Esau and take the blessing for himself. Jacob goes along with the plan, lies to his father about who he is, and receives the blessing.
Esau held a grudge against Jacob to the point of plotting his murder. Rebekah overhears and sends Jacob away to her brother, Laban.
These are but 2 examples of family conflict in the Bible. It’s easy to see how sin entered these families and caused great heartache and negative consequences.
Conflict Resolution in the Bible
What would you have done if you were Joseph? Would bitterness, pride, anger, or unforgiveness kept you from seeking peace and reconciliation?
Joseph Forgives His Brothers
Knowing that God was with him, Joseph used his suffering-
• to develop his character,
•respond to evil with good, and
•eventually forgive his brothers.
•He did not let bitterness live in his soul. In fact, others saw Joseph as a man who had the Spirit of God living within him.
“So Pharoah asked them, ‘Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?’” Genesis 41:38
Jacob and Esau Reconcile
Jacob lives away from his family for 22 years and endures unfair manipulation from his now father-in-law, Laban. When he could return to his homeland, however, he had to pass through Edom, which belonged to Esau.
Jacob was terrified, but made plans to confront his past. Hosea 12:4 says he “wept and prayed” for God’s favor.
When Jacob and Esau finally meet, Jacob, in humility, bows down to Esau. Esau graciously runs to Jacob and hugged and kissed him. “And they wept.” Genesis 33:4.
Prayer, humility, and surrender finally reconciled this relationship. Jacob and Esau’s conflict tore apart their families for years. Restoration finally came when Jacob followed God’s leading.
God worked out and resolved both difficult conflicts. That gives us hope in our conflicts today and insight into what not to do!
Biblical Conflict Resolution
We all experience times where we make mistakes, have regrets, and say things out of anger or frustration that we do not mean and instantly wish we could take back.
When we are on the receiving end of this same behavior, we may blame the other person (s) or focus so much on our hurt that we can’t move forward in the relationship.
The stories of Joseph and Jacob show us the first step in conflict resolution:
Our focus needs to turn away from our feelings and towards God.
Like Jacob, we need to pray and seek Him out. We can follow Joseph’s approach and not let any bitterness take over, but lean on God for direction.
Bible Verses about Conflict Resolution in Relationships
•God Calls us to Humility
Humility is freedom from a spirit of pride. Pride can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to conflict resolution. Jesus shows us everything about His character that we are to emulate.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of servant.” Philippians 2: 5-7a.
•Conflict Among the Disciples
When the disciples were arguing among themselves over which one of them would be greater, Jesus tells them:
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3-4.
When we are hurting because of a broken relationship, forgiveness can seem impossible; especially when the offender does not ask for forgiveness. But God forgives us for every sin we have committed and offers it freely, therefore, we must forgive.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32.
“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37.
Forgiveness followed by reconciliation doesn’t always happen, but it will give you much needed peace in the situation.
Matthew 18 Conflict Resolution
Jesus lays out 3 specific steps towards Christian conflict resolution when a fellow believer sins against you.
“If your brother sins against you, go, and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’” (From Deuteronomy 19:15)
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Our human nature is to tell someone else about the offense- grousing and complaining.
•But Jesus says to meet- just the 2 of you. Speak with kindness, compassion, and humility. (Wonderful advice for any conflict!)
If he listens, hopefully the problem is resolved. (Jesus does not say he must immediately repent.)
•If that doesn’t bring resolution, we are to go with 2-3 others;
•if that does not bear fruit, we are to take it to the church. If still unresolved, treat them with the love we would show an unbeliever to bring them to repentance.
This would seem to be used in situations of grave sin, not for minor hurts or slights. Colossians 3:13 tells us to “bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone.”
Likewise, Ephesians 4:2 says to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Proverbs 12:16 also has wise advice: “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.”
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How Did Jesus Handle Conflict?
Would you eat a meal with someone you know is planning your murder?
Jesus did, at the Last Supper, when sharing the Passover meal with Judas. He even washed his feet- the job of the lowliest servant.
Even though Jesus knew Judas would betray him, He loved Judas until the end. He didn’t shy away from the conflict and force him out. In fact, He purposely tells the group someone would betray Him, and when Judas asks if it is himself, Jesus affirms it.
He is giving Judas more than enough time to change his mind and repent of his evil plan.
Jesus Rebukes the Pharisees
But maybe you’re thinking, “Jesus called the Pharisees a brood of vipers!” “He got angry and overturned the tables of the money changers!”
Yes, both of those things are true, but no, we are not to call people a brood of vipers and flip tables. Why? Because Jesus never sinned, even in His anger, and we could not same the same for ourselves in these situations. Plus, only He knew the true condition of the hearts of these people.
Jesus compared these Pharisees to vipers (an evil serpent with deadly venom) because they were dangerous, evil hypocrites and their hearts here hardened. He wanted them to repent of their evil ways.
Jesus cleansed the temple by overturning the tables of the moneychangers. They were using His temple, a place of worship, to cheat the poor and turn His Father’s house into a marketplace.
He used a whip, some say, to drive out the animals. There was no violence in His actions. He did not sin in His righteous anger and was using the authority given to Him by God the Father.
Anger plays a big part in conflicts: “An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgressions.” Proverbs 29:22.
If we want to resolve conflicts in a rational way and discuss our differences, we need to lay anger aside.
Bible Verses about Conflict with Friends
•Judas was not the only disciple to betray Jesus. Peter also betrays Jesus by denying his relationship with Him. Peter was a close friend to Jesus and Jesus even tells Peter what would happen (again, giving him a chance to change his ways.)
Conflict among friends sting differently. We expect it from enemies, maybe strangers, but our friends are supposed to have our back.
How did Jesus reconcile the relationship with Peter?
In the presence of 5 other disciples, Jesus cooked some breakfast (having a meal together is a brilliant strategy!) and then speaks to Peter, asking him 3 times if he truly loved Him- one for each denial.
Jesus wanted Peter to think about his love and devotion for Him and let the other disciples know He restored their relationship.
Maybe this confrontation caused Peter to write these words: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:8-10.
•”A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17.
•“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9 NLT.
Bible Verses about Resolution
Here are a few more verses to reflect on:
“Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” James 1:19
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9
“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother.” Matthew 5:23-24
Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive one who sins against him. (Many Rabbis taught that forgiving three times was sufficient, so Peter offers a very hefty number of 7…)
Jesus replies, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:22.
In other words, don’t keep track of your forgiveness, just keep it coming…
Resolving Conflict in the Bible
God packed the Bible with wisdom on how to deal with conflict, avoid it in the first place, and achieve reconciliation. Jesus seemed especially keen on one-on-one discussions filled with humility, gentleness, and care.
Our sinful nature likes to strike back, get angry, defend our actions, and withdraw from relationships.
Focusing on God, seeking His guidance and wisdom, and using the power of the Holy Spirit enables us to reject the worldly responses to conflict and choose humility, kindness, and forgiveness.
Spend some time in self-reflection on how you handle conflict and examine what changes you can make. I’ll be doing the same.♥
All Scripture is from the NIV unless specified otherwise.
Photo Credit: Canva, Deposit Photo