Romans 12:18 tells us: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."
People usually respond to conflict either with an escape response, which would be typified by denial or flight. Or by an attack response, which involves use of force or intimidation either physical, verbal, passive-aggressive manipulation, things of that nature.
Each person has a predominant method of response, the type they automatically tend towards. But the type of response can also be situational depending on where the conflict arises, with whom it arises, and the result of engage in conflict.
What is the fruit of an escape response or attack response? Most of us can clearly bring to mind a situation where each of these methods have been employed. How did it turn out for you? Was there a resolution of your conflict? Restoration of relationship?
So what exactly are we supposed to do when we find ourselves in a situation of conflict? How do we live out the imperative of Romans 12:18?
There are six different responses outlined in scripture that can be used by believers (the following definitions are from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande):
Overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11; 12:16; 17:14; 1 Pet. 4:8; Col. 3:13): One person deliberately and unilaterally decides to forgive a wrong and walk away from a conflict.
Reconciliation (Matthew 18:15; 5:23-24; Galatians 6:1-3; Proverbs 23:13): Personal offenses are resolved through confession or confrontation, leading to forgiveness and reconciliation.
Negotiation (Philippians 2:3-4): Substantive issues are resolved through a bargaining process in which the parties seek to reach a mutually agreeable settlement of their difference through an exchange of promises.
Mediation (Matthew 18:16): One or two other people meet with the parties to improve communication and facilitate a resolution.
Arbitration (1 Corinthians 6:1-8): When the parties cannot come to a voluntary solution, they explain the matter to one or more arbitrators who are empowered to render a binding decision on the matter.
Accountability (Matthew 18:17-20): When a Christian party refuses to do what is right and just, the church formally intervenes to promote repentance and reconciliation.
The first three peaceful responses are personal responses. Overlooking an offense is between our self and God. If we are able to walk in true forgiveness, God is glorified and relationship is preserved. Reconciliation and negotiation both involve going to our brother or sister in Christ and extending the olive branch of peace. This also generally involves a necessity to walk in humility, which brings glory to God and is rewarded (Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 5:6).
The last three peaceful responses are assisted responses. These are scripturally designated methods for bring others into the midst of a conflict. There should be care and prayer given to who is approached to enter in as a mediator or arbitrator in a conflict. Their position in the Church, their spiritual maturity, their familiarity with the conflict or parties involved all should be considered.
If you find yourself in a situation of conflict, prayerfully consider how you usually respond to conflict, and whether you should take steps to use walk in a God-centered response to conflict as a demonstration of the outworking of the Gospel in our lives and so God may be glorified in all things!