Conflict is bound to happen, especially amongst family members. The old saying is “Familiarity breeds contempt.” In other words, the more you are around certain people, the more you get to know them, and the more you realize that they are different from you and different from whom you thought they were or should be.
So do not be surprised when conflict comes; instead be prepared. All family members should be willing to communicate what they think are the most productive and valid ways of solving conflict. Then everyone should be willing to participate in constructing and signing a “binding” arbitration agreement that gives all the necessary and agreed upon guidelines for solving conflict.
The following are some basic Biblical reasons for conflict resolution as well as some guidelines on setting up your family’s personal arbitration agreement:
Jesus said in Matthew 5:23
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you; leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
And in Matthew 18:15-17
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV)
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
And in Ephesians 4:25-32
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 'In your anger do not sin.' Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
King Solomon said in Proverbs 6:12-19 (Amplified Bible)
“A worthless person, a wicked man, Is one who walks with a perverse (corrupt, vulgar) mouth. Who winks with his eyes [in mockery], Who shuffles his feet [to signal], Who points with his fingers [to give subversive instruction]; Who perversely in his heart plots trouble and evil continually; Who spreads discord and strife. Therefore his disaster will come suddenly upon him; He will be broken, and there will be no remedy [because he has no heart for God].
These six things the Lord hates; Indeed, seven are repulsive to Him: A proud look [the attitude that makes one overestimate oneself and discount others], A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that creates wicked plans, Feet that run swiftly to evil, A false witness who tells lies [even half-truths], And one who spreads discord (rumors) among family members.”
The initial step is to agree that you love one another and that family love, compassion and unity is essential. Nothing should ever be allowed into the family dynamic that could lead to division, discord or disunity. As Rupertus Meldenius said, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.”
We are a family
In this family, some, most or all of us are Christians.
We want to live a life that reflects the character of Jesus and the advice He gave us on resolving conflict.
He said, in Matthew 18:15-17, “If your brother or sister sins; go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘Every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
So we agree in covenant, if we have an issue with a member of this family, we will not gossip or talk about them behind their back. Instead, we will go to them, face to face, and ask them to discuss the issue privately.
If they refuse to discuss the issue or modify their inappropriate behavior, they are in direct violation of the family covenant. So we go to them with another family member, to discuss the issue. If they refuse to discuss the issue or refuse to modify their inappropriate behavior, we call a family meeting. If they refuse to attend the family meeting, we get together with a counselor. If they refuse to talk to a counselor, we cut ties until they come to their senses, like the prodigal son.