On Dealing with Conflict

Conflict is unavoidable. No one can navigate life and leadership without facing disagreements along the way. This was the case for two of Paul’s friends in Philippi. Here are a few observations on resolving conflict based on Philippians 4:2-3.

Even the most mature and committed Christians experience conflict. Paul refers two godly women by name, Euodia and Syntyche. They had been fully engaged, serving alongside Paul and Clement and others to advance the gospel. What happened? Now they were at odds with one another and he calls them by name to come to the table and resolve the issue.

Are you currently at odds with someone? If there is a breakdown in one of your relationships it’s an opportunity for you to grow. You may have been walking with the Lord for years, and now you’re in conflict… again. And God can use this conflict to expose ungodly patterns of thinking, speaking, and behaving that need to be changed in you. What areas of growth are being exposed by your current conflict?

If you’re stuck in a conflict, ask someone for help. It’s interesting that Paul asks someone he calls a “true companion” to “help” these two women resolve their issue. So often our pride blinds us to our need for help. We’re convinced we are in the right and we know what needs to be done. Yet we remain stuck in the conflict, unable to make progress resolving the issue.

Have you retreated to your corner, waiting for the other person to come to their senses, acknowledge they are wrong, and seek your forgiveness? Still waiting? Perhaps you need to reach out for help from someone who knows and cares for you. A wise friend or counselor can help you see what you aren’t seeing, hear what you aren’t hearing, and explore ways to resolve the issue.

Even when we don’t agree on the particulars, we can agree in the Lord. I love how Paul urges these ladies to “agree in the Lord.” This doesn’t mean, ‘Let’s act as if nothing has happened,’ or ‘pretend to be friends and try to get along.’ So what does it mean? For one thing, he is asking them to acknowledge the special bond they share as believers. They are both united to Christ by faith, and as a result they are also united to one another as members of Christ’s body, the church. When we view the other person through this lens, we see them primarily as a spiritual sibling, a brother or sister in Christ.

To agree in the Lord also means surrendering one’s personal interests and desired outcomes to the Lord. It’s laying our conflict before the Lord and humbly asking, “What would you have me do, Lord?” Not, “What would you have them do, Lord?” It is submitting to the one who calls us to put away self-ambition, pride, jealousy, impatience and bitterness. And in turn the Lord calls us to put on humility, gentleness, kindness, and love. God calls us to ‘agree in the Lord’ by putting his agenda above ours.