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Matthew 18 Community - Part 4 - The Nature of Conflict

Matthew 18 Community - Part 4 - The Nature of Conflict

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This article begins to examine the nature of conflict in preparation for studying Matthew 18:15-20, a model for reconciliation.
This article begins to examine the nature of conflict in preparation for studying Matthew 18:15-20, a model for reconciliation.

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Published by: Gustavo Martin Karakey on Sep 24, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Matthew 18 Community - Part 4 - The Nature of ConflictIntroduction
 Jesus once said, "where two or three are gathered in my name...there will be conflict!"Actually, that's not quite right, but it brings up a very valid point. Conflict, like death andtaxes, is a certainty. You can try your best to avoid it, but where two people interact withone another (at home, work, church or even at the level of international politics) there isbound to be tension leading to conflict.Let us set some context before getting into the nature of conflict.
Setting the context
 In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus begins a teaching on how to confront a person who hasinjured you in some fashion. He uses the phrase, "if your brother sins against you..."Afterward, he lays out an incremental strategy for healing this type of interpersonalconflict.I would like to suggest that Jesus' methodology works in any situation in which two ormore people are experiencing animosity, disagreement or relational tension. In short,Jesus words are a remedy for ANY type of conflict!
The Nature of Conflict
 If we are to tackle conflict, it is perhaps best to begin by defining it. What is it? How doesit arise? What are typical reactions to it?Conflict can be defined as a disagreement among two entities, which carries with itperceived or actual threats to each parties' needs, interests or concerns. It matters notwhether the disagreement is big or small? Indeed, it matters not whether the threat is realor perceived. What is important is the break in the relationship that occurs as a result.Conflict can arise as in Jesus' example when one person does something to injure anotherperson, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. But conflict can also arise because of misunderstandings. You shoot off and e-mail, which contains benign language; however,it is interpreted incorrectly, and voilà! you get conflict.Or two people may disagree on what color to paint interior walls, how to achieve theright market share, or whether universal care is a right. So there is no shortage of reasonswhy conflict occurs.
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Typical Reactions to Conflict
 The image on the right comes from Ken Sande's excellent book,
The Peacemaker
, abiblical guide to help resolveconflict. It is a diagram, which captures various ways that someone can respond to conflict.Notice the edges, which contain the way most people have been trained to respond toconflict: either they escape or they attack.The escape responses include:
Denial - We just ignore the problem (or the person) and hope that it goes away.
Flight - This is where we try to escape the situation, either physically by runningaway or emotionally through substance abuse. Men will work longer hours, forexample, as a way to escape conflict at home. People may turn to affairs or drugsto deaden the pain of conflict.
Suicide - In some cases the pain becomes too great and the feeling of hopelessness too large. People thus take their lives.The attack responses are equally damaging:
Assault - This can take any form including physical aggression (i.e. abuse), but itcan also include verbal, psychological or emotional attacks against anotherperson. People find it easy to manipulate others, especially if they are in aposition of power.
Litigation - This may take the form of taking someone to court.

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