There are three “Basic” steps based on Matthew 18:15-17, we should take when dealing with destructive conflict:
Speak up “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you” (Matt. 18:15). “God calls us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers,” Pursuing peace might mean risking conflict in order to bring about a genuine peace (Ps. 34:14; Heb. 12:14). Speaking up is very different from venting, which can have negative consequences. We should speak the truth to someone in love after we have spent time praying and preparing for our time together. Approach that person in gentleness and with humility (Gal. 6:1).
Stand up “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” (Matt. 18:16). God calls us to stand against sin, evil, deception, abuse and wickedness. When others are blind to their sin, God calls us to enlist the help of others. With a supportive person or church by your side, you can express to this person that you will not continue to live in fear, be lied to, or be degraded.
Step back “If he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matt. 18:17),” says Jesus. In biblical culture, Jews did not have close, personal relationships with pagans and tax collectors. When someone refuses to respond to our concerns, the relationship changes. “You cannot have fellowship with someone who refuses to respect your feelings, doesn’t care about you, and won’t respect you and who isn’t honest.” When we step back from the relationship, it helps minimize the damage and gives the other person time to reflect on his behavior and the relationship. It sends a message that a pattern of sinful, destructive behaviors is unacceptable to us and to God.
Even when we find it necessary to step back from a situation, God calls us to Love. The apostle Paul says, “We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us” (1 Cor. 4:12). And in Romans 13:10, “Love does no harm.”
As we learn to identify destructive conflict and apply God’s Word to our situations, we can minimize its damage in our lives. We move from victim to victor, honoring God in even the most difficult of circumstances.