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Being A Good Neighbor 5: Resolving Conflict With Our Neighbor

Being A Good Neighbor Day 5 – Resolving Conflict With Our Neighbor

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32, ESV)

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1, ESV)

“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13, ESV)

If you’re reading this, you’ve experienced conflict with at least one person in life—likely, that number is significantly higher. Conflict is inevitable because we are all so different. What I think is best may not align with your vision, and so conflict develops over our differences. But how we handle these disagreements and times of conflict says a lot about us, and we can learn much from simply taking to heart what Scripture has to say on the subject.

Conflict does not necessarily result in sin, even though choosing a poor response is often what comes naturally for us. It will take self-control and discipline to respond with grace to unfriendliness or hurtful comments. When we share a community with varied personalities, we are bound to rub shoulders with people who simply rub us the wrong way. This is where we can quickly get into trouble, as our tongue, known as “deadly poison” (James 3:8), often reacts before we filter our words through the Holy Spirit. And so we must decide ahead of time how to use our words to be the good neighbor we (hopefully) desire to be.

Our culture is a toxic one. Sarcasm, profanity, name-calling, and downright mean language are mainstream, while soft answers, referred to in our Scripture portion above, are rare. Being a good neighbor means we will not fall into the mainstream mindset of being nasty, sarcastic, or rude. Instead, we are to be people who quickly forgive, even when it’s extremely difficult to do so. But do we have an avenue to resolve conflict, as conflict is sure to be a part of our journey here? I believe we have one clearly laid out in Scripture for us. While this may be a blueprint for conflict between believers, we can certainly use this with anyone with whom we find ourselves in a disagreement:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15, ESV)

When conflict arises, we often go and share our frustrations with everyone but the person with whom we are upset. The Bible says we should first go to the one who offended us and seek to make things right—peaceably. By doing so, we gain something—maybe their respect, maybe their understanding—whatever we gain is far better than losing a friend or neighbor. At times, though, the offender refuses to listen to our side of things and, as hard as it is to do, we have to leave it with the Lord and refuse to allow bitterness or anger to set in. Being a good neighbor sometimes means we tried our best to make amends but were unable to gain back their affection, respect or understanding.

Everything we read from Scripture loudly encourages us to live peaceably with all people, as best as we can. Believers should never be people who threaten, belittle, demean, or share nasty gossip with others—yet I know I’ve done all of the above. If there’s someone you carry a grudge against, be willing today to set them free; the best part is that you’ll also experience freedom when you with grace let it go. As Christ followers, the quickest way to spoil our testimony is to allow ourselves to be a bad neighbor and poorly reflect Jesus to those in our community.

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