Preached at DTS on 2022-12-13.
Theological Proposition: The biblical way to resolve conflict is by examining one’s own faults, reconciling with others, and trusting in God’s sovereignty.
- Image: I was in a car accident. A car hit me from the back. My wife screamed. My son was horrified. We are in a conflict with the driver who hit us.
- Needs: Life is full of conflicts. You may be in a conflict now: conflict with friends, roommates, professors, ministry coworkers, parents, and siblings. You may feel depressed, angry, and lost. When you are in a conflict, your preaching will be powerless. You may feel like a hypocrite.
- Subject: How do you resolve conflicts in life?
- Text: Matt 7, Matt 5, and Gen 50.
- Preview: Three principles on how to resolve conflicts in life. We will look inwardly, outwardly, and upwardly.
- Look inwardly to examine our own faults (Matt 7:1-5a).
- Take the log out of our own eye so that we can see clearly to help take the speck out of the other person’s eyes.
- Illustration: My pride has caused conflict that hurts others.
- Application: Look inward and examine your heart and actions. What is your responsibility in this conflict? Is it your pride? Your anger? Your selfishness?
(Transition) After you have looked inward, you need to…
- Look outwardly to help others to see their faults with the aim of reconciliation (Matt 7:5b, Matt 5:23-25).
- Lovingly points out the fault of others (Matt 7:5b).
- The purpose is reconciliation because God is not pleased with our worship if we are stuck in a conflict (Matt 5:23-25).Illustration: Disciples would have to travel 80 miles from Jerusalem back to Galilee to reconcile and return for worship.
- Application: Have you looked outward to reconcile with others? What is preventing you from doing that quickly?
(Transition) After you have looked inwardly and outwardly, you need to…
- Look upwardly to trust God is sovereign and good(Gen 50:15-21).
- Joseph trusted God’s sovereignty when handling conflicts with his brothers.
- Joseph’s response points to Christ.
- Application: Every conflict is an opportunity to trust God. Look upward and ask God to reveal His goodness in the conflict you are in now.
How did I handle the car accident? I look inward, outward, and upward. You should look inwardly to examine your own faults, look outwardly to help others to see theirs with the aim of reconciliation, and look upwardly to trust that God is sovereign. Imagine how you can grow in your trust in God and your relationship with others when you take a step of faith to obey God’s principles to resolve conflicts in life.
A few years ago, I was in a car accident. I was on my way to send my son to his soccer practice. When we stopped at a traffic light, we suddenly heard a large collision sound, “boom!!!” The entire car was shaken. My wife screamed, and my son was horrified. I was in shock because we had never experienced anything like that. A car hit us from the back. I immediately checked on my wife and my son. Thank God they did not get hurt. So I stepped out of the car to deal with the situation. We are in a conflict with the driver who hit us.
Life is full of conflicts. Some conflicts are caused by others; some are caused by ourselves. Many times, conflicts are caused by both sides. You may be in a conflict now. Maybe you are not getting along with your roommate. Maybe he is not doing his part in cleaning the toilet or the dishes. Maybe he makes too much noise when you are trying to study. Maybe you are in a conflict with one of the professors. Maybe he is giving you a hard time with your grades. Or maybe you are in a conflict with someone at church. Or maybe you are in a conflict with your parents or siblings. You may be feeling depressed, angry, or lost because of the conflict. You may feel like you are a hypocrite when you preach or teach because you let the conflict continue when you know you should resolve it. Most importantly, if you do not deal with conflicts in your life, your ministry and worship will not be pleasing to God, as we will see in today’s text.
“How do you resolve conflicts in life?” That is my subject today. My text is Matt 7, Matt 5, and Gen 50. I will talk about three principles on how to resolve conflicts in life. We will look inwardly, outwardly, and upwardly.
Look inwardly to examine our own faults (Matt 7:1-5a)
First, we must look inwardly to examine our own faults in a conflict. I get this principle from Matt 7:1-5. Let me read Matt 7:1-5 for us, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment, you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
This text is part of the sermon of the mount. Jesus was teaching his disciples how to resolve conflicts in life. “Judge not” does not mean no discernment of right or wrong because in verse 5, the Lord instructed the disciples to take the speck out of the person in conflict with them. “Judge not” means we should not look down on others with a judgemental attitude that we are superior to them. “Judge not” means we should not criticize or condemn others without loving them. “Judge not” means we should not make ourselves look good at the expense of others.
Because of our sinful nature, we tend to see the speck in someone else’s eyes but do not notice the log in our eyes. Our pride has blinded us from seeing our own faults and caused us to put on a magnifying glass when we look at the faults of the person in conflict with us. Looking inwardly to examine our own faults is a prerequisite to being able to see clearly the faults of others. The Lord is saying if you pretend you have no faults as you look down on someone else and criticize them, you are a hypocrite!
When I was pastoring in china, I ran into a conflict with a brother on the church’s leadership team. He was a rather immature Christian but liked to have a voice in everything. I was annoyed by him because he was not qualified to be in a leadership position but refused to step down. During that time, the church was increasingly pressured by the government to stop gathering. Therefore, I met with the church leaders but left him out. We decided to divide the church into smaller groups to make it harder for the government to track us down. And then I called a church leadership meeting that included this brother. He challenged the decision immediately because he was not involved in the decision-making process. Out of my flesh, I told him, “we are not here to ask for your opinion; the decision has already been made.” He was furious when he heard that. That event triggered him to rally brothers and sisters to go against me. During that process, I started to look inward at my responsibilities in this conflict, and the Lord convicted me of my pride. I waited to show this brother that I was in charge. I was a hypocrite. My pride has caused me to see the pride in my brother, but I did not notice my own pride. I apologized to the brother for my behavior and stepped away from ministry for awhile to deal with my pride.
How about you? Think about the conflict you are in right now. Have you looked inwardly to ask the Lord to reveal your faults and responsibilities in the conflict? Have you examined your hearts and behaviors that may have contributed to the conflict? If you have not, may I ask you to do that now? I want you to close your eyes and think about the conflict in your mind now. I want you to ask the Holy Spirit to work in your hearts so that you can see the log in your eye. I will give you 20 seconds to do that. You can open your eyes now. Brothers, I urge that you do this exercise at home. Instead of being judgmental, allow God’s standard to be applied to your life first before you apply it to others. If you are honest, you will discover that you fall short. It will hurt, but you will see clearly.
Look outwardly to help others to see their faults with the aim of reconciliation (Matt 7:5b, Matt 5:23-24)
How do you resolve conflicts in life? After you have looked inwardly, you need to look outwardly to help others to see their faults with the aim of reconciliation. I get this principle from Matt 7:5 and Matt 5:23-24. In Matt 7:5, the Lord said, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” After you have examined your own faults, you will be more compassionate and have more understanding in your assessments and better help others to address their faults. The purpose is reconciliation. In Matt 5:23-24, the Lord said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
This text is also part of the sermon of the mount. The Lord is saying that reconciliation is a prerequisite of worship. If you want your worship and ministry to be pleasing to the Lord, you must take action to resolve conflicts in life to the extent of your responsibilities. If you are in a conflict and do not take action to resolve it, even if you could preach a great sermon, your ministry and worship will not be pleasing to the Lord. But if you have taken action, even if the person did not respond to you, you have already done your part, and the Lord knows it.
The Jews could only make an offering at the altar at the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus was teaching the sermon on the mount in Galilee, some 80 miles north of Jerusalem. Imagine you traveled 80 miles and ascended 3200 feet from Galilee to Jerusalem to make an offering in one of the feasts. When You realize you are in conflict with a person at home and need to travel back to reconcile with him before you can make an offering!
Thank God because we now have phones, internet, car, and airplane. You don’t have to travel by foot or on a donkey. But, have you looked outward to try to reconcile with the person in conflict with you? With all the technologies we have today, you have all the means to access the other person easily. What is preventing you from doing that? What is holding you back? Maybe you can reach out to your roommate or your friend to tell him that something he said or did hurt you. Maybe you need to pick up the phone to call your parents to apologize for something you did that hurt them.
Look upwardly to trust God is sovereign and good (Gen 50:15-21)
How do you resolve conflicts in life? After you have looked inwardly and outwardly, you need to look upwardly to trust that God is sovereign. I get the principle from Joseph’s story in Genesis 50. Please look at Genesis 50:15 with me. “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” Because Joseph’s brothers were jealous of Jacob’s love for Joseph, they sold Joseph to slave traders. Verse 16 says, “So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he did, ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Verse 18, “His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” Do you remember how did Joseph respond? See verse 19, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”
Joseph responded to the conflict he had with his brothers by looking upwardly. He trusted God is sovereign and good. Joseph did not seek to revenge on his brothers. He forgave them. Not only he forgave them, but he also saved them by providing food to them. The response of Joseph reminds me of our Lord Jesus’s response to those who mocked Him and crucified Him on the cross. Christ looked upwardly and cried to the Father, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Christ was in the greatest conflict of the world, the conflict between God and humans. If Christ looked inwardly at himself, He would find no faults, for He was tempted in every respect like us, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). If He looked outwardly, He would see all the faults, all the sins in you and me. And then Jesus look upwardly and trusted God is sovereign and good in all things. The Jews meant evil when they said, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Mark 15:13-14) But God meant it for good, for God accomplished His glorious redemption plan through the death of His Son on the cross.
Brothers, because you have been saved by Christ. Christ is now living in you. You have been given a new life to have the ability to trust God. Every conflict is an opportunity to trust God. People may mean evil against you, but God meant it for good. I know it is very hard to see something good when you are in a deep conflict. But you can trust God because He is sovereign, and He is good. Think about the conflict you are in now. Look upward and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the goodness of God in this conflict.
How do you resolve conflicts in life? You should look inwardly to examine your own faults, look outwardly to reconcile with others, and look upwardly to trust that God is sovereign and good. Imagine how much you will grow in your trust in God and your relationship with others when you take a step of faith to follow God’s principles to resolve conflicts in life.