Resolving Conflicts

Matthew 5: 20-26
2 Cor 3:15—4:1,3-6 / Ps 85

Go first and be reconciled with your brother, then come and offer your gift.
(Matthew 5:24)

Help me to find the peace that I seek,
To yield what is right as Jesus would,
And even offer the other cheek,
And understand, than be understood.

Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:20-26)

Reflection

Anger is a subtle emotion that can be triggered by the devil if we are not aware of it. It can be the explosive reaction to the “last straw” over a series of frustrations in a ‘bad-hair’ day; or it can be the spontaneous response to a perceived unjust action or statement from another. In either case, it violates God’s commandment because of its lack of forgiveness. Anger is a deadly sin, just a breath away from murder. Jesus reminded His apostles that festering hatred made them liable to God’s judgment, just as those who insulted others were liable to suffer in the fires of hell. He taught them that one cannot establish a loving relationship with the Father unless he is first reconciled with his own brother. And the same spirit of reconciliation must be established with one’s enemy as well – if not for the sake of love, at least for the sake of his own peace of mind. Your debts to God may be forgiven, but no debts to men can remain unpaid. “You will not be released until you have paid the last penny” (Mt.5:26).

Human conflict is a natural occurrence in life which happens due to our different beliefs, values and concerns. It is more than a mere disagreement — it is a situation in which we perceive a threat to our personal or social well-being. If not managed carefully, conflicts can damage relationships. But more often, the causes of conflicts are much smaller than the perceived harm, and the wrong responses only manage to “turn molehills into mountains.” Properly addressed, however, as Jesus exemplified in His words and deeds, the resolution of conflicts can lead to spiritual growth, mutual respect, and even the change of heart, if not the transformation of our adversaries.

The best behavior that one must have in the face of conflict is accommodation. “Put yourself in the other’s shoes,” is how a mediator would say it. Setting aside our position in order to understand the opposing party is a more constructive strategy in reaching a resolution than taking a more combative stand to gain the upper hand. “Yield to build” sounds like a better motto than “Grit your teeth.” Accommodation, respect, understanding and humility are essential tools in resolving conflicts, but just as important are honesty and courage. Jesus never held His punches when He condemned the Pharisees for their pride and hypocrisy. Dealing from a position of honesty and courage will earn the respect of our adversaries.

Father God, our Lord Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ for they shall be called Your children. Help us to offer first our hand before our thoughts, and seek first to understand before we try to be understood. Amen.

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