Constructive Steps In Handling Conflict
Step Two: Clarifying the facts requires a qualified team.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” - Psalm 133:1 (NASB95)
When we experience unity, it’s rest for the soul. The Psalmist provides a visual image of experiencing unity: “It’s like the precious oil on the head that gently flows down on the beard … It’s like dew on the mountains” (Psalm 133:2-3). These illustrations attempt to remind us that when we experience unity, our souls are soothed and refreshed.
Any conflict has the potential to derail our peace. We know life is more comfortable and enjoyable when we live in harmony. We also understand: Life is not free of conflict. Since we can’t avoid disagreements, we can constructively take steps to encourage unity.
If you’ve been following my blogs, you know that the first step is to get the facts before we react. We observed this principle from the narrative found in Joshua chapter 22.
To avoid presuppositions, the leaders of the western tribes (who assume the eastern tribes are breaking faith with God) appoint some “key people” to check out the facts. Because the matter concerned proper worship, Phinehas (a respected priest) was selected to represent the western tribes. He had proven himself faithful to God and the Israelites by dealing with the Israelite idolaters at Baal-Peor (Numbers 25:1-9).
However, because the issue also concerned the unity of Israel, a representative of each of the western tribes was also selected to ensure fair and equal representation (Joshua 22:30). These were high-level, well-respected people of leadership — capable of allocating whatever valuable resources were essential to restoring peace. And this is the second step in handling conflict:
Clarifying the facts requires a qualified team.
The task of truth-based reconciliation is too important to rely on me. My assumptions of the other person can be deceiving. I often observe “the speck in my brother’s eye while ignoring the log in my own eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). Jesus instructs us on the process of reconciliation. Try to clarify the matter directly with the one who has created an offense. If that doesn’t work, “take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Matthew 18:15-17).
The misunderstanding between Israel’s tribes was an issue of worship. The point of proper worship was a matter requiring war. Israel was all too familiar with times when they encountered God’s judgment because tribes were permitted to sin and they failed to take a stand. Without clarifying the motive of the two-and-a-half tribes who had constructed an altar, a war would be inevitable.
Discovering the facts surrounding disputes safeguards us from making haste and unwise decisions. Surrounding ourselves with qualified individuals in the discovery process encourages openness and honesty and provides discernment.
How often am I ready to go to war with someone because I’ve not taken the time to discover the motives behind the actions?
How reliable am I in discovering the purpose of someone without the assistance of others?
Have I identified the “real issue” of the conflict?
How might a qualified team (those with experience and knowledge of the issue) guard me against making assumptions?