By Phillip Kayser
Conflict is inevitable. The question is not conflict or no conflict, but “Am I handling conflict in a Biblical way?” Paul had his share of conflict during his years of service. His seasoned instructions in 2 Corinthians chapter 7 show us three ways he tried to win people, not arguments.
First, he always communicated affection and caring for those he differed with. He starts this chapter by calling them beloved. He said that his heart was wide open for them. He told them that he was united to them in life and in death. Over and over Paul reminded them that he loved them and cared for them. We would do well to do the same. During times of conflict people might begin to think that we don’t care for them because we disagree with them. Constantly communicate this affection.
The second way Paul sought to win people rather than arguments was that he didn’t take sides with people; he took sides on issues—and there is a big difference. He wanted the best for all parties. For example, he says, “although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.” He is saying, “I wasn’t motivated out of a like for one person and a dislike for the other.” No. He genuinely showed concern for those on all sides of the issue. When you have this kind of attitude, you can work out biblical solutions in many instances.
The evidence that Paul put winning people first over winning arguments was that he ended up closer to the Corinthians as a result of the conflict. This is the outcome that we should all desire. Verse 7 says, “when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.” Everybody grew through this time of conflict. Verse 15 says of Titus, “his affections are greater for you.” Titus actually cared more for them now than he had before. His affections were greater for them.
One of the ways that you can tell if you have handled conflict in a biblical way or not is by examining the long term results. Are you closer to the people, or is there a lingering distance and alienation? Is that person made to feel fully welcomed back, or is he treated poorly? For Christians the latter is never an option. We are called by God to win people, not simply to win conflicts.
Dr. Phillip G. Kayser is Founder and President of Biblical Blueprints. He is Senior Pastor of Dominion Covenant Church and serves as Professor of Ethics at Whitefield Theological Seminary. He holds a PhD and MDiv from Whitefield Theological Seminary.