Handling Conflict like Jesus Christ Would
A devotional by Jessica Brodie
Have you ever been in the middle of a tug-of-war?
Lately I’m having to handle a lot of conflict between my kids, two of whom have very different emotional styles. One likes to keep his emotions under wraps, preferring to repress or ignore unsettled feelings whenever possible and go with the proverbial flow. The other can often be on an emotional roller coaster, catapulting from jubilant to wounded to frustrated and angry, sometimes all within a few hours.
They’re teens, so usually I encourage them to navigate the conflict themselves, but there are times I need to step in. When I do, usually my go-to technique involves listening objectively and then advising the best thing to do (for me, this usually involves asking the question, “What would Jesus do in this situation?”)
It’s a good question, and sometimes the answer isn’t easy. But usually it’s pretty clear.
But it also begs another question, one about the mediation itself. If Jesus were in my shoes, how would he handle this disagreement? How did he resolve disputes?
How can I handle conflict like Jesus would?
1. Point to God as your Heavenly Father
Jesus was bold about his identity: He served God foremost. He always pointed to the Father and let people know that his priority was to serve the Lord. While at first he was not vocal about being the son of God, by the end of his earthly ministry, he was very clear about this. But he was always crystal clear about one critical thing, more critical than anything else: He always pointed to our heavenly father, God Almighty. Everything Jesus did was about his father, God. Every story he told, every question he asked, everything pointed to God.
So at the start of any sort of conflict resolution or mediation, that should be our primary goal: understanding that we, too, belong to the Lord and that this conflict impacts Him.
2. Questions provide clarity
Jesus also asked people questions: Who do you say I am? Do you love me? Do you want to be made well? What do you want me to do for you? Now, as the son of God, I am certain Jesus knew the answers to those questions. He asked them questions not for himself, but for them—the people he was talking with. Often they were questions designed to get them to vocalize what they were feeling, or thinking, for them to consider their own position.
When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” (John 21 NIV), certainly Jesus knew the answer—of course Peter loved him. But in asking, and getting Peter to say “yes!” three times in the conversation, not only was he giving Peter the opportunity to repent for denying him three times, but he was also helping Peter to claim that love and understand Jesus’s next point: that loving Jesus meant loving others in his name.
Having the ability to answer these questions gave Peter ownership over and enthusiasm about his next steps.
3. Show mercy
Jesus knew Judas was going to betray him—Judas, part of his inner circle! And yet he dined with Judas beforehand, and warned all present someone was going to betray him, and gave Judas every opportunity to repent and change his plans. Judas did not. Yet even as Jesus was jeered at and spit on as he was nailed to the cross, he didn’t express wrath or anger.
Rather, he begged, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV).
All of this is what I try to do today. Whether it’s a conflict in my family or anywhere else, I start by acknowledging in my own mind who I am—and who I’m not. I’m not the savior of the world. But I do belong to God and I strive to do God’s will. And that’s what I set out to do in mediation of conflict.
Then I ask questions. What is going on? What did you say? And then what did you say? And why did you say this? And why were you feeling this way?
All of these questions are designed to get people to say what is so often left unsaid in most conversations. Because when you get right down to it, arguments are often not about communication at all. They’re about unleashing emotions and expressing dissatisfaction. But when the communication happens, that’s when things start to get strong. That’s when growth happens. That’s one relationships evolve.
See, it’s not the feelings that matter. Feelings fluctuate. Feelings are like shifting sand. But it’s the facts that matter.
Jesus pointed to the facts. He pointed to the Father and shined light into the situation. Then he showed mercy even when the evil path was taken.
The next time you find yourself in conflict with someone or (like me!) called to resolve conflict between other people, I hope you’ll consider how Jesus handled it—and do the same.
I pray I will, too.
Let’s Pray: Lord, help my feelings not get in the way of the facts when it comes to a conflict. Help me look to You and strive to do the right thing by You always. And when I don’t choose well, help guide me back on the right path with You. Thank You for loving me. Amen.
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning journalist, author, blogger, editor, writing coach, and devotional writer with thousands of articles to her name.
Since 2010, she has served as the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, which has won 123 journalism awards during her tenure. She is the author of Feed My Sheep: A 40-Day Devotional to Develop a Heart for Hunger Ministry (2019) and More Like Jesus: A Devotional Journey (2018) and the editor of a number of other books from her newspaper’s Advocate Press, which she helped found in 2017.
She has won more than 100 writing awards and is a seasoned speaker and frequent contributor to Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and BibleStudyTools.com, among many others. She has a weekly faith blog at JessicaBrodie.com and is part of the team at Wholly Loved Ministries, with her work included in many of their devotionals and Bible studies.
Brodie holds a Master of Arts in English, and she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in communications/print journalism from Florida International University. Born and raised in Miami, Brodie now lives in Lexington, South Carolina, just outside Columbia. She has also lived in Ohio and in the mountains of western North Carolina. She and her husband, Matt Brodie, have a blended family of four teenage children and stepchildren.
Brodie has written several novels and is actively seeking publication through her agent Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency. Her novel The Memory Garden won the 2018 Genesis contest for Contemporary Fiction from American Christian Fiction Writers, and her novel Tangled Roots won a third place Foundation Award in Contemporary Romance at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in 2019. She is finishing the third in the series, Hidden Seeds, now.
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