Conflict, Community and Reconciliation is intended to focus us on the reality of human conflict in the world and our role in helping to reconcile conflict. Both outside and inside the church, conflict is a reality of our human condition and has been so since the beginning of time. But, the church (the community of faith) is also uniquely poised, charged and equipped by God to be agents of His love and assist in reconciling conflicts. God’s calls us to resolve conflicts, not hide from them. Conflicts are not the problem; the problem is when the conflicts are not resolved. God used Christ to reconcile us to back to God. And he will use the church community to reconcile relationships with one another and point people back to God.
Humanity in Conflict Since the beginning of time, humankind has wrestled with one basic challenge – how do we peaceably co-exist? Consider Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers. There was no basis for the hatred that developed in these families, but it did. The United Nations defines “major wars” as military conflicts inflicting 1,000 battlefield deaths per year. There are 8-10 wars of this size (and many smaller going on in the world today).
- If we are unable, as Christians, to resolve conflict in our homes or in our churches, discuss the likelihood that we could see a decrease in global conflict.
Church in Conflict (v1) This newly formed church in Acts is at an interesting place. It appears healthy and growing but it is also presented with internal conflict. One group of widows appears to be treated differently than a second group of widows.
- Have you ever heard of a church with no conflict? Why will there always be conflict in the local church?
- Is conflict bad? What is the difference between resolve and unresolved conflict?
Church in Community (v2-6). The people of God represent the “community of faith”. We are more than just a church body but we are God’s community. We grow, pray, cry, mourn and rejoice in community. It is very important to understand that we do not have our faith in isolation. Our faith grows together – in community. Thus, even conflict is not worked out alone, but we work it out together in community – for the benefit of individuals and the community.
- v2 How do the leaders respond to the conflict? Do they shrink or try to avoid it?
- Have you experienced unresolved conflict? Personally? In the church?
- v3 How do they involve the community in responding to conflict? Is this always appropriate?
- v3 How did they choose who would help share this leadership load? What are some important attributes to resolving conflict and why?
- v5 How did the community respond to the direction given by leadership?
Church in Reconciliation (v7). Reconciliation means: the ending of a conflict or renewing a relationship that was in dispute; bringing incompatible things together and making them compatible. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 tells about how God restored/reconciled our relationship with God, through Jesus. Because of sin, we were not compatible but through Jesus, Christ’s righteousness is attributed to us. We are reconciled to God and given the “ministry of reconciliation”. In Acts, we see this community worked through their conflict, maintained their health and continued to grow.
- Have you ever been involved in successfully reconciling/resolving a conflict between people? How did it feel? What about unresolved conflict? How does that feel?
- What are some of the results of unresolved conflict? How do you think the church in Acts would have been affected if the conflict had not been resolved?
- How do you think churches (or families) are affected by unresolved conflict?
- What are some of the things that make reconciliation and conflict resolution difficult?
Read through 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 and reflect on what Christ has done for us in restoring our relationship with God.
- Given the sacrifice he made, do you think we can work harder to be “Christ ambassadors” here on earth?
- What are some things we can do to be better at resolving conflict in church and in our families?