Conflict: An Inevitable Opportunity | 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

What does it look like for Christians to resolve significant conflicts with each other in significant ways? In the ninth week of our 1 Corinthians series, Timothy Ateek shows us four reasons why conflict is an inevitable opportunity.

Timothy "TA" AteekMay 1, 2022
1 Corinthians 6:1-11

In This Series (20)
Standing Firm In A Fallen World | 1 Corinthians 16
David MarvinJul 31, 2022
The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts | 1 Corinthians 14
Oren MartinJul 24, 2022
A Church Marked by Love | 1 Corinthians 13
Timothy "TA" AteekJul 17, 2022
How To Build A Church | 1 Corinthians 12
John ElmoreJul 10, 2022
God's Design for Men and Women | 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Timothy "TA" AteekJul 3, 2022
Repentance, Allegiance & Deference for the Glory of God | 1 Corinthians 10
John ElmoreJun 26, 2022
Giving, Sharing, and Living for the Gospel | 1 Corinthians 9
John ElmoreJun 19, 2022
Christians and Controversial Topics | 1 Corinthians 8
Jermaine HarrisonJun 12, 2022
Being Single | 1 Corinthians 7:7-40
Timothy "TA" AteekJun 5, 2022
Fighting For Your Marriage | 1 Corinthians 7:1-16
Timothy "TA" AteekMay 22, 2022
Sex and Glorifying God | 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Timothy "TA" AteekMay 15, 2022
Conflict: An Inevitable Opportunity | 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Timothy "TA" AteekMay 1, 2022
Church Discipline: Sin, Grace, and Shepherding | 1 Corinthians 5
John ElmoreApr 24, 2022
The Resurrection Is the Remedy to Our Hypocrisy | 1 Corinthians 15
Timothy "TA" AteekApr 17, 2022
The Purpose, Plot Twists, and Power of Christ | 1 Corinthians 4
John ElmoreApr 10, 2022
Being a Healthy Church | 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 27, 2022
The Miracle of Spiritual Maturity | 1 Corinthians 2:1-16
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 20, 2022
The Miracle of Salvation | 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 13, 2022
Priority, Preference, and Power | 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
John ElmoreMar 6, 2022
Called, Gifted, and Kept by Jesus | 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John ElmoreFeb 27, 2022

In This Series (21)

Summary

What does it look like for Christians to resolve significant conflicts with each other in significant ways? In the ninth week of our 1 Corinthians series, Timothy Ateek shows us four reasons why conflict is an inevitable opportunity.

Key Takeaways

  • Conflict isn’t a matter of “if”; it’s a matter of “when”; it is an inevitable opportunity (1 Corinthians 6:1)
  • Even very serious conflict can glorify God.
  • Conflict is an inevitable opportunity to live out your identity (1 Corinthians 6:2-6).
  • When it comes to conflict, identity should determine your activity. Who you are should impact what you do.
  • One of the sweetest realities of the gospel is that we have been saved into a family (1 Corinthians 6:5-6).
  • Conflict is an inevitable opportunity to display the gospel’s credibility (1 Corinthians 6:6).
  • The gospel can do supernatural things in people’s lives; it can solve the most complex conflicts.
  • Conflict is an inevitable opportunity to grow in intimacy (1 Corinthians 6:7-8).
  • If your goal is to win a conflict, you have already lost. Rather, to lose is to win (1 Peter 2:19-23).
  • The more we are like Jesus, the more we see and enjoy Jesus.
  • Conflict is an inevitable opportunity to demonstrate authenticity (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
  • As Christians, the greatest shaping force in our lives is not the world or our rights; the greatest shaping force in our lives is Jesus Christ.
  • Steps to take in conflict:
    1. Respond to God instead of reacting to the person.
    2. Be a problem solver instead of a problem spreader.
    3. Ask for help.
    4. Consider sharing in Christ’s sufferings.
  • Don’t major in the minors; the size of our problem should match the size of our reaction.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • Are there any other Christ followers with whom you are not living peaceably? What can you own in the conflict and how can you make it right?
  • Do you have a tendency to manage conflict on your own before going to God?
  • How can you be a problem solver instead of a problem spreader?

Resources for Further Discussion

  • Suggested Scripture study: 1 Corinthians 6:1-11; Ephesians 2; 1 Peter 2:19-23; Romans 12:18
  • Resource: Conflict Field Guide

Good morning, friends. How are we doing today? It's good to see you. If this is our first time together, my name is Timothy Ateek. I'm one of the teaching pastors here at Watermark. It's great to see you. Last Sunday, I was sitting right there with a heart of gratitude. First, because I love getting to listen to John Elmore teach, but secondly, I realized that he had drawn the short straw on teaching 1 Corinthians 5, which was about church discipline, so I was super grateful.

Then I realized that this week I was getting 1 Corinthians 6:1-11, which is about lawsuits in the church, so, that's awesome. No one this week, when I was like, "I'm talking about lawsuits in the church," was like, "I cannot wait to be there." They were like, "Oh, it's a good weekend for a vacation." That's just where we're at. But as I was thinking about this morning, here's the realization I had. You might disagree with me.

Many of us were better at conflict resolution when we were little kids than we are today. Here's why I say that. When I was in third or fourth grade and I was on the playground, a kid named Michael put me in a headlock and rammed my head into a brick wall. The next day we were fine and were back playing together. If you put me in a headlock today and ram my head into a brick wall, you're going to jail. That's just kind of where we're at.

If one of my kids completely demolishes one of my other kids' Lego sets… As adults, we look at that and are like, "It's really not that big of a deal," but in that kid's little world, when his Legos get demolished… The most important thing to him in that moment gets utterly destroyed, yet he can forgive his sibling and be back at the dinner table by night with his brother. That's a pretty incredible thing.

If you take a baseball bat to my car, we're not going to dinner tonight…or any night in the foreseeable future. When we were kids, we didn't have any other framework. It was like, you know what? You wrong each other, you say you're sorry, and you move on. As we've grown up, we've realized there are other options, especially when people wrong us in a significant way. We've just realized there are other ways to deal with the conflict.

You can cut people out of your life. You can just ghost them, which means you don't return their calls, so you control the relationship by just communicating with them when you want to communicate with them. You can gossip about them. You can take them into the court of public opinion and gossip about them so other people won't like them, or, if it's significant enough, you can actually take them to court and sue them. That's where we're at today.

Here's the reality. First Corinthians, chapter 6, is going to give us some instruction on what it looks like for us to, figuratively speaking, as the family of God… What does it look like for us to have conflict but then get back around the figurative family dinner table together? What does it look like for us, as followers of Jesus Christ, to have serious conflict and then serious resolution? First Corinthians 6 is going to help us do just that.

If this is your first time to Watermark in a while, we are journeying verse by verse through the book of 1 Corinthians. It's great, because 1 Corinthians is a book written to a church with a ton of drama. Every week is a new reality TV episode. Today, people are suing each other in the church. Last week, it was seriously messed up. When we get to the second part of chapter 6, seriously messed up. So it's great. Just keep coming back. Each week, we'll just unravel their drama, and we will hopefully learn from it. First Corinthians, chapter 6. Let me read it to you, starting in verse 1. Paul is talking, and he says:

"When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame.

Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

All eyes on me. Let's just be clear. This passage answers a very specific question. Here's the specific question: Is it okay for a follower of Jesus Christ to take another follower of Jesus Christ to court with a lawsuit? That is the specific question this passage is answering. Some of you hear that and are like, "That's crazy," because that's exactly where you're at right now. Some of you in this room are in this moment with possibly someone in this room, someone in this church, or someone who goes to a different church.

There's a busted business transaction you guys have been a part of or there's some investment with real estate that has gone sideways or someone sold something to someone else, and it's not what you thought you were actually getting. There are possibly some of you in this room who are dealing with that, and you're contemplating whether you're going to have to take legal action against someone else who's a follower of Jesus Christ.

If that's you, I'm so glad you're here this morning, and I hope this passage is helpful for you, but the reality is that many of you are not in that place this morning. So what do we do with that? Well, what we are going to do is we are going to use this passage to help us be a healthier family. As the people of God who live in the family of God, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we want to be a healthy family. All families have conflict. We want to be a family that does conflict well. So, that's what we're going to do. We are committed this morning to learning how to fight better.

Before we jump into the text and walk through it verse by verse, let me give you a couple of notes for you to understand this text. First, please understand that Paul is addressing civil cases, not criminal cases. So, when we read this passage, it is not to be used when talking about violent crimes, physical abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, sexual assault. This is not what this passage is to be used for in its application. That's the first thing you need to be clear on.

The second is that this passage is not speaking to a believer and an unbeliever going to court. This passage is specifically about family business. So, with those two things in mind, let's walk through the passage, and as we walk through it, what I want to show you is four reasons conflict is an inevitable opportunity. So, this morning, I'm giving you four reasons conflict within the family of God is an inevitable opportunity. Here we go.

Look with me at verse 1. It says, "When one of you has a grievance against another…" Did you see the wording there? It doesn't say, "If one of you has a grievance against another…" It says when. Conflict isn't a matter of if; it's a matter of when. You should expect conflict. Let me just be clear. I don't think I'm telling you anything new right now. Conflict is a reality even in the family of God. If you decide to go into business with someone else in this church, conflict is going to come.

If you decide to work for someone who goes to this church because you love the fact that they're a Christian and go to your church, don't be surprised if conflict still comes. Or if you hire someone in this church to work for you because they're a Christian, because they go to this church, conflict will still come. If you choose to get into a Community Group and do life with other people, you're going to have conflict inside of your Community Group, and that is okay. Conflict is inevitable.

Conflict isn't necessarily a bad thing. Conflict can actually be a God thing. Even very serious conflict can glorify God in a great way. Conflict can actually be one of the greatest ways that we put on display the love and grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. For that reason, conflict becomes an opportunity. It is an opportunity to display the glory of God to the rest of the world. So, we are calling conflict an inevitable opportunity. It's inevitable because it's going to happen. If it hasn't happened to you yet, just wait longer. It's an inevitable opportunity.

The believers in Corinth have an opportunity, and they're wasting it. They are doing conflict in the absolute wrong way. That's why Paul says in the rest of verse 1, "When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?" The wording there… Paul is saying, "How dare you? How dare you take your conflict to the public court system and put your cases before people who don't share the same values as those within the family of God? You're taking your problems to courts that don't have the same values."

In ancient Rome, the courts could not be relied upon to administer justice impartially. Bribery was a real thing. Judges could be bribed. Advocates, lawyers, could be bribed. Witnesses could be bribed. Judgments could be swayed by fear or personal connections. Paul is like, "You guys are blowing it. How outrageous the way you're handling conflict among yourselves." Why does Paul think it is such a failure on the part of the church in Corinth? It's because of their identity. It's because of who they are. That leads us to the first reason conflict is an inevitable opportunity.

  1. Conflict is an inevitable opportunity to live out your identity. Here's what I'm saying. When it comes to conflict, your identity must determine your activity. Who you are should determine what you do in conflict. We see that in verse 2. Look at what Paul says. "Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" Now Paul is talking to the two people who are in conflict, and he's talking to the whole church. He's like, "You guys are actually saints."

Did you realize you're a saint? Congratulations. You made it. You're a saint. So, Saint Jim, if you're in the room, way to go. Saint Sarah, congratulations. Saint Mark or Matt… Whatever your name is, if you know Jesus Christ, then according to the Scriptures, you are a saint. That's the Greek word hagios. It means holy one. It's the idea of being set apart. You have been made new. You've been made different.

We talked a few weeks ago about the great exchange. What's the great exchange? It's Christ's righteousness to us and our sin to him. That is what has happened. If you know Jesus… He has taken all of our sin, and he has given us his righteousness. We are truly different people. We are holy people. We are saints. Paul is saying the fact that you're saints should change everything about the way you do conflict.

Paul even explains one of the realities for those of us who know Jesus Christ. He says in verse 2, "Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" That's interesting. Have you ever heard that before? We don't have time for this to become an end-times talk, but what Paul is saying right now is there is a point coming in the future where believers will somehow participate in the judgment of the last days. We will in some way have some responsibility or some participation in the judgment of the last days.

Then he gives even more detail on that in verse 3. He says, "Do you not know that we are to judge angels?" That's probably a reference to fallen angels. Somehow, we will participate in the judgment of angels. He says, "And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!"

Paul is saying, "Remember who you are." This is Simba looking into the water when he sees the reflection of Mufasa, and Mufasa is like, "Remember who you are." (Now I'm going to get emails about quoting Disney, but anyway…) It's the same thing. Your Father in heaven is saying, "Remember who you are." We are saints. We are people who will participate in the judgment of the world on a cosmic-size scale.

So, God through Paul is like, "Wait, wait, wait. You're telling me that you saints, who are going to have some responsibility in the end times… You guys can't get it together and figure things out when you're dealing with temporal issues within your church." He's saying, "Remember who you are." Your identity should determine your activity. There's a right and a wrong way for saints to deal with conflict.

Verse 4: "So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?" He's like, "It makes no sense. You're taking your problems and putting them before people who have no standing in this place." Meaning, they don't share the same values. Their end goal and your end goal shouldn't be the same thing.

He's going to give us another piece of our identity in verses 5 and 6. Listen. "I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers…" That's an interesting statement. He's going for the jugular here. It's a shame/honor culture, and he's like, "Hey, let me just be clear. My goal is to shame you." Like, "Let it be clear. I don't want any uncertainty. My goal is to shame you."

In a culture where wisdom is elevated… People are flocking to listen to orators because they want to hear the latest wisdom of the day. Inside the church, to be wise was to be considered spiritually mature. So, listen to what Paul is saying. He's saying, "Look. I say this to shame you. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle…?"

He's like, "Look. Are all of y'all in spiritual diapers here? Y'all are all still on the bottle? None of you have grown up spiritually enough that you are wise enough that you can actually step in and help? Have the elders fallen apart? Are there no leaders around?" Who can help do…what? Settle a dispute between the brothers. Verse 6: "…but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?"

Paul now brings in another piece of their identity. He says, "Look. Here's what's happening. A brother is suing a brother." We're family. This is one of the beautiful realities of the gospel. When you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, Christ saves you from your sin and the penalty of your sin, but then he also saves you into a new life, and he saves you into the family of God.

This is such a beautiful reality. Ephesians, chapter 2, would tell us we were enemies of God, and because of what Christ has done, we are children of God. Jesus Christ did something so significant that he kicked open a door for you and me into the family of God, which means we have brothers and sisters in the faith, and we share a common spiritual DNA. What is that? Each one of us has the Spirit of God living inside of us.

If you've been with us walking through 1 Corinthians, we saw in chapter 2 that because the Spirit of God lives inside of us, we can have the mind of Christ, which means we can think like Jesus thinks, and we can feel what Jesus feels, and we can do what Jesus would do. We are the family of God. All of our stories are the same. It's a story of forgiveness. If you know Jesus Christ, then you have had a trajectory-shaping encounter with the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. That's your story, and that's my story as well.

So, all of us in the family of God know what radical grace and forgiveness look like. Paul is like, "Guys, remember who you are. We're family. We're not going to be a family that never sees each other or that are kind of separated from one another, estranged from one another, because we forget how to love one another."

I just want you to think about this. I want you to picture yourself in heaven. Jesus is there. People you love are there. We're all singing, "All Hail King Jesus." It's happening. It's amazing. Just picture you decide to look around. That's probably not going to happen, and this is probably theologically incorrect, but just imagine you begin to look around to see who else is in heaven.

Is there anyone in your life now that while you're singing "All Hail King Jesus," you're going to be like, "All hail King… I hate that guy. What is he doing…?" You don't want that. To even think about that, to think that you would begin to look around and someone would be like, "Ugh! You!" That feels like such a disconnect. Why? Because Jesus has redeemed us.

He went to the cross so we could experience his forgiveness, and because we experience his forgiveness, we can extend his forgiveness to one another. Heaven should just be one perpetual family reunion where the people of God are overwhelmed by the glory of God. So, who you are should determine what you do in conflict. Identity should determine activity.

  1. Conflict is an inevitable opportunity to display the gospel's credibility. Did you see what Paul said at the end of verse 6? He said, "But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers." As I've read commentators on this, here's what they're talking about. They're talking about the shame that is coming upon the church because people are trying their cases in public. The courts in ancient Rome…

It was possible for the public to look on and see what was going on. Not only that. Advocates, the equivalent of lawyers in ancient Roman courts, were expected to show no restraint. One source put it this way: The advocate was permitted to use the most unbridled language about his client's adversary. Young orators learned their trade with colorful character assassination, often playing to crowds of onlookers.

Just imagine two followers of Jesus going to court and their representatives just ripping each other apart in front of the public eye full of unbelievers. Paul is saying, "What a shame." How embarrassing for the church and for the gospel. How can unbelievers even begin to take the church or the gospel seriously? How can believers proclaim a message of forgiveness when they are tearing each other apart in court? Their court case is a shot to the credibility of the church and the gospel.

Several years ago, I was in serious conflict with another person. It was very serious conflict, and I left that conflict extremely hurt. I didn't do it often, but I remember taking that guy to the court of public opinion. What I mean by that is I remember sitting… I can specifically remember sitting at a lunch where I was sharing with this other guy about this person I felt hurt by. What I was doing was I was taking my case to the court of public opinion.

As I think about sharing with that guy, I just think, "What reason was I giving that guy to see the value in the gospel or the church?" I was a follower of Jesus Christ pointing the finger at another follower of Jesus Christ and speaking words of hurt against him. In God's kindness… It took time, but that person and I were able to reconcile. We even got to a point where… I will never forget standing in the parking lot of a restaurant talking to this guy and him saying, "This is how good God is," that the two of us had been reconciled.

I remember people who had seen that conflict, watched that conflict… They watched with amazement. They truly couldn't fathom that that type of reconciliation would have taken place. Do you know what that was? It was putting on display the credibility of the gospel, that the gospel can do supernatural things in people's lives, that the gospel truly can transform, it can break down the largest dividing walls, it can restore the most broken relationships, and it can solve the most complex conflicts.

  1. Conflict is an inevitable opportunity to grow in intimacy. I'm talking about intimacy with Jesus Christ. Look with me at verses 7-8. "To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!"

Here's what Paul is saying. When you take someone to court and you sue them, your goal is to win. Your goal is vindication. Your goal is justice. But Paul's point is if your goal is to win, you're going to lose. Just the fact that these believers in Corinth have taken another brother to court in hopes of winning… Paul is saying, "You've already lost."

This is kind of turning things on its head. The goal of the court system is to execute justice, and Paul is saying if you go to the court to get justice, for you that's winning, but it's actually losing in certain civil cases, which means the reverse becomes true in Paul's logic: to lose is to win. Now, 1 Peter… Peter is going to help us truly understand this idea that to lose is to win. Listen to what he says in 1 Peter 2:19-20.

"For this is a gracious thing…" In the Greek that means, "This finds God's favor." "For this finds God's favor, when, mindful of God…" So, doing this with God in mind. "…when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God."

Do you understand what Peter is saying? He's saying, "Look. If you want to know what finds God's favor, it's that there is a willingness in you to suffer and endure injustice." That's what he's saying. That actually finds God's favor. Then verse 21: "For to this you have been called…" To what? Well, to suffering unjustly. Do you see that? Peter is saying, "Do you want to know what you've been called to by God?" "For to this you have been called…" Why? "…because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps."

That word in the Greek that has been translated example is the word that is used of children who trace over letters of the alphabet in order to learn to write the letters correctly. Paul is saying it's through suffering wrong you enter into God's will for your life, and it is through suffering that you actually receive God's greatest blessings and rewards in your life.

Then he says this in verses 22-23: "He [Jesus] committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly." Do not miss what I'm telling you. Here's what Paul is saying. He says, "Why not rather be defrauded?"

If someone in the church wrongs you and you choose to be wronged over suing them, then this is when you are most like Jesus, and this will be when the cross of Jesus Christ makes more sense to you than at any other time in your life. It causes intimacy, because the more you're like Jesus, the more you see and enjoy Jesus. So it's an opportunity for intimacy.

  1. Conflict is an inevitable opportunity to demonstrate authenticity. When I say authenticity, I'm just saying it's an opportunity to demonstrate that your faith is real, that you don't have a fake faith. You have a real, active, authentic faith. Paul says, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

This is just Paul saying, "Hey, look at me. I want everyone in Corinth to listen up." He's just saying, "If you're the one who's doing the wrong… Like, if you're the one who's defrauding your brother and you don't feel bad about it, if you're making bad business deals, if your character is compromising, watch out. Be careful, because for you to continue in that, you probably need to evaluate if the Spirit of God is in you in the first place. The kingdom of God might not be in your future, because when you look at the fruit of your life, it does not reflect kingdom fruit."

At the same time, he's looking at the person who's being wronged, and he's like, "Look. If all you do is cling to your rights… If you just continually demand that your temporal situation is restored to exactly what you want it to be and you cling to your rights, there's actually a form of greed in there where you refuse to allow yourself to identify with Jesus in his sufferings in any way. Instead, you decide to cling to this world being exactly how you think it should be."

His response to that person is also, "Watch out, because your values aren't synced up with the values of the King." Yet he finishes in verse 11 and just says, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." Do you see what he's saying? He's just saying, "Guys, look. I'm telling you to watch out, and I'm also telling you to just be reminded."

Jesus has done a significant work in your life. He has washed you of all the filth of your sin. That's what he did. When you put your faith in him through his death, burial, and resurrection, he washed you clean. He has made you clean. He sanctified you, which means he has set you apart. He has put his Spirit in you.

He has justified you, which means you are in right standing with God, so be right with one another. What Paul is saying is, "Be who you really are." He has made you new, so live and look new. Do not let the greatest shaping forces in your life be the world or your rights. Let the greatest shaping force in your life be Jesus Christ, his cross.

So, what do we do with this? Where do we go from here? I want to quickly give you a few steps to take no matter where you're at. Whether you're someone who's sitting there considering suing someone else in the room or you're just in the middle of a really mild conflict, let me give you a few steps. Here's where you start. These are a progression. When conflict comes…

  1. Respond to God instead of reacting to the person. I don't know who said that, but I love it. It's not mine. It's someone's. I don't know whose, but don't give me credit for it. Respond to God instead of reacting to the person. Our tendency is to just want to react. If they hurt us, we want to hurt them. Do you want to deal with conflict in a way that really honors God? Then just pause and say, "God, how do you want me to think about this situation? How do you want me to feel about this situation? God, what do you want me to do in this conflict?"

Sometimes you need to step away from the conflict so you can get perspective and so you can respond to God, because when you allow yourself to respond to God, you might realize the conflict is minor. Don't major in the minors. Figure out what the size of the problem is. I used to do this with my kids. I used to say, "Hey, is this a small problem or is this a big problem? Let's use our hands, people. If this is a small problem, Noah or Andrew or Jake, then is your response to the problem a small response, a small reaction, or is it a big reaction?"

It's just good. When you respond to God, you can figure out, "Is this a small conflict or a big conflict? Am I having a small reaction or a big reaction?" Maybe you get alone and pray, and you're just praying, and you're like, "I don't know. What are we…?" That's fine. Whatever you need to do, but you want to figure out "What's the size of the problem?"

In our house we use these… They're called the Unthinkables. These are superhero villains that show up and ruin your day. There are all sorts of supervillains. (We didn't make these up. This is not me and my creativity. There's curriculum out there for it.) One of the villains is called Glassman. Glassman is someone who's way too sensitive and has a major response to a small problem.

Maybe sometimes in your prayer life you just need to say, "God, am I being Glassman right now? Where am I at with this?" As you process it with the Lord, if the problem is big enough, you'll know it, because time doesn't heal all wounds; it just makes them worse. So, if it's something you can't let go… There should be a lot of small conflicts you just let go, but if you can't let it go, then here's the second step.

  1. Be a problem solver instead of a problem spreader. Go to the person. Our tendency is to go to everyone else except the person. What we do is we spread the problem, and we take our situation to other people. When you do that… What you need is a fire extinguisher, and all you're going to get is lighter fluid, because you're going to go find the people who you know are going to be like, "Oh my gosh. He did that? How dare he? I hate him too." It's not what you need.

So go to the person. As you go to the person, make sure your side of the street is clean. As you go, you need to ask God, "What am I responsible for? What do I need to own?" Whatever that is, own it in front of him or her, and then give him or her the opportunity to do the same thing, but go to the person. That might not just be one conversation.

You might have to talk it out, and then you push pause and say, "Okay. We've gotten as far as we can get today. Let's take a break for a week, and let's circle back to it." You might do that for a period of six or seven weeks, but you're making progress. You just keep working on it until there's resolution. If you can't get it worked out, here's the third step:

  1. Ask for help. This might mean bringing a member from your Community Group to the meeting, and you might ask him or her to bring someone from their church or their Community Group to the meeting, and the four, five, or six of you begin to talk through the situation. By inviting outside perspectives into the mix, the goal will be for community to help both of you respond in the most God-honoring way.

If that still doesn't work, then come to the church. If you don't see what I'm doing here, I'm just walking through the process of Matthew, chapter 18, right now. Invite the church into it. That might mean reaching out to pastors on staff or even the elders at certain points to invite the church into your situation. We have pastors on staff who are lawyers. We have different men and women on our staff who have been through all sorts of situations where they have helped people navigate all sorts of complex issues.

I was so encouraged yesterday talking to one of the pastors on our staff. He was just telling me about a situation that happened years ago where there were two Christian families that had an unfortunate situation happen between the two of them. One of the families was ready to lawyer up. Honestly, it seemed like they had every right to do that, but before they did that, before they decided to move this into the court system, here's what they did.

They reached out to Watermark, and they asked for help to respond in the most biblical way possible. What these families did is they both agreed to meet with some pastors on Watermark staff. So, both parties got together with some pastors, and they met three different times. Do you know what happened at the first meeting? At the first meeting, all they did was pray together, ask the Spirit of God to move, and read Scripture together. One of the passages was, in fact, 1 Corinthians, chapter 6.

The second time they came together they discussed the facts. Both parties came ready to share what was going on. The third meeting, they experienced a tremendous turn, because God had been working in both families hearts. The family that was considering suing had resolved that they were not going to take any legal action at all or ask for anything, and the other family had decided they would do whatever they needed to do to make it right.

That's how God works. God was incredibly glorified. What a great testimony of his goodness and the reconciling power of the cross of Jesus Christ in their lives. But you might be sitting here and saying, "You know what? We've tried that, and it's still not working." Let me just encourage you. Stay at it, because it might take more than three meetings. It might take weekly meetings for a year, but as long as both parties are willing to come to the table, God can still be in it and doing something through it. If in the end two believers cannot resolve their situation, then step four is this:

  1. Consider sharing in Christ's sufferings. Verse 7 one more time: "To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong?" Several years ago, there was a Watermark member who was planning to do a remodel of their home, so they contacted a contractor who also attended Watermark to do the work. The Watermark member paid a significant amount of money up front, and the contractor began to go to work. The work just wasn't right, and the project halted and fell apart.

Basically, the member contacted Watermark, and Watermark stepped in to begin to help navigate this issue, because there was a contractor who went to Watermark who owed the member at Watermark about $20,000. They began to talk. They were in meetings on a weekly basis. They established how this money would get paid back, and then the contractor just up and left and moved to a new state, stopped answering phone calls, stopped responding, and never paid a cent of that $20,000.

So, you have this Watermark member who had to make a decision on what he was going to do. Do you know what he decided? He decided it's better to be defrauded by the tune of $20,000. John Elmore, the other teaching pastor, was one of the people who worked with him through this process for a year. John texted him yesterday and said, "Hey, is it okay if we share a little bit of your story?"

Here was his response: "Absolutely it's okay. Thank you so much for what you and others in the body did to help me through that situation. My natural self, too focused on justice and fairness, would have led me in not just legally pursuing the matter but also into major bitterness, but having you all walk us in the path that God's Word lays out was a massive blessing."

He went on and shared that he has been able to encourage others. This was his wording. This is how he encourages others. He just said, "Let's just do what God has clearly advised, and then we can enjoy a lack of stress and anxiety no matter the outcome." He just entrusted himself to the Lord, and now his story is being shared with thousands as a testimony of God's goodness in his life even in the midst of suffering wrong.

I'll close by saying this. I remember years ago our family was in town for Christmas. I remember coming to the Watermark Sunday service the Sunday after Christmas. I still remember this. Gary Stroope stood on this stage. Gary wasn't even preaching the message at the time. He was just doing the announcements, but he was reflecting on the fact that he was spending a lot of time with family over the Christmas break. I will never forget him saying that there was so much joy in him knowing there was no relational brokenness in his heart toward those in his family.

I thought about that, and I was like, "What a beautiful thing to be able to say." What if we could each say that about our spiritual family, about the family of God? What if we could each get to a place where we say, "There's no relational brokenness in my heart toward anyone in the family of God"? I don't know if that's possible, but I'll leave you with Paul's words in Romans 12:18. He says, "If possible…" Meaning, sometimes it's not possible. "…so far as it depends on you…" Meaning, you do what you can, and you leave the results to God. "…live peaceably with all." Let's pray together.

I'm just going to ask you to respond right now in the quietness of your own heart. If you're the one causing the problems… Like, if your heart is hard right now and you're causing conflict, then I just want to encourage you right now to repent. If you're here this morning and you're the one being wronged, would you just encourage God to give you the strength to take another step, whatever it might be, and to entrust him with your future?

Then maybe you're here this morning and you're realizing that you're in conflict with God, that you don't have a relationship with Jesus. If that's you, here's what you need to understand: you're at war with God, and you don't even know it. You're either with Jesus or against Jesus. Jesus came, though, to make peace between you and God. Because of his death, because of his burial, because of his resurrection, Jesus has made a way for you and me into the family of God. If you do not know Jesus Christ, then I encourage you this morning to invite him in.

Lord Jesus, we need you. We love you. We thank you for who you are. Would you do a good work in our lives? In Jesus' name, amen.