Engage

Discernment is Crucial in Conflict

 If your sister sins, go and show her her fault when the two of you are alone.

If she listens to you, you have regained your sister.

Who takes the initiative in a conflict? Jesus instructs the offended to be the initiator in the peace process. If a woman wounds you, you are to go to her. But notice that the offense is called a “sin.”

 If your sister sins, go and show her her fault when the two of you are alone.

If she listens to you, you have regained your sister.

Who takes the initiative in a conflict? Jesus instructs the offended to be the initiator in the peace process. If a woman wounds you, you are to go to her. But notice that the offense is called a “sin.”

What constitutes a sin? Sins listed in the Bible include sexual immorality, debauchery, coarse joking, theft, drunkenness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, anger, selfish ambition, envy, bitterness, slander, gossip, quarrelling, and price. (Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:31; 2 Corinthians 12:20). Is the offense truly a sin? Do you have concrete evidence? Are you evaluating an action you have observed or a heart attitude you suspect? The answers to these questions should affect your attitude as you go. If you are hurt but unsure whether the offense was actually a sin, you are wise to go asking questions rather than with an accusatory attitude.

Personal preferences and differences of opinion are not sins. Disagreements over methods or grey issues, including doctrine, are not sins. Personality clashes are not sins. If you assume or “feel” disrespected but have no concrete evidence, wisdom dictates that you consider carefully whether or not to proceed with a meeting to discuss the “offense.” You may be right, but you will look silly confronting a sister on the basis of intuition or a “feeling.”

Notice that anger, hatred, rage, envy, quarrelling, and bitterness are listed in the Bible as sins. These are emotions as well as actions and attitudes. Even God feels the emotion of righteous anger at times, and of course, God does not sin. But if you feel offended and allow those feeling to fester into unrighteous anger, rage, hatred, or bitterness, then you have sinned. Going to a sister and confessing your own sin in response to her offense might be the first step at resolving the offense committed against you.

Holding onto a perceived offense can cause emotional turmoil, resulting in distance, anger, depression, even bitterness. Directly giving the “offender” an opportunity to explain her view of the situation is probably a wise choice, but enter this discussion humbly, admitting you may be wrong. Many “offenses,” particularly among “intuitive” women, are merely misunderstandings and will easily be resolved with honest, direct, and tentative talking. But before you go, ask the Lord to help you discern whether or not you are truly dealing with “sin.”

Sue Edwards

Dr. Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women's Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women's Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women's ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.