Be loving and forgiving

Disputes have many forms, so I will focus on those usually most troublesome to us — conflicts with family and friends.

Our greatest commandments include: Love your neighbor as yourself. When a dispute arises, remember our call to love one another. Pray for the other person and try to see her or his perspective. Ask yourself if the dispute is really important enough to strain your relationship.

The “as yourself” part of this commandment is often forgotten — love yourself in the midst of the dispute. Keep appropriate boundaries to give yourself space from conflict. If you are in an abusive relationship, seek the help of a therapist to create a safety plan and set goals for a better life. If you did something hurtful, seek forgiveness and forgive yourself.

When a dispute arises in the midst of a safe and supportive community, Matthew offers these steps: First, try to settle things one on one. If this does not work, gather a small group to try to overcome the difficulty. If the problem persists, the community may move to exclude a person who will not endeavor to work out an issue.

Even so, we are to forgive, according to Jesus, seventy times seven. Forgiving someone does not necessarily mean it is healthy to continue interacting. However, when a good relationship can overcome disputes, the bond may strengthen into a great relationship.

— Lesley Ann Earles, First Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville

Try to keep it in the family

God, in his infinite wisdom, knew as soon as man sinned, he’d have disputes.

Even after Jesus died for our sin, God knew we’d still have problems dealing with one another, so God has given us instructions in His Word as to how to handle our disputes with one another. If we’re willing to follow them, we’ll usually get good results:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).

“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? … 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?” (1 Corinthians 6:1-7).

There must be those whom God has set as leaders among us who are wise enough to hear our disputes, and then give judgment between us.

— Bob McClain, Living By Faith Ministry, Oxford