The Four G’s of Christian Conflict Resolution

In earlier blog posts, I’ve written about general principles of Christian mediation and the type of mediation of complex group situations that could be labeled as “church mediation” — mediation for Christian organizations.  This post is for someone who desires to know more.

While there’s no “magic formula” for the process of reconciliation, Kenneth Sande and Peacemaker Ministries have enunciated some helpful methods for remembering the process.  One of these is called “The Four G’s of Reconciliation”.  True to its name, it enunciates four simple”G’s” we can remember as we address conflict:

(1) Glorify God: Ask, “How can I please and glorify God in this situation?”

  • 1 Cor. 10:31 (“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”)
  • Prov. 3:4-6 (“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own uderstanding; in all your ways acknowledge him . . . . “)
  • John 14:15 (“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”)
  • Eph. 5:1 (“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”)

(2) Get the Log out of Your Own Eye (Matthew 7:5). It is important to admit your own wrongs honestly and thoroughly. One’s own wrongs can take two forms. One form is a critical, negative, or overly sensitive attitude that has led to unnecessary conflict. Another form is actual sinful words and actions.

When confessing wrong, the “Seven A’s of Confession” can be helpful:

  • Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)
  • Avoid the words if, but, and maybe (Do not try to excuse your wrongs)
  • Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions)
  • Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone)
  • Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution)
  • Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions)
  • Ask for forgiveness

(See Matthew 7:3-5; 1 John 1:8-9; Proverbs 28:13.)

(3) Gently Restore: the theme is restoration, not condemnation. Galations 6:1: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.”

  • metaphor of a loving shepherd who goes to look for a wandering sheep and then rejoices when it is found (Matt. 18:12–14)
  • Jesus repeats this theme just after telling us to “go and show him his fault” by adding, “If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”
  • And then he hits the restoration theme a third time in verses 21–35, where he uses the parable of the unmerciful servant to remind us to be as merciful and forgiving to others as God is to us (Matt. 18:21–35).
  • It is appropriate to overlook minor offenses

As a general rule, an offense should be overlooked if you can answer “no” to all of the following questions:

  • Is the offense seriously dishonoring God?
  • Has it permanently damaged a relationship?
  • Is it seriously hurting other people? And
  • Is it seriously hurting the offender himself?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, an offense is too serious to overlook, in which case God commands you to go and talk with the offender privately and lovingly about the situation. As you do so, remember to:

  • Pray for humility and wisdom
  • Plan your words carefully (think of how you would want to be confronted)
  • Anticipate likely reactions and plan appropriate responses (rehearsals can be very helpful)
  • Choose the right time and place (talk in person whenever possible)
  • Assume the best about the other person until you have facts to prove otherwise (Prov. 11:27)
  • Listen carefully (Prov. 18:13)
  • Speak only to build others up (Eph. 4:29)
  • Ask for feedback from the other person
  • Recognize your limits (only God can change people; see Rom. 12:18; 2 Tim. 2:24-26)

(4) Go and Be Reconciled

Just think, however, how you would feel if God said to you, “I forgive you; I just don’t want to have anything to do with you again”?

Praise God that he never says this! Instead, he forgives you totally and opens the way for genuine reconciliation. He calls you to forgive others in exactly the same way: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:12-14; see also 1 Cor. 13:5; Psalm 103:12; Isa. 43:25). One way to imitate God’s forgiveness is to make the Four Promises of Forgiveness when you forgive someone:

  • “I will not dwell on this incident.”
  • “I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
  • “I will not talk to others about this incident.”
  • “I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”

If you want to learn more, please let me know and I’ll help you with resources.  My phone number is 803-414-0185.

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6 Responses to The Four G’s of Christian Conflict Resolution

  1. kawai cs9 says:

    Hi, this is a great post! Thanks..

  2. Rev. Joachim Edifon Mwaseba says:

    I like your posts. They are very educative. If I get from you in Powerpoint Format I will be more satisfied.

    JOACHIM

  3. Erin says:

    What if you’ve done all the above (many times) to the person who hurt you, but they will not even acknowledge that they did anything wrong on their part to you? How do resolve conflict when the other party blames you? And, how do you forgive?

  4. Skinner says:

    Hi Erin. Thanks for your comment. I believe there is a human side, and a spiritual side, and they are not always totally the same answer. For instance, I’ve heard of pastors who advocate that one married person continue to live with another even though the other person is abusive. I would never advise that one person should deny their value or worth in order to appease the other. If a person fails even to acknowledge that they have wronged you, then that really is their spiritual issue, not yours. It is certainly more satisfying to us if they will acknowledge the wrong and apologize and repent, but we can’t control what an other person does. We can only control our response. So I’d say first, I don’t think there is a spiritual law that says we should be a doormat. That’s what it sounds like is happening when one person fails to acknowledge any wrongdoing or affirmatively blames the Other. It is okay to separate one’s self from an unhealthy situation. And, if this is a situation involving spousal abuse, I definitely would encourage taking steps to keep safe. As for forgiveness, that is another spiritual issue. I don’t always like the answer when I hear it, myself. I am going to post here links to two other blog posts I’ve written on this issue. This one is about two Bible verses that I personally find hard to implement: http://xanskinner.blogspot.com/2012/03/conditions-precedent-and-subsequent.html The second is an interview with theologian Miroslav Volf on the topic of forgiveness. This is a very deep topic and one many people would rather just ignore. However, by letting go of the anger we do allow ourselves to move on. I personally find it helpful to (1) protect myself from continuing hurt (just because we have been hurt once does not mean we must continue to allow ourselves to be hurt in the same manner) and then (2) find ways to make peace within myself and move on. Literally, holding a grudge is like eating poison and expecting someone else to die. Anger and bad feelings poison our thoughts, cause stress, etc. If we can somehow move on, our lives are healthier. See what you think of this interview: http://02e1cd2.netsolhost.com/wordpressDE/2012/03/13/the-link-between-forgiveness-and-peace/ Hope this helps? Let me know.

  5. Teresa says:

    I have also tried to resolve a conflict with two people that hurt me deeply.They left our church and went to another when my pastor ask loving to talk to them. I have tried to confront them but they get very defensive and blame me .They refuse to resolve it.I think I would feel so much better if I could just get it all out of how they hurt me so bad.I want it to be resolved and I forgive but as christians I dont understand why they will not meet with me and resolve it like Jesus tells us to do. Should I keep trying?

  6. Skinner says:

    I do have thoughts about things that might possibly help in your situation, but I would be hesitant to write them here. I fear that if I gave specific advice, that might be out of context. What if I said something that were inappropriate for your private circumstance, and then it could cause more harm than good? There is one thing I do not hesitate to suggest, however, and that is prayer. We Americans tend to want everything now, or yesterday. Where there are two parties involved (or more), things are a bit more complex. You don’t have control over their reactions, only your own. The subject of their heart is between God and them. As I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, it may be more satisfying to us when the other person reaches across to us and asks for (or extends) forgiveness, but spiritually our own duty both to extend and to accept forgiveness is not dependent on any action of the other person. It is a matter of our own spirituality. So first of all, I would advise you to pray and seek discernment. Pray!

    Secondly, you ask whether you should “keep trying.” What you’ve already done has not worked. So, what can you do differently? Of course I would suggest attempting to use a neutral and trained mediator to facilitate a discussion. A mediator might be able to approach the other person and learn what it is that is keeping that person from having conversation with you. And a mediator might be able to help you discern whether there is anything you are doing that is causing a continuing obstacle for communication. For instance, you say, “I have tried to confront them ….” Perhaps confrontation is not the best approach, but how do you know? A mediator can help you discern this. It is very important that the person be both neutral and trained. The other person in this relationship may have felt that your pastor was not neutral, for example. And I’ve known many instances where an untrained intermediary caused harm. So be careful when choosing a mediator or intermediary.

    Back to prayer, however. Prayer can help you cultivate patience and faith. Faith that with time, things will get better. Patience because perhaps the Holy Spirit needs some time to work in both your heart and theirs, or in one or the other! Faith that “with God, all things are possible.” Just remember, you cannot control another person’s spiritual journey. You can only control your own. What do you need to do to make peace with yourself and with God? Have you within your own heart, spiritually, done all that you can do to extend forgiveness and to be open to the possibility of reconciliation? If so, then be patient and know that God is God. We can have faith that He will keep his promises, but sometimes that happens in ways we don’t fully comprehend at the outset of our own spiritual journey. Indeed, when it comes to trying … another thought is to consider keeping a prayer journal and writing about this on a daily basis, especially during the Lenten season. I recently linked to two of my own blog posts on the topic of forgiveness (see earlier comment to this post). You can also read more of my own thoughts about forgiveness and reconciliation on my peacemaking blog http://xanskinner.blogspot.com by doing a search for the word “forgive” or “forgiveness.”

    Your post also prompts me to think I should write more on the topic of forgiveness! Forgiveness is extremely challenging, in my mind, one of the hardest spiritual practices. Non-Christians think that our response of non-violence and forgiveness is one of weakness, yet nothing could be further from the truth. To respond with love to one who hates, and to maintain compassion, is an act of spiritual warfare, standing in direct opposition to the forces of evil and hate. There’s not a set formula, it is to be guided by spiritual principles and the path illuminated by prayer.

    One last thing, as a practical note. On my blog you will also find references to “restorative justice.” Restorative Justice is also based on spiritual principles of reconciliation. Restorative Justice enables an offender, in a criminal offense, to be restored into community. But the process, and the reconciliation, follows very strict guidelines designed to keep all participants safe. This matter of safety — mental, spiritual, and physical — is one reason I am hesitant to give any specific suggestion other than to pray and to consult with an expert who can know the private facts (which definitely should not be put on the internet). One of the first steps in restorative justice is for the person who perpetrated a wrong to acknowledge the wrong. Have you wronged your neighbor and, if so, are you willing to acknowledge that, including how deeply you may have hurt them? Have they wronged you and, if so, are they willing to acknowledge that, including how deeply they may have hurt you? Even if both of you are willing to make such acknowledgment, then the “restorative action” part must take place within community, as well, with safeguards to prevent abuse. In other words, it’s not enough for an offender just to say, “I’m sorry,” and then act as if nothing has happened. A victim must never be pressured to “forgive” an offender. There will be consequences from a wrong, and those consequences must be dealt with as well.

    In sum, the quick answer to your final question, “should I keep trying” is, “Not now.” Don’t preclude the possibility of future reconciliation, using a mediator or a restorative justice process, but for the time being commit this matter to prayer and further study, and please consult in person with someone trained in mediation or conflict transformation for more specific advice in your circumstances.

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