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161: Three Types of Conflicts


What You'll Discover in this Episode:

Three Types of Conflict

Everyone knows what a conflict looks like. Yelling, arguing, cold shoulders, furrowed eyebrows. Yet, Christians know that different conflicts have different shapes. As we approach Scripture, God instructs different approaches to certain conflicts rather than others. How can we discern between different conflicts we may see in the church? 

In this week’s episode of the Biblical Counseling Podcast, Pastor Jeff Christianson and Jennie Christianson overview three types of conflict biblical counselors will face. These classifications are important since a certain type of conflict needs a specific response. If we treat conflicts over differences as conflicts over sin, we are misapplying Scripture and hurting our brother or sister in Christ. Different types of conflict stem from different heart issues and need varying responses.  

Scripture identifies three types of conflicts: conflicts of differentness, conflicts of sin, and conflicts of righteousness or rightness. Conflicts of differentness arise from situations where personal differences cause tension. Every person is unique. At times, my differences strike your differences and conflict erupts. The source of conflict is not sin, but differences. Other conflicts stem from sin. One brother or sister has engaged in sin which is forbidden by Scripture. Conflicts also arise from rightness or righteousness. With this type of conflict, Christians disagree about convictions from biblical principles. 

Scripture shows us that the proper response to conflicts over differentness is always forbearance. Whenever I have a conflict with you over a difference of personality, God always calls me to bear with you and defer to you. At times people have different tastes or preferences. They want certain things done this way rather than that way. In these situations, our responsibility is to yield to how God has created the other person. Struggles to yield to our brother or sister in matters of differentness reveal a heart rooted in pride, where we are more concerned about “insisting on its own way” (1 Corinthians 13:5), than demonstrating love toward others. 

Want to learn more? Listen to this podcast to hear Pastor Jeff and Jennie address: 

  • The three different types of conflict

  • How to determine a conflict of differentness

  • Solutions to conflicts of differentness

PS: From time-to-time, we rebroadcast the most popular/favorite episodes. Enjoy this podcast and let us know what your thoughts are in the community section below.

  • Velma Knapp says:

    Jeff, a great reminder of handling conflicts. I especially like when you said, “Not going after the person.” And we do absolutely need to learn to put up with others idiosyncrasies. After 43 years of marriage, I’m sure Don and I both have things that the other does, that we don’t necessarily like. But because we love the Lord and love each other, we deal with it. Not begrudging the other one.

  • Ann-Louise Graham says:

    Thank you for this helpful clarification between different types of conflict. This will serve as a very help way to shift through both personal conflicts and those that the counselee brings. Also a good reminder that even when it is a sin issue it should always be about resolving and restoring a person to their walk with Christ.

    • Velma Knapp says:

      Amen, Ann. The bottom line for me in working with people, is to restore a person to right relationship to Christ. Sometimes we want to focus on the problem, instead of the heart of the person. Thank you for sharing.

  • Ken Rutz says:

    In our rights oriented culture today the self is enthroned and therefore any conflict engages a victim mentality. Forbearance over differences would be tantamount to being walked all over, or being a door mat.

    What I appreciated is how differentness can Morph into sin with pride and arrogance unchecked. If we fail to exercise God’s love and forbearance toward those who are different from us something quite innocuous can digress into sinful anger and bitterness that will require humility and forgiveness to restore.

    I believe that a lot (though, not all) of marital counseling could be resolved if the differentness that almost all couples experience can be addressed biblically and dealt with at this level before these differences become pretexts for sinful thoughts words and behavior.

  • Angela Shaffer says:

    Forbearance is certainly lacking today. So many people in the church and world tell us we have the “right” to be hurt by an individual or angry with an individual because we don’t see things eye to eye. This just continues to build more anger and resentment. When we turn it over to the Lord and choose to see this individual as a person He created and loves it changes our heart towards that person. Nothing is gained by holding on to our personal offenses by another.

  • Joycelyn says:

    I’m very excited to learn about these different types of conflicts and to understand more about resolving conflicts of differentness. Forbearance is certainly needed in our congregations. I guess it’s easier to focus on the separation between those two women in Philippians and Paul and Barnabus in Acts as oppose to reconciling and forbearing. It was certainly important to point out that the differentness in marriages and parenting should not follow the same path of separation. Our image as the body of Christ has been tarnished by the many broken and unresolved conflicts over differentness. I’m anticipating the great insights to be learned in the future episodes.

  • Timothy Graham says:

    Something that I have seen far too often is churches becoming divided and separating because of differentness conflicts. Or, people being ostracized from the church because of differentness conflicts. It’s heartbreaking. In my hometown alone of ~5,000 people, there are at least 25 churches. I distinctly remember friends, who had been hurt by the church we grew up at, leaving just to go to another church in the area that had become the haven for other church’s fugitives(figuratively speaking).

    This type of division seems to be becoming ever more the norm. But, by equipping ourselves and those in our sphere of influence with the tools for resolving these conflicts, I am optimistic that these divisions will fizzle out.

  • Ilene Hayes says:

    I enjoyed this podcast, especially the reminder to forbear with one another. I looked up the word forbearance, and found this definition; patient self-control, restraint and tolerance. As I studied more, I came to Romans 2:4 and Romans 3:25, and found that Jesus is our perfect example of One who demonstrated forbearance, and because of that, I am not condemned but forgiven. What a great example to follow, offering those who are in disagreement over differentness issues forbearance, so that relationships can be healed.

    • Angela Shaffer says:

      Thank you for sharing those verses!

    • Ann-Louise Graham says:

      the definition of forbearance sounds a lot like the fruit of the Spirit 🙂 your comments made me think of verses Rm 8 12-13 and Gal 5 16. And also healing the heart that this sowing to the Spirit has to become habitual. And I am reminded that every time I defend myself in a conflict I fail to sow to the Spirit and fail to trust God. 🙁

  • Serena Chavez says:

    The break down of conflict resolution from;
    1.Differentness -God made us all different /personalities but made in HIS image. We are HIS.
    2. Sinfullness-bringing a person or both to repentance to move forward.
    3. Righteousness-

    I feel the first 2 are something that get intertwined with each other, when having an issue brought to you. Thank you for breaking it down so that we as counselors through the Word of God can be able to discern when one comes with an issue.
    Learning and growing and becoming an expert conflict resolver.

    • Angela Shaffer says:

      I agree. I appreciate this breakdown as well.

    • Ken Rutz says:

      Discerning whether a “problem” is sinful or merely differences that are rooted in idiosyncratic preferences is critical because of the vastly different biblical approaches to both of these.

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