Conflict: notes for small groups


“Human beings are all different; each is unique”…..Conflict

………..If we believe that, then it follows that we have very different ways of looking at things. These differences can conflict (verb), -that is, are sometimes incompatible with, or ‘strike against’, -the ideas of others.


The question is: how do we deal with it?


Individual Exercise: Take time in quietness to think about two things:

  • Someone that you have recently come into conflict with in a mild way. Think about the issue/event that caused it. Or maybe it is something that has grown slowly, so try to remember how you first realised there was a problem between you.

  • Someone who as seriously hurt/damaged you through conflict. How has this conflict affected your life and spiritual growth?

Group work:

Share together, as much as you feel able, the things you have reflected on, as above. Include some of these questions;

What was the conflict actually about: eg. personality clash; a particular course of action;

a matter of principle; a sense of comparison/status entering the relationship;

a feeling of being bullied, manipulated or rejected?

  • Concerning the serious conflict: how has it affected you?

  • How might things have been different?

  • Do you have it in your power to do something about this situation?

Read: Phil.2.1-4
  • This is a vision of unity and co-operation based on humility and common faith.

  • It is what we are working towards, as we work through our differences.

  • It is not an instruction to suppress conflict or difference.


Read these statements and discuss them together:

(Use the story of Jacob and Esau to help your thinking. Ideally, ask the group to read Genesis 25.19-34; 26.34 through to 28.9; 32.1. to 33.17; and 35.28 beforehand. Perhaps pick out some of the suggested verses during these discussions.)


Relationships are at the heart of most conflict; differences over issues and ideas are often easier to handle. Gen.25: 20-23.


Frequently the relationship conflict concerns some element of our identity. Gen.25: 29-34; 27:30-38.


There is often a ‘history’ behind the particular conflict you are dealing with. Gen. 25:27-28; 27:5-17. (I blame the parents!).


The answer to conflict is not to ignore it, deny it or avoid it. It will simply sit there in the back of your mind, making occasional re-appearances and festering away.

The answer is to walk towards it, understand it and transform it.

Some practicalities:

Matt. 18:15-20. This is a good basis/structure for attempting to resolve conflict over sin.

Private conversation on the subject, followed up with involvement of others if the issue cannot be resolved. Note: this is about sin, not just difference.

The use of third parties is very important in dealing with conflict.

Note, too, that verse 20, -so often quoted out of context, -is about the presence of Christ where people are coming together to resolve differences and make peace, (not about only two people turning up to the prayer-meeting!).

Do you have any experience of this sort of peace-making?


Third parties can be crucial in allowing each side of a conflict to hear the voice of the other.

Have you ever had experience in such mediation work?


Have you ever been involved in conflict transformation, where the honest examination of the issues has actually led to something much better being established in the end?

Through skilled mediation and a willingness to find a peaceful resolution, conflict can be transformed. The story of Jacob and Esau has a happy ending. In this case God intervened with Jacob, as recorded in the Bible, leaving him with a permanent limp.

Gen. 32: 24-32.

God also dealt with Esau, in ways not recorded. By the time he met his brother again, he was no longer wanting his blood! Gen.33: 4.


Note the similar phrases in verses 32:30 and 33.10. What clue does that give us about the spiritual side of conflict transformation?


You might like to end by praying together about personal conflicts; national conflicts and international, violent conflicts.


Christine Bailey, 22/04/2009