How to Handle Family Conflict Biblically

No matter how great your family or how godly your home, conflict will inevitably arise. Siblings fight, teenagers back talk, and parents have disagreements. No matter how petty or serious the friction, we have to know how to handle family conflict biblically.

The great thing about this topic is that once you can handle conflict in your home the way the Lord would want you to, it becomes easier to have this mindset with others outside the home. Practice makes perfect as they say.

Family conflict

What the Bible Says About Handling Conflict

 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  and do not give the devil a foothold.  Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 NIV

Let’s look at five ways this passage encourages us to deal with conflict.

1. Be Honest

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.

Proverbs 24:26 NIV

So many conflicts become an ongoing strife because one party refuses to be honest about their feelings or needs. We have to be vulnerable enough to put it all out there and let God work through the pain.

Even if the other person avoids honesty, you can hold fast to your integrity and know you did right by God. And, there is hope that God will change their heart.

We are responsible for us and for choosing to do God’s will. The best part of this is that we continue to set a pattern for truth and honesty for our children and our home.

2. Stay Calm

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.

Proverbs 29:11 NIV

“In your anger, do not sin…” we read from this text. It’s ok to get angry or upset. We are wronged by others and treated unjustly. God never expects us to take the punches and never feel. However, what He does expect is for us to not sin.

Staying calm means we remain in charge of our emotions. They don’t control us. We practice self-control. We don’t act without praying or considering what Jesus would do.

3. Control Your Tongue

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 12:18 NIV

Instead of wasting our breath and ruining our witness, we have the opportunity to show love, grace, mercy, peace, and speak the truth in love. And, sometimes silence (as we will see from Jesus’ example soon) is the best policy.

One of my pastors use to say, ” Don’t attack the person, instead attack the problem.” Later in Ephesians 6, Paul reminds us that we are not fighting flesh and blood but against spiritual darkness. If we keep this mindset, it is easier to keep our mouths shut.

Verse 30 tells us “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” We have the choice to use our words to build others up and honor God or to tear others down and shame the Spirit.

4. Forgive

Our text instructs us “to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as Christ forgave you.” The instruction is not to begrudgingly say sorry or move on, but to truly have compassion on the other party in such a way that we forgive the most grievous sin as Christ forgave us.

Forgiving like Christ means we don’t throw it back up in some one’s face after it happens. It also means that we don’t dwell on the incident, grow bitter, or gossip about it outside our homes. Our love, the love Christ imparts to us, never fails or becomes conditional.

Forgiveness is not excusing behavior. In the case of our children, there still has to be consequences. It is also not saying that something needs to change. Pray about what needs to change in your heart. Pray for others in the household. Pray about what kind of boundaries or rules need to be better enforced.

Pray about next steps if this is a repeat issue that is serious or not resolving. Does an intervention need to occur? Would getting some help from a Biblical counselor help?

5. Live Like Jesus

The last two verses of our text (5:1-2) tell us to follow God’s example, walk in love, and imitate’s Christ’s sacrifice. We will chat more in the next section about how Jesus handled conflict, but walking in love is a daily exercise in denying self.

A lady at a women’s fellowship I visited last week shared this truth from her Sunday School lesson, “We should PROACTIVELY live like Jesus not REACTIVELY.” Don’t wait until things get bad to “act like a Christian” make it a part of daily living.

If we are consistently trying to live like Jesus day in and day out, our reaction to conflict should mirror a Christ-like attitude without too much effort. Oh, it doesn’t mean we won’t have fleshly thoughts run through our minds but the will of the Spirit should win out!

How Did Jesus Handle Conflict?

Jesus was a man of peace, but still conflict came His way Since He is our ultimate example, let’s examine how He dealt with strife.

I am challenged by Jesus’s ability to stay calm, kind, loving, and in relationship with those who didn’t understand Him or His mission and even those who adbmately opposed Him. He loved the rich young ruler who walked away, Judas who betrayed him, and even those who crucified Him.

Jesus often sparred with the religious rulers who were trying to trap him and then ate in their homes and attended their services. He did not shy away from difficult conversations or people. However, He always spoke the truth in love.

Jesus let people walk away. The Rich Young Ruler, Mark 10:17-23

Jesus let people vent their frustrations. Martha, Luke 10:38-42 and John 11:21-26

Jesus ignored angry people. Religious Leaders, Luke 4:28-30

Jesus answered difficult questions and talk out problems both with his disciples and those against Him. The Pharisees, Luke 5:21-26 His Disciples, Luke 22:24-27

Jesus knew when to keep silent. Mark 14:60-61

Jesus specializes in resolving conflict. (Romans 5:11) The whole reason He came to this earth was the reconcile us to the Father. His heart is for us to rest and have peace in Him. Turn to Him in prayer and find truth in His word.

Bible Verses for Conflict Resolution

A theme we see in the Bible is that those who love peace and stay away from conflict are those who walk in the Spirit. They are producing the fruits of the Spirit: loving, patient, gentle, kind, etc. I have highlighted the words that describe the one who stays away from conflict or tries to resolve in peacefully.

  • Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. Proverbs 10:12 NIV
  • A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. Proverbs 15:18 NIV
  • The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper. Proverbs 28:5 NIV
  • Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romans 14:19 NIV
  • Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13 NIV

6 thoughts on “How to Handle Family Conflict Biblically

  1. This is such a great breakdown of how we can practically handle conflict in our families in a way that honors God and is productive rather than destructive. I love the phrase “attack the problem, not the person.”

  2. staceypardoe

    Arrica, this is such a great topic because it affects all of us! Thanks for pointing us back to God’s Word. It’s so easy to get stuck in our heads and forget to invite God into these messy situations. I’m saving this to come back to and to share it with my kids the next time a big conflict flares up (probably today!!!!!!!!)!

    1. Girl, same!! God’s word has the answer to all of our problems. He wants us to cherish and nurture relationships that honor Him so of course, He gives us answers to keep them peaceful and purposeful.

  3. This was very instructive especially the words – attack the problem not the person. Thank you for letting us into how Jesus resolved conflict. It is a very detailed and insightful post. Thanks Arrica for sharing.

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