A Biblical Pattern for Conflict Resolution

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A Biblical Pattern for Conflict Resolution
Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables [literally: "be deacons"]. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word." What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
(Acts 6:1-6, NRSV)

In Acts, chapter 6, we have the election and ordination of the first Board of Deacons. The new committee was formed because of a dispute—sound like your church? There were two kinds of poor widows in the early Christian church: Palestinian (Aramaic speaking) widows and Hellenistic (Greek speaking) widows.

Palestinian widows were allowed to receive food "distribution" from the Jerusalem Temple unless they believed in Jesus as the Messiah; if they became Christians, they were banned from the Temple's Soup Kitchen line! Greek speaking widows of Judaism were already distrusted, regardless of their convictions about Jesus, and forbidden from receiving the Temple's distribution for the poor.

The early Church decided to take up a collection to help the new widow believers in Christ but they continued the Temple prejudice of giving only to the Palestinian widows! The Hellenistic widows were left with nothing from both the Temple and the early Church Food4Widows ministry. These widows complained to the Twelve (apostles) who seemed a bit annoyed but sympathetic to the concern: we need deacons [literally: table waiters or "hashers"]! And it is interesting to note that the deacons elected by the early church all have Greek names—one hopes the Palestinian widows would now get their fair share!

A helpful pattern emerges from this Scripture useful for work and every arena of life:

  1. Listen Carefully: The disciples listened carefully to the concern, and they showed great customer service!
  2. Assess Honestly: They recognized the inequity. Honest assessment is essential.
  3. Discard Prejudices: They were willing to change old attitudes and prejudices in light of their new belief in Jesus.
  4. Think Creatively: They created a new solution involving the whole group, a team elected from the people. Thereby, they resolved the problem.

God is at work changing your heart and now calls forth a new attitude and way of life to match the inner transformation. Are you ready for it?