Reach OutA dear friend of mine, who owns a business directory company (, recently asked me to search out and write an article about God’s way for resolving conflict between businesses and their customers – particularly in light of the growing importance of online reviews. I am blessed and excited that he intends to develop a system that will honor and please God. As a business owner or customer, I hope the following encourages you to find God’s way for conflict resolution.

The Potential Impact of Online Reviews

Customer reviews and ratings have become the “word-of-mouth” for 21st Century shoppers; with two noteworthy differences: Their reach is exponentially broader and, consequently, their impact can have significantly greater impact. This is particularly true for the small business owner.

According to an article on Psychology Today, “People are more likely to choose things based on their need to avoid negative experiences, rather than their desire to get positive experiences … psychologists concluded negative experiences or the fear of them has a greater impact on people than positive experiences.”

According to USA Today, “Harvard business school research says that a one-star increase on Yelp can lead to a 9 percent increase in sales. Four out of five consumers, or 80 percent, reverse their purchase decisions based on negative online reviews.

If people remember negative reviews more than the positive ones, which one would you want your small business to be remembered for? This is an important question for both business owners and their customers – particularly when those owners and customers are brothers or sisters in Christ.

Not of the World

Resolving conflict in the marketplace – between businesses and their customers – is one of the greatest “in the world, but not of the world” opportunities for the Christian church. Conflict in the world is self-oriented – two people facing off against each other. One self will come out a winner. The other self will lose.

This is not God’s way. First of all, our self is not to be the center of attention. We are to do all things as unto Christ (Ephesians 6:5-8). This includes conflict resolution. Jesus has called us to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23). This is not conditional.

Second, conflict resolution in the kingdom of God is not a win-lose proposition. God’s desire is for all His children to live life abundantly. Conflict resolution should produce three winners: The parties involved and, most importantly, our Father in heaven.

Biblical Foundation

The Bible has much to say about conflict resolution. This suggests two things: First, conflict is an expected consequence of our fallen nature; and second, God has a prescription for conflict’s resolution. Consider the following passages:

And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:  I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. John 17:22-23

One of the last things Jesus asked of His Father was the unity of His followers. The one particular purpose of that unity was “that the world may believe”. Conflict resolution should not divide us further, but rather bring us into unity that will impress the world of God’s love for them. The way we handle conflict has eternal consequences; and that for more than the parties involved.

This passage provides instruction in God’s way for conflict resolution. The unity of believers is found through our relationship with Jesus and the Father – “I in them, and You in Me”. Conflict resolution must begin – for both parties – with prayer; and not just any prayer, but prayer of agreement with Jesus for the Father to make us one. This is the prayer that gets our Father’s attention; and warrants the grace that resolves conflict for the benefit of both parties.

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1Corinthians 1:10-11

In this passage we learn that the Bible’s prescription for conflict resolution requires conversation. So many times, people of the world fire criticisms from a bunker; never to be seen by the target of their displeasure. This is the coward’s way, and we have not been given the spirit of cowardice (2Timothy 1:7). We must resist our carnal urges to fight from the shadows.

Furthermore, this passage suggests that the resolution of all conflict ends in our perfectly joined together in mind and judgment. This supernatural result is only possible for those that have humbled themselves, determining to find and follow the mind and judgment of their King; trusting Him with the outcome.

Many times, prayer and humble conversation lead to a resolution that is a victory for both parties, and their King. God is glorified and the world is moved by His love. Truly, in the kingdom’s approach to conflict resolution, the Bride is making herself ready. The Son’s prayer is answered and we move one step closer to His desired return.

The King’s Prescription

There are times, however, when two parties are unable or unwilling to resolve the conflict amongst themselves. Our King, recognizing our weakness, has provided a process that may still lead to a resolution that honors the Father.

Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’  And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17

Only after one-on-one attempts at resolution have failed, should others be brought into the process. Those should be individuals that can objectively discern both sides of conflict; and speak wisely toward a resolution. These are called peacemakers in the Bible, and their role is one of great importance to God (Matthew 5:9). There are ministries devoted to this function, also known as Christian mediation. The body of Christ should be taking greater advantage of such ministries.

If Christian mediation does not result in the resolution of conflict between two individuals, then (and only then) is it time to “tell it to the church”. What does this mean? First, communicating displeasure with someone before all avenues of resolution are pursued is disobedience to the prescription of God. This is a serious matter; one many are ignoring to their peril.

Second, there are situations where posting bad reviews is a part of the process. However, it must be noted that, even at this late stage, the offender has the opportunity to correct the problem and expect the review to be removed. This is a powerful witness of God’s mercy to a lost and dying world.

A Closing Word on Our Litigious Society

The word is simple and direct: Taking your brother to court is not a part of God’s plan for conflict resolution.

I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. 1Corinthians 6:5-9

It is a hard word, but we must humbly consider it: For both parties involved in a conflict, it is better to accept wrong and be cheated than to pursue resolution through the law of the unrighteous. Why? Because to do so works against God’s purposes for His glory and the salvation of the world. This will be a hard test for many; revealing the true devotion of their hearts: For the Master, or for themselves.

May you find in your conflicts, the faith, humility and courage to do the Father’s will.

Humbly yours and forever His,