Be gracious in conflict | City Bible Forum

Be gracious in conflict

But when we’ve been attacked or insulted, being gracious is a great challenge.
Fri 10 Nov 2023



In 2014, Anglican minister David Ould featured in a television program called Living with the Enemy*1, where he spent ten days living with a gay couple. Reflecting on the experience, David commented:

…one thing I’ve learnt from the filming, the media work and now people’s comments is that a gracious attitude goes a long, long way. The best radio interviews I’ve had have been those where the interviewer, although opposed to my position, has commented on how much they’ve appreciated the manner of the discussion.

As David found, one of the most powerful ways to commend the teaching of Jesus Christ to others is to be gracious in conflict.

Being gracious is hard
But when we’ve been attacked or insulted, being gracious is a great challenge. Maybe you’ve been in conflict with an unreasonably rude person at work. Maybe you belong to a social or sporting club where someone has slandered you behind your back. The natural inclination is to give back as good you get (or even more if possible). I’ve been involved in some fiery Facebook debates with some very rude atheist friends. I rejoice in the opportunity to interact with them, but find it extremely challenging to stay calm and cool when the insults are flying in my direction.

Stop and consider: Have you ever lost it when you’ve been provoked or treated badly?

Motivation to be gracious

  1. You’re following Jesus’ teaching and example. Jesus commands his followers to love their enemies and to do good to those who hate them (Luke 6:27). Jesus lived out this teaching himself. He was treated with total injustice by his Jewish and Roman opponents. They hated him even though he’d done nothing wrong. Yet Jesus didn’t retaliate; instead he entrusted the situation to God (1 Pet 2:23).
  2. You’re being a person of blessing. Followers of Christ are called to be people of blessing, even when insulted, because peace is better than conflict—for both people. And even if the Christian continues to be spoken to harshly, they can rest in the knowledge that God is pleased with their gracious behaviour: "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." (1 Peter 3:9, NIV)
  3. You’re creating curiosity about the gospel. Peter expects that when God’s people behave graciously under pressure, some people will want to know the reason for their hope: "…but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame." (1 Pet 3:15-16)

How to respond graciously
Here are some practical tips for keeping your cool and responding to conflict in a gracious way:

Listen carefully to the person you are in conflict with.

  • Reflect back to them what they are trying to say.
  • Truly try to empathize with the other person’s position.
  • Ask yourself: Is this really worth fighting over?
  • Pray for strength to be gracious and not to get angry.
  • If you feel yourself getting angry, walk away. Go for a walk and re-engage the person once you have calmed down. This applies to email and social media interactions too.

Question: Why should we treat people graciously when in conflict?

Pray: Thank God for being gracious with us, even when we were his enemies.

*1 D Ould, ‘Living With the Enemy: Some first reflections on the show’,, 4 September 2014 (viewed 6 October 2016):

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