Family conflict is unfortunately a common issue that many Christians face. The Bible has a lot to say about how to handle disagreements and strife within families in a godly manner.
One of the most important principles is that families should strive to live in peace and harmony as much as possible. The apostle Paul instructs, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). This includes our family members. God desires for families to have healthy relationships built on love, patience and forgiveness.
However, the Bible is realistic that conflicts will inevitably occur in families. People have different personalities, opinions, desires and values which can lead to arguments and tension. When disagreements happen, the Bible provides guidance on how to work through issues in a constructive way.
First, we are told to watch our tongues and avoid hurtful words. The book of Proverbs cautions, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). Angry insults and yelling only escalate conflict. Speaking gently and respectfully, even in the midst of tension, allows real listening and understanding to happen.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “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.” Avoiding insults and watching our tone of voice can go a long way in diffusing family arguments.
The Bible also stresses the importance of being quick to listen and slow to speak when tensions rise (James 1:19). Really listening to understand the other person’s perspective, instead of just thinking about what we want to say next, enables effective communication. We should seek to humbly put others first, not demanding our own way (Philippians 2:3-4).
Additionally, God’s Word encourages us to gently and respectfully share our grievances with family members to work toward resolution. Jesus said, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15). Speaking privately to the person who offended you, instead of gossiping to others, allows hurts to be addressed and relationships restored.
However, the Bible also reminds us that we cannot force family members to see things our way. 2 Timothy 2:24-25 advises, “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.” Our responsibility is to share our perspective wisely, not become resentful or try to dominate others into agreeing with us.
In addition, forgiving others freely is essential for family unity and peace. Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” We should be quick to forgive, not hold grudges, and approach conflict with a gracious spirit, just as God has forgiven us.
Ultimately, the Bible encourages families to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Working through disagreements may require great patience and wisdom, but reconciliation and moving forward in love is what God desires. With His help, families can demonstrate the power of His reconciling love in the midst of conflict.
In summary, here are some key principles the Bible provides for handling family conflict:
- Strive to live at peace as much as it is possible (Romans 12:18)
- Watch your words and do not let harmful speech come out of your mouth (Proverbs 12:18, Ephesians 4:29)
- Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and humble (James 1:19, Philippians 2:3-4)
- Gently and privately address issues with the person who offended you (Matthew 18:15)
- Do not become resentful or force your perspective on others (2 Timothy 2:24-25)
- Forgive others freely, just as God has forgiven you (Colossians 3:13)
- Make every effort to preserve the bond of unity and peace (Ephesians 4:3)
When conflict inevitably comes in a family, approaching it biblically with wisdom, patience and love allows relationships to be strengthened and restored. God can use disagreements for good if they are handled well with His help.
Honoring Parents Even When It’s Difficult
One specific type of family conflict addressed in the Bible is tension between parents and children. God’s Word gives important instructions to children to honor, obey and respect their parents even when it is challenging to do so.
Ephesians 6:1-3 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother – which is the first commandment with a promise – so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Obeying parents is called right and honoring them brings blessing.
The Bible also acknowledges that parents are not perfect. Colossians 3:21 instructs fathers not to “embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Parents are warned against unnecessary harshness and cruelty that can provoke resentment in a child’s heart.
But even when children feel mistreated or parents seem unfair, God’s Word calls children to honor and obey their parents as best they can. 1 Peter 2:18-20 says, “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God.” This principle applies to the parent-child relationship as well.
The Bible acknowledges that obeying and honoring parents can be extremely difficult, especially if parents are ungodly or abusive. But God can give grace and strength to persevere even under injustice. And continuing to honor parents is commended as it shows reverence for God’s authority structure in the family (Ephesians 6:1-3).
Of course, if parents ask a child to explicitly do something immoral or dangerous, the principle changes. Acts 5:29 says “We must obey God rather than human beings!” Obeying God’s commands takes priority if a parent contradicts biblical morality.
But even so, children are called to honor and respect their parents as much as possible, speaking respectfully and gently if disagreeing (1 Peter 3:15-16). And children over the age of 18 are not necessarily biblically required to obey every parental command if it seems improper before God.
But again, the emphasis in Scripture is on children honoring parents, even imperfect ones, as part of revering God. Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Parents have a unique God-given authority in a child’s life that should be respected.
In summary, here is what the Bible says about children relating to parents even amidst family conflict:
- Children are to obey and honor their parents, even if difficult (Ephesians 6:1-3)
- Parents should avoid unnecessary harshness with their children (Colossians 3:21)
- Children honor God by continuing to respect parents, even if parents seem unfair (1 Peter 2:18-20)
- Obeying unethical parental commands is not required, but gentle respect is still needed (Acts 5:29, 1 Peter 3:15-16)
- Honoring and obeying parents is part of respecting God’s authority structure (Romans 13:1)
As adults, children are called to be patient and forgiving of past parental failures and show ongoing honor, care and respect, as much as possible. This glorifies God even in the midst of family tension.
Resolving Conflict Between Spouses
Another common family conflict addressed in the Bible is disagreements between husbands and wives. God’s Word provides guidance for navigating arguments and effectively working through issues that arise in marriage.
First, Scripture emphasizes that husbands and wives should be gentle, humble and patient with one another, bearing with each other in love. Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” This spirit of grace and patience helps resolve conflict constructively rather than escalating arguments.
The Bible also encourages spouses to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry when seeking to work through disagreements (James 1:19-20). Really listening to your spouse’s perspective with empathy, instead of just waiting to share your view, is crucial for unity. And avoiding quick-tempered anger prevents extreme words and actions that only make conflict worse.
Husbands are instructed, “Be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect…so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7). Being thoughtfully sensitive to a wife’s needs and showing her value and honor, even in the midst of disagreements, demonstrates Christ-like love in marriage.
Wives are also called to respect their husbands and think carefully about how to gently offer input and perspective instead of attacking or condemning (Ephesians 5:33, Proverbs 15:1). A wife’s respect and thoughtful approach enables a husband’s heart to stay open so communication can be productive.
Additionally, the Bible teaches that couples should be quick to confess their sins to God and forgive one another when conflict happens, just as God forgives them (James 5:16, Ephesians 4:32). Holding grudges over hurts or mistakes will poison a marriage. Offering each other grace leads to healing.
God also encourages husbands and wives to come together regularly in prayer and reading of Scripture (1 Corinthians 7:5). Seeking God together reminds couples of their ultimate purpose and priority of glorifying Christ, even when working through disagreements.
Finally, Scripture says godly couples submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). Marriages function best when both spouses humbly consider the other’s needs and preferences when making decisions, not insisting on their own way.
Here are key principles for resolving marital conflict according to the Bible:
- Be gentle, humble, patient and loving with one another (Ephesians 4:2)
- Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19-20)
- Husbands treat your wives with attentiveness, honor and respect (1 Peter 3:7)
- Wives respectfully share your perspective; do not attack or condemn (Ephesians 5:33, Proverbs 15:1)
- Confess sins to God and forgive one another (James 5:16, Ephesians 4:32)
- Pray and study Scripture together (1 Corinthians 7:5)
- Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21)
Applying these biblical principles allows husbands and wives to resolve conflict and hurt in a way that strengthens unity, intimacy and love in marriage for the glory of God.
Family Conflict in the Church
The Bible also addresses family conflict that arises in the context of the church community. Even among devoted Christians, tensions can develop within families that affect the body of Christ.
For example, 1 Timothy 5:1-2 instructs, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” All members of the church family should be treated with respect, gentleness and humility, avoiding harsh conflict between generations or genders.
Titus 3:9-11 warns believers, “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful.” The church body should refrain from wasting time on foolish or divisive arguments that undermine the unity of the Spirit.
When conflict or sin issues do arise within the church family, Jesus gave clear instructions for confronting the offense lovingly. In Matthew 18:15-17 he says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along…If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church.” The emphasis is on gentle, private appeal first before making a matter more public.
Scripture also teaches that church leaders have a special role in guiding families to resolve conflict biblically. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 says, “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.” Pastors and elders can provide counsel and direction when conflict creates confusion.
Hebrews 13:17 adds, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” Godly leaders can help bear the burden of resolving family conflict within the church for the good of all.
Here are some principles from Scripture about handling family conflict in the context of the church:
- Treat all church family members with respect and gentleness (1 Timothy 5:1-2)
- Avoid foolish controversies and arguments that create division (Titus 3:9-11)
- Confront sin privately and humbly; do not gossip (Matthew 18:15-17)
- Acknowledge and respect church leaders who guide families toward unity (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, Hebrews 13:17)
When conflict arises in families connected to the body of Christ, the church has a responsibility to help bring about reconciliation in a way that honors God and testifies to the power of the gospel to heal broken relationships.
Overcoming Family Conflict through Christ’s Love
In a fallen world filled with sin, conflict will inevitably occur even among family members who love each other. But the Bible provides hope that family relationships can be redeemed and restored through the power of Jesus Christ.
By turning to God’s Word for guidance, being filled with the Holy Spirit and demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit such as love, patience, kindness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), Christian families can overcome tension and hurt in a way that reflects God’s amazing grace.
Philippians 4:13 promises, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Jesus enables us to demonstrate humility, gentleness, forgiveness and perseverance even when family relationships are difficult. Through dependence on Him, we can overcome sinful attitudes and continue to love one another.
God also promises that as Christian families draw close to Him through the storms of life, they will find peace. Isaiah 26:3 assures us, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” No matter what each family member faces, God’s presence provides comfort, joy and hope.
Psalm 133:1 (ESV) powerfully declares, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” It is God’s deepest desire for all families to live together in unity and love, made possible by His Spirit. As each person follows Christ’s example of sacrifice and forgiveness, they become instruments to build godly family relationships that bring great blessing and rejoicing.
In summary, here are some key biblical truths to remember when confronting family conflict as Christians:
- Rely on the strength and wisdom of Jesus to show grace and patience (Philippians 4:13)
- Draw close to God and His Word to find peace in the midst of trials (Isaiah 26:3)
- Follow Christ’s model of sacrifice, humility and forgiveness (Matthew 16:24; Philippians 2:1-11)
- Trust God’s Spirit to produce virtue and unity in your family (Galatians 5:22-23)
- Never forget God promises blessings when families live in godly love and peace (Psalm 133:1)
In all things, the Bible encourages families to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). Focusing on Jesus and expressing constant gratitude to God for His work in your family will enable you to rise above conflict and live in hope and joy.