It’s amazing to me how often adults — and even church-going adults — completely ignore the fact that Scripture actually gives us instructions about how to handle interpersonal conflicts. Still, even church leaders can fall prey to the temptation to angrily or publicly air their frustrations, gossip about others, or demonstrate passive-aggressive behavior toward someone who has sinned. We need to make sure we follow biblical principles as we deal with teenagers, whether they’re our own children or others. Why? Well, that’s a good question. And it has even better answers.
Ultimately, if we believe God has the right to authority over us, we need to submit to Him as our Lord. That doesn’t mean choosing which biblical mandates to follow and which to pretend we’ve never read or heard. (After all, we want our kids or students listening to all our instructions, don’t we?!) Submitting to God’s authority ultimately pleases Him because it demonstrates our faith and trust in Him. In Isaiah 55:9, the prophet seems to get this concept: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s ways aren’t just distinct from our own: They are better, higher, superior to ours.
The basic gist of Matthew 18 (be sure to read the entire chapter for a refresher) encompasses both the attitude and order in which we address conflicts. Because God created us, He knows what we’re made of (Psalm 103:14), and He knows the best way to get to our hearts. When people talk about us behind our backs or publicly outline our failings, our hearts are more likely to become hardened than when someone lovingly, privately, and individually comes to us about it.
Of course, the context of Matthew 18 is that of the local church, but I believe it’s reasonable to expect the same kind of initial conflict-resolution methods in any relationship between believers. Not only does it demonstrate iron-sharpening-iron relationships, but it also relies on an existing basis: The desire for the other person to enjoy an unhampered fellowship with God. This desire requires not only a personal walk of constant self-examination and spiritual-mindedness, but it also requires a spiritual aspect to the individual relationship. In other words, it’s one of many motivations for being and doing what we should already be and do as believers.
If we don’t model biblical conflict-resolution methods for the teens under our influence, we’ll minimize the chances of their attempting to do so themselves. They need to see what godly living looks like. Just as God gave Christ to us as a living, breathing example of how to live, He uses us in the lives of others, as we follow Him (1 Cor. 11:1).
As you seek to biblically address issues in the lives of the teens you love, repentance and restoration are always the goal. God’s own plan for our redemption and restoration required great sacrifice, and as we model His compassion and self-sacrifice, the teens in our lives will see Christ in us.