walk in the word
15If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. —Matthew 18:15-17
So far we have looked at four steps in conflict resolution: 1) Make sure it’s a big deal; 2) Take action; 3) Be specific; 4) Private at first. These are all proactive and will generate some kind of response. If they listen, agree, and repent, “you have gained your brother.” The conflict has been resolved.
But what if the person’s not listening? What if they turn away?
Here is Jesus’ fifth step in conflict resolution: Increase the pressure by involving others. Verse 16 says, “But if he does not listen.” The idea is listens and takes action not just lets you say your stuff. You know when a person’s listening, really listening. “But if he does not listen,” the Word of God says, “take one or two,” not three or four. This is not intervention by a small multitude; choose two people.
How should you choose them? Take someone who knows both of you. Choose someone who is mature in the faith and has discernment. An effective witness is objective and cares about both sides. Don’t take your mom, okay? Take somebody who loves both people and who can stand in the middle and maybe tell you some things too. Increase the pressure by involving others. You say, Man, this seems like a big hassle. Why would I do all this? I’d rather just forget about the person. Well, the reason you do it is because you say you love God, and this matters to God.
Jesus’ sixth step in conflict resolution: Just the facts. Stay on topic. Jesus was referring to Deuteronomy 19:15 when He said, “That every charge may be established.” We are verifying whether this issue is legitimate or bogus. The first time I went to the person, we were trying to work everything out between us. But we had a hard time getting our views to line up. So we went and got some guys to help us, realizing the final resolution will probably be partly you’re right and partly I’m right. Others can wisely say, Well, you’re right about this, but you’re not really hearing her in that area. This can be an amazingly helpful process. Someone impartial listens to keep us on topic.
Others can help us cut the dramatic and avoid assumptions about motives. God will honor our efforts to keep the bond of peace He provides.
Father, Your principles for handling conflict remind me again of the importance of living out my relationship with You in relation to others. Thank You for showing me responsibility starts between two people, but others may be needed to resolve conflict. Thank You for the value of brothers and sisters who can observe, listen, and speak into situations for those who are too close to see it all clearly. Thank You for the role You give each of us and the role You give all of us in Your kingdom.
In Jesus’ name,
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