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
Here is Jesus’ first step in conflict resolution: Make sure it’s a big deal. The oversensitive are not going to do well in conflict resolution. Does this really matter? In our Bible passage Jesus’ first words are, “If your brother . . .” as in, someone in the family of God.
Popular today is the notion that everybody is my brother. But John 1:12 says everyone is not my brother—only those who have received Christ can I call my fellow child of God. That’s a very precious thing, a brother or a sister in Christ. Principles in Matthew 18 apply to conflict resolution with anyone, but the mandate, the must in the passage, is how we have to conduct ourselves with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
He says, “If you brother sins.” There’s the big deal. This is not a matter of personal preference. So much pain is caused in the body of Christ between people who don’t understand the difference between sin and what they happen to like or dislike. But the followers of Jesus need to appreciate the difference between personal preference and wrong-doing. Those are not the same subjects.
You and I can’t use Matthew 18 to try to force everyone to be like us. The issue has to be about sin. You must have a chapter and a verse. So forget about irritations, personality differences, and little annoyances. It has to be a big deal.
And the sin must be “against you.” There is no license here for spiritual umpiring. You haven’t been called to be the official conflict resolver in church. It has to be your business. Intentionally or unintentionally, you have to be personally offended and involved.
Here is Jesus’ second step in conflict resolution: Take action. As Jesus put it, “Go.” Don’t be casual or indifferent about it. Get it resolved. Don’t gossip, wallow, seek revenge, or deny the offense. Deal with it.
If it isn’t sin but it feels like an offense, here are two detours to peace: 1) forget about it—let it roll off your back; 2) hand it to God. Those two alternatives take care of 99% of potential conflicts.
But if it’s a big deal, go to the person. When necessary, don’t put it off.
Heavenly Father, I confess I sometimes want to put my personal preferences and convictions on the same plane with Your commands and instructions. It would be so much easier if You had simply added an eleventh commandment that stipulated my musical taste as the only acceptable one. Lord, teach me to be humble enough to ignore cases when my preferences are offended rather than the truth. At the same time, show me how to be compassionately fierce about Your truth and how to stand against sin. Keep me from trying to make little deals out of what are big deals in Your eyes.
In Jesus’ name,
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