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
Today we begin a study of one of the most oft-quoted and under-used portions of God’s Word. Over the course of several devotionals, we will touch on eight steps Jesus specified in the process of conflict resolution. When you get into conflict with somebody, it’s not at all unusual to hear Christians who know a little say, Have you followed Matthew 18? Unfortunately, when asked, many of these well-meaning people cannot actually explain the process Jesus laid out. We want to make some progress in that regard.
It’s probably not hard to bring to mind the name and face of someone with whom you have unresolved conflict. Maybe it’s somebody you used to work with who undercut you in the market place, or said something negative that injured your reputation. Perhaps it’s an extended family member. Or maybe it’s one of your parents who said something that shouldn’t have been said. And things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. The same can be painfully true if you have unresolved conflict with one of your children.
We can’t avoid conflict. It’s just a part of life. There is even going to be conflict between the followers of Jesus. The Lord Himself said, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” (Luke 17:1). Conflicts are huge temptations to sin. The phrase temptations to sin is a translation of the Greek word skandala which literally means stumbling block and from which we get our word scandal. Jesus told His disciples these potential scandals and offenses were “sure to come.” When they do come, they often show up as conflicts.
The question is: How do we resolve those conflicts and clashes? If we know something is unavoidable, it makes sense to have a plan of action for when the occasion arises. Keep in mind the names and faces representing discord in your life as we start through Matthew 18:15-17 and Jesus’ eight steps to conflict resolution. We plan to handle two steps in each of the devotions that follow. I think you’ll see them clearly in the text. And we will ask the Spirit of God to prompt us out of obedience to Scripture to take some action toward resolution.
Father, as I think about conflicts in my life, I can’t help but feel emotions and memories of pain, shame, and heartache. Forgive me for conflicts I have caused, intentionally or accidentally. Help me see in Your Word some steps I can take to resolve these matters once for all. Guard me from only seeing myself as the victim; hold me accountable to the responses You expect Your children to have when life’s conflicts and difficulties come. I long to see You bring about glory for Yourself out of my life.
In Jesus’ name,
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