Alright let’s be brutally honest.
People can be very annoying sometimes, for a variety of reasons lol.
Whether or not they mean it intentionally, offence always comes our way.
Thankfully, we Christians never have to deal with such sticky situations, because quite frankly, we are just beyond awesome…
What I really meant to say was, often times the greatest conflict among believers is that between other believers.
More often than not, great conflict arises between brothers and sisters in Christ for a variety of reasons.
Thankfully, Christ was not oblivious to this reality and provided us with clear instructions from scripture on how to handle this.
1. Confront the Offender
“If 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”Matthew 18:15
To be honest with you, many at times when I have a problem with somebody (or some people), my first instinct is to contact my fiance and rant about said individual/ people.
To be frank with you, in the moment it feels rather relieving. In most cases, post rant, I would pray to God and ask Him to give me the patience to endure the offence…Sounds beautiful right?
Do you know what I fail to do in most situations?
CONFRONTING. THE. OFFENDER.
Many at times when people offend us, we aim to tell everyone and their dog about the situation before even considering confrontation.
However, as scripture clearly states, our first course of action is to address the offender of their wrongs alone. In the rand scheme of things, this is an act of love. For all you know, they might have never understand how they sinned against you.
Also, take note of the word “brother”
Personally, I believe this instruction alone would resolve a lot of on-going conflicts within the Christian community if approached correctly.
Nevertheless, scripture has additional tips if this fails.
2. Friendly Intervention
16 But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnessesMatthew 18:16 AMP
If the first tip suggested in Matthew 18:15 doesn’t work, invite one or two believers into the mix in order to resolve the issue.
Now the purpose of bringing along other witnesses is not to “gang” up on the individual to declare their wrong doing. The simple purpose is so that “every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses”. They serve as witnesses to the conflict and the attempt at a resolution.
For all you know, when the offence is discussed among the group, you may find out that you were rather in the wrong.
Find one or two believers that you trust and invite them into the conflict, not for sake of “tea” lol, but for peace.
For most of us, this requires a level of vulnerability that we’re not used to. To invite others into a personal dispute may be really uncomfortable and damaging to your pride. However, in the grand scheme of things, it is a beautiful sight to our Lord, seeing the unity displayed at an attempt of peace within the body of Christ.
Now, if things still have yet to be resolved from this, Jesus advises us of yet another method.
3. Bring it up the the Church Leadership
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church…Matthew 18:17a ESV
Honestly, this is the step that seems most uncomfortable to me.
If telling one or two individuals wasn’t uncomfortable enough, imagine sharing the issue among an entire congregation.
Nevertheless, this is the means by which Christ intended for the church to function.
So practically, how does this look like?
Do we simply go to church on a Sunday morning, request to share a testimony, and disclose the conflict publicly before the congregation? Honestly, some might suggest that this would be an appropriate way to go assuming it is done out of love.
However, I am persuaded to say that there is a more orderly way to approach this:
Go through the leaders of the church. Scriptures like Hebrews 13:17 encourages us to submit to our leaders, allowing them to keep watch over our souls with joy.
Approach the leadership of the church, and discuss the matter to them and trust their judgement with how they handle the information.
As truthful as these teachings are, it’s hard for me to even type out if without any level of discomfort.
Why? Because honestly, it’s very challenging to trust people in general let alone a group of individuals you consistently on a weekly basis.
Point is there is a lot of discomfort and trust required in order to attain peace, but our hope is not so much in people, but rather Christ Himself who knows better than all. Otherwise, we will always have a just cause to not allow for any sort of intervention outside of ourselves.
4. Treat them as a Gentile..and Tax Collector?
…And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.Matthew 18:17b ESV
If there is still no success at attaining peace, Jesus had one final instruction:
Treat them as gentiles or tax collectors
Simply put, a gentiles are described to a race or nation distinct from Israel. Non-Jewish individuals.
To put things into context it’s important to note that Jesus was in the midst of His disciples (who were Jewish) when speaking these truths in Matthew 18. It should also be noted that up until Acts 10, there are no records of non-Jewish believers of Christ. Henceforth, when Christ instructs His disciples to treat the offender who refuses to listen as a gentile, the Jews would’ve perceived this be “outsiders” or even “unbelievers”.
Here’s what’s interesting however. Christ consistently reached sinners. Mark 2:15-17 describes how Christ literally ate with sinners & tax collectors.
Oh and another thing…one of the disciples of Christ was a tax collector (Matthew 9:9-13). He also happens to be the physical author of the book of Matthew.
I can only imagine the reaction of Matthew as Christ provided these instructions to His disciples. He experienced the tangible experience of how Christ treated tax collectors. Love and gentleness
All this to say what exactly?
In the unfortunate event that a brother or sister in Christ is not restored in the faith amidst a conflict, treat them as you would an unbeliever.
A simple question we can ask ourselves is, “how should we treat our friends who are unbelievers?”
The answer to this question is how we ought to treat the brother or sister in Christ who refuses to listen to the church in the midst of a conflict.
Be hopeful toward their restoration.
Pray for them.
Do not see them as an enemy.
Do not associate in any sinful actions they might engage in.
Consider this scripture below:
5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.Colossians 4:5-6
A couple of extra tips I would like to highlight when dealing with conflict in the church:
- Don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26)
- Seek peace, don’t wait for someone else to make the first move (Matthew 5:9)
- Make all attempts to avoid suing another brother or sister in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:1-8)
Truth is, we’ve all been offended in some way and more than likely have offended others.
In the end of all things, we are encouraged to pursue peace and restoration at all costs, rather than hateful actions and unforgiving hearts.
As easy as it may seem to “cut” individuals out of your life and move on, let’s make efforts to follow the example of Christ and work towards reconciliation.
Soli Deo Gloria