“Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him
his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you,
you have gained your brother.”
Thoughts… Jesus understood that one of the greatest threats to life in Kingdom would be disharmony in the family of God. Conflicts between brothers and sisters in Christ could potentially derail God’s purposes in the local fellowship and give Satan the upper hand if they weren’t handled properly.
So he provided his twelve disciples—and by extension, followers in every age, including you and me—a template for conflict resolution.
To resolve a conflict with a God-honoring outcome, the most foundational and critical principle that must be followed comes from the first part of Christ’s words: “If a brother sins against you.” The offended party must assess whether the offense was truly a sin, or if it was simply an act that irritated or violated their personal preferences.
In my experience facilitating conflict resolution over the years, much of what people find offensive never rises to the level of a sin that needs to be confronted. In these cases, the offended party was, in reality, the culprit, and simply needed to grow thicker skin, develop greater tolerance, and/or learn to more effectively communicate their upset with the offender with grace and love.
Another essential to conflict resolution, once it has been determined that the offense was indeed the result of a sin, is to do it privately, just between the two parties. Many people are far too trigger happy at this point, going right to group involvement rather than first going privately to the individual. If you have not addressed your hurt with the offender, do not take it to others and try to get them on your side. That kind of action will not be honored by God, and it will not produce reconciliation.
Jesus does provide a clause by which others should be drawn into the dispute in verses 16-20. These participants should be godly and objective representatives of Christ’s church (not necessarily church officials—simply mature Christians). Christ himself has placed his mantle of authority on this group to settle the dispute and if needs be, administer discipline to an unrepentant brother or sister—discipline that will stand up even in the courts of heaven.
And a final essential to conflict resolution is that the desired outcome it restoration. Jesus said, “If he hears you, you have gained a brother.” Unfortunately, some people believe that getting what they want is the goal. It is not. Resolving the dispute, forgiving the offence, restoring the relationship, and preserving the harmony of the church is what is most honoring to God.
Conflict is an unavoidable fact of life—in general and in the family of God. It can either be a cause for fractured relationships and deep hurt, or it can be an opportunity for personal, relational growth, spiritual and Kingdom growth.
Though not always easy, if we simply follow Christ’s template for conflict resolution, we will experience the latter.
Prayer… Father God, teach me to so absorb these principles of conflict resolution that I will be highly skilled in one of the greatest areas of need in your family—restoration of bruised and broken relationships. Use me today to bring peace, forgiveness and harmony to your church.
One More Thing… “Snowflakes are frail, but if enough of them get together they can stop traffic.” —Vance Havner