For the next three weeks, I’ll be posting regarding some area that touches the present series of messages I’m delivering at First Assembly Community Ministries called “Stronger”. “Stronger” is a series of messages focused on becoming stronger at relationships, particularly relationships in the family. (You can learn more about the “Stronger” series by clicking here.
Today, I’m addressing resolving conflict. Jesus talked about interpersonal relationships a lot. Christianity may be distinguished in one way because of how it focuses on relating well with others. Below, I’d like to look at a famous and significant passage on how to resolve conflict from Matthew 18 where Jesus gives us five clear principles related to resolving conflict.
“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. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
18 “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:15-20)
1. Confrontation is best addressed immediately, directly and personally (v. 15). If you need to solve a problem with another person, Jesus “go to them”. Email, text, and even phone calls are less than the strongest and clearest paths to communication. Go deal with it right way and speak clearly to the issue to the person who has offended or hurt you.
2. Only after a failed attempt at resolution, should other parties enter a dispute (vv.16-17). Too many of us bring others into our problems with others long before we actually talk with the other person. Jesus’ clear teaching here is that the circle of offense is meant to remain small at first, between just two parties.
3. Forgiveness and reconciliation, as well as unforgiveness and estrangement, have far-reaching social and further-reaching spiritual consequences (v. 18). When we truly forgive, and when we bind people up in unforgiveness, Jesus seems to indicate, reality in heaven and earth are altered.