As I put together the post for yesterday, I was not really considering the implications of the song I posted on there. It is a song about forgiveness that we receive when we come back to God. What I didn’t realize was how God was planning to remind me of this through this song. You see, it seems to me that we enjoy receiving grace, but are maybe a little more reticent to extend it to others. Yet, isn’t that what grace is all about?
There seems to be a never-ending amount of conflict in the world. Conflict comes at us from people we love and from people we don’t know. I know I get positive and negative feedback on all sorts of things. That is just the nature of life. But how are we to handle that sort of thing? It seems like social media, text messages and other forms of communication are making conflict resolution very difficult. It is so easy just to tweet something or write something without thinking about how it might affect other people.
The Bible provides us with a simple pattern for conflict resolution. It isn’t difficult and many people would avoid hardships in relationships if they just followed it. You see this all comes back to what God has done for us. He has rescued us from our sin. The passage in Matthew 18 on conflict is nestled in the middle of a narrative about lost sheep being found. What is the goal of it? It is to save the person. If we apply that to conflict, it is to “win them over.” It is not to gloat that you were right and they were wrong.
“If you brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” – Matthew 18:15
The goal here is never revenge or harm, it is to help them and the relationship you have with them. This brings glory to God; it honors Him. The key to this is love. The steps listed here are quite simple: 1- Go to the person who has offended you and tell them. 2- If they refuse to talk about it or aren’t convinced, bring someone with you. 3- If it still is not resolved get the church involved. If that doesn’t work, we are told to part ways. The truth is that so much could be different if this were to be followed. (Matthews 18:15-17) We received God’s love and therefore we are to give that love out to other people. That means forgiving other people for what they do to you because you have been forgiven. This is the part that can be so easily forgotten.
Another component of conflict is how it represents us as believers. Churches are often filled with conflict that wouldn’t need to be there. Then the accusations are made or people leave because they don’t want to be around that sort of conflict. Oh, how much could be avoided if we were to just communicate clearly!
As I read Matthew 18, I see 5 implications for us in ministry and in life. There are probably more, but this is what I see right now.
1- You have a responsibility to live God honoring lives and help others do the same.
2- You have a responsibility to make sure your actions are not damaging relationships.
3- You have a responsibility to make sure you are not hurting other people by actions or words. (If talk is cheap, someone is paying)
4- You are responsible to love others as Christ loved you.
5- You are responsible to model how to live in godly relationships to those around you.
“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. – 1 Peter 2:12)
What else would you add to this? What would it be like if all Christians lived this out?