Last week we started to talk about how we’re to resolve differences. This applies not only to the church; but in marriages and families, in work relationships, and in friendships as well. We saw the first three principles in resolving differences are: 1. Know who your enemy is (and it’s not people Eph 6:10-12) 2. Know that Jesus hates disunity (Prv 6:16-19, Jn 17:20-21). 3. Know that the first will be last, and the least shall be the greatest (Lk 9:48, Mt 20:16). Knowing these things will actually help you avoid many conflicts before they ever happen. However, things will come up in relationships that need to be dealt with. In that case, the Bible tells us exactly what to do. Let’s get into God’s Word.
In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus tells us the steps we need to take to resolve our differences. These steps are: 1. Go to the person alone 2. If that doesn’t work, take 2 or 3 more people (arbitration) 3. If that doesn’t work, take it before the whole church (through the pastor, of course) 4. If that doesn’t work, pray for them and try to win them to Christ (because obviously, they’re not saved). Real basic. Real simple. Rarely done. We usually just get mad and leave, and then go complain and gripe to everybody else; except to the person we have the issue with. Of course this is the world’s way; but sadly, Christians typically do the same thing. These things ought not to be.
First, with a spirit of humility, go to the person. I’d think this would solve the overwhelming majority of issues between two people. If we as Christians would just practice this one thing, I believe there would be very little strife in the church. Just go to the person!!! I think the reason most people don’t, is because their problem is so petty it would be embarrassing to bring it up. But if it’s a legitimate problem, then go to the person alone and try to work it out before you involve anyone else (Prov 25:9, Lev 19:17). This is the way of Christ Jesus.
The person being confronted needs to be humble as well, and willing to receive a reproof. Way too many Christians wear their emotions on their sleeve; and the slightest correction or reproof devastates them. That’s a sorry, non-Christian attitude. Look up these Scriptures to see how you should handle reproof and instruction (Ps 141:5, Prov 1:5, 6:23, 9:8-9, 13:18, 15:5, 19:25, 25:12, 27:5-6, 28:23). We should welcome correction when we need it (done in love from a pure heart; not by manipulation or domination). That’s what a wise man does.
If going to them alone doesn’t work (assuming they’re still at the church, and haven’t hit the road), then take 2 or 3; one of them being the pastor. The pastor doesn’t even need to know about the first step in my opinion (unless he’s one of the two involved), but he does need to be a part of the second. The few things that aren’t cleared up by step one, should be taken care of here. A friendly, sit down, family discussion. Again, this doesn’t happen often; but it should.
If, after much prayer and patience, and every attempt made to settle the dispute, the person still doesn’t want to make things right; then Jesus said to take it before the church (through the pastor, see Heb. 13:7, 17, 1Pt 5:1-3). We’re not talking about someone who is struggling with an issue or sin in their life, and is receiving counseling and prayer. We are talking about someone who is just blatantly rejecting the counsel of God’s Word and His church; and doesn’t even feel an ounce of remorse or conviction about it (1Cor 5:1-6). There is a big difference between the two heart attitudes.
After all of these efforts are made, and there is still no change (realistically, they would already be at a church down the street or in another town); then we are to treat that person as a mission field. They are not a brother or sister in Christ; they are a lost person who needs Jesus.
Unfortunately, I cannot elaborate more on these things because of space; but hopefully you’ve gained some insight into the basic principles of resolving differences. Although aimed more at the church, these truths will work well for you in most relationships that you have. I pray you will put these things into practice, and until next time, rejoice in the Lord!