Can’t we all just get along? Unfortunately, the answer is no. In a perfect world we live together in harmony, but in reality we’re sinners who sometimes struggle to see eye to eye.
Jesus understands our human nature and knows we need tools to handle offenses among us, so He provides a simple and effective model. If you’ve been in Christian community for any period of time, you’re probably familiar with Matthew 18, a concisely written, time-tested, conflict-resolution strategy.
Not only is it preached from the pulpit, but quoted in the bylaws of every homeschool group or organization our family has joined.
In Matthew 18:15-16, Jesus states:
“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established.”
As a people-pleasing peacemaker, my stomach squirms just thinking about telling someone they’ve offended me. What if they misunderstand my intentions or I offend them too?
Too often I ignore the biblical directive of Matthew 18 and hold onto hurt feelings or anger because I fear the outcome.
But what might happen if we avoid this hard step toward reconciliation?
- We won’t realize if we misunderstood the other person’s words or intention.
- We’ll be more likely to talk to others about it, which could lead to gossip.
- We hold onto anger, bitterness, or resentment instead of offering forgiveness.
- We become preoccupied with the offense and lose our focus on and joy in the Lord.
- We miss the opportunity to restore fellowship with a brother or sister in Christ.
Jesus’ command (I would call it advice, but it’s given as specific instruction) is directed toward believers and should be handled with love and humility. It falls within the context of Christian community and will work most effectively within those bounds.
Will it be easy? Probably not, but I’ve witnessed a healed, loving relationship where anger and animosity existed because a friend had the courage to follow this model. I know she would say the result is worth the discomfort it took to get there.
So why does Matthew 18 work? It works because of love: we express His love within us when we seek reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in Christ when they hurt or offended us.
You can turn your back on an enemy, but we should always try to restore fellowship with those we love.
Can you share a time when a brother or sister in Christ offended you (or vice versa) and the situation was resolved using the Matthew 18 model, or is there a situation in your life where you need to apply this principle?
by Dawn Camp @ My Home Sweet Home, editor and photographer The Beauty of Grace