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
Ifeoma Samuel says
Hi Dawn, thank you for your words of wisdom today. I used to find it difficult saying when I am hurt! But it doesn’t work. It is better to do it with love and let someone who has offended know about it. As you rightly mentioned miscommunication may just be in-between somewhere.
Dawn Camp says
Miscommunication is so easy – right? – but worth clearing up.
Ifeoma Samuel says
Hi Dawn, the seems to be speaking to me today. I am in a women conference and this same thing is what is being shared.
Thank you for allowing God minster through you.
God bless Dawn, I am grateful.
Dawn Camp says
Would you believe I heard this same message all weekend too? Thank you for the encouragement.
Ifeoma Samuel says
Awesome! sometimes when God is trying to reach someone, He presents lots of coincidences. I love this!
Many Blessings Dawn
Esther Thompson says
I believe that it isn’t just coincidences; more like God nudges!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I’m usually pretty good at forgiving, but expressing hurt can be a different story. Your post made me realize that there is some hurt I’m holding onto and the only person it destroys is me. I believe there IS someone I need to confront in love. Thank you for the gentle nudge forward. In ALL situations we can rely on God’s given Word…how wonderful is that?
Dawn Camp says
Bev, praying the conversation you need to have is received in love.
Joanne Peterson says
This is very good, practical, for us loving information. I’m finding out the hard way, through practice and experience to confront. Just this week, I’ve had very good results. But, it’s hard to do as you said. But, a relationship restored, or a relationship formed is worth it. Thank you for the confirmation!
Dawn Camp says
Joanne, you are so welcome. It’s easier for me to say than practice, but as you said, the results can be very good.
I don’t like conflict but I do like to try and resolve things. I am very forgiving and I accept that not everyone is. But when you do reach out and get nothing but silence I admit it can be hard.
Thank-you for your helpful and reassuring post this morning.
Dawn Camp says
Penny, I’m sorry for the situation where you received no response. You just have to do the right thing and hope it’s well-received.
Rebecca Jones says
I have had this happen, just misunderstandings, what someone thought you said, I agree to speak to them in love, offenses hinder blessings. I have also had people to not respond, so I just leave that to the Lord.
Dawn Camp says
Love your words: offenses hinder blessings. And yes, often it’s just a misunderstanding, right?
Beth Williams says
If people hold onto anger, bitterness, or resentment instead of offering forgiveness it will only hurt them. It can cause all kinds of stress, anxiety, and other health issues. All that is needed is a little tenderness topped off with some Christian love!! It can be hard, but pray beforehand and let God lead you and miracles can happen!!
But what do you do when you’ve tried to reconcile and the person who hurt you refuses to see that they’ve done anything wrong and they are placing ALL the blame on you and you’re just stuck there disappointed and devastated and confused as to how you even got here in the first place? People say “Don’t worry about it!” and “You didn’t do anything wrong, it’s their issue, not yours!” and “Just forget about them, they obviously weren’t your friends…” But all of that is so much easier said than done! How do you come to peace with the end of a “friendship” when it just doesn’t make sense?!
That is what I’m wondering Kristen. I tried this and the response was venom filled about how I make everything exaggerated. And that was more hurt on top of the original pain.
Joan Curtis says
Kristen, I know, from experience, that you can “beat yourself up” with “why’s” for days, weeks, even months “trying” to figure this out. Because, when it doesn’t make sense, and you feel you’ve done your part to resolve and forgive and are denied, it sets your soul on a search for peace and understanding that can really only come one way.
Psalm 139:23 -24 says, Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Kristen, this is the only way to have peace in a situation like this. You are only responsible for your heart and soul. Listen as you pray this scripture for yourself, humble yourself before God and forgive as you’ve been forgiven. Release the other person to God because, like for you, He is their only hope as well.
With your heart and soul clean before God released the situation into Him hands and walk away….if you pick it back up, just give it back!
Been there before, will be praying for you!
Love in Christ.
Chris Magness says
I have THIS same situation and keep wondering the very same thing. At this moment I keep trying to release it over and over to the Lord… But sure comes back to haunt me. Time seems to ease the situation but keep wondering if I’m supposed to do even more. Hmmmm. I Hear you loud and clear! Thanks for sharing your same struggle.
Melody Gale says
Sometimes God closes doors. At let me honestly say, that can be really, really HARD. I have to do what God asks me to do then I have to give the situation over to Him. I have to trust His timing. I have to trust Him with the outcome. Some situations can be resolved quickly. Some take a long time. Some I am still praying over but not obsessing over. Injustice is challenging to deal with. Losing a connection with someone you care about it painful. Jesus understands this. Go to Him.
Sometimes the only thing to do is kick the dust off your sandals and move on–emotionally, mentally, and physically if necessary. Not all who wear the title of Christ are your brother; sometimes they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, church antagonists, whose sole purpose is to devour you. They are real and dangerous to the gospel of peace.
Brenda Brown says
I am so grateful for the message this morning!! I have been dealing with this same type of situation on my job. I have been having feelings of anger, discontentment, and discouragement. I have even considered walking out on my job!! All because of miscommunication. I have failed to go to the person that has caused this. Instead I find myself going to others. This is wrong. I will talk to the person that has offended me and clear up the wreckage. I will also ask for forgiveness.
Dawn, thank you for the reminder to do what frees us, forgive. When Matthew 18 is followed miracles happen, relationships and broken hearts are mended. When we forgive others we free ourselves because unforgiving thoughts always hurt us first, and the most. The Lord is very clear – take the step of faith to mend the relationship, irrespective of the anticipated response. Leave the outcomes to Him.
Mary Martens says
Thank you for today’s devotion. I have read many of the comments and would like to share a bit of my story and just how faithful God is when we obey his word.
My mom passed in 2009 leaving my dad here and the whole dynamic of my family changed…..it was like the gloves came off and anything goes!
My siblings and I are in our late 40’s mid 50’s. There are a lot of dynamics here that I will not get into, but bitterness and unforgiveness were running rampant. Long story but I my brother and I were kept away from my father with no contact allowed whatsoever.
I prayed and prayed. I wanted so hard to be the peacekeeper and make things right but the Holy Spirit along with Godly friends told me to wait on the Lord. Well in 2014 God spoke to me without a doubt. I received a letter from my sister! I was excited yet scared to open it. As I read it I realized it was an old letter thanking me for a meatloaf. I looked at the postmark and it was postmarked in 2009 exactly to the day I was receiving it in 2014…..wow!!!
I knew I had to make the initial contact and ask for forgivness for my part in things. Long story short God worked in ways I didn’t expect. I thought it was all to reconcile with my sisters but they were not ready to let go of the resentments.
BUT we did reconcile long enough for me to see my dad, tell him I loved him and get a great big hug!
Three months later my dad passed away and I thank God everyday that he relieved me of a burden of regret that would have haunted me until the day I died.
I was obediant and God was faithful…..and as always answers prayers beyond what we think is supposed to happen.
Thank you Jesus!
Reliable Carpet & Upholstery C says
For inter-personal conflicts, you are right, Dawn. We must look to Matthew 18 and other similar passages for guidance on how to once again get “right” with your neighbor, and then practice it. It’s not easy, and sometimes you get a figurative slap in the face in return.
But there are so many other conflicts in today’s world (just look at any newspaper), so much pain, so much persecution of Christians, so much intolerance, so much killing of each other – all these go beyond what Matthew says. For help with these larger issues, we must look beyond Matthew to Jesus Himself, the Prince of Peace. Only He can help us, only He can guide us, and only if we as a nation pray fervently to Him. I heard that in today’s sermon and our Prayer Chain will be meeting this coming week for a special evening of prayer devoted to peace in the world. Pray with us in your heart. He will hear our supplication.
Joanna Lieberman says
Unfortunately when I followed this a while back with a parent of one of my children’s classmates, I was told “oh well, that’s the way it is”. Things have continued to get worse between my daughter and this other girl.
Ann Thiede says
Actually, Dawn, I was just on the receiving end a few weeks ago. Totally caught off-guard and unaware, I expressed my sorrow that I had hurt my friend though it was years ago and asked forgiveness. Jesus helped me drop all temptation to go on the defensive. Whether I knew it or not, she had been hurt. So reconciliation was needed. She responded so well, even with surprise that I would humble myself. God knows my struggle with pride and He’s gently been teaching me to let go of myself. The situation turned from sorrow to joy and peace. Only with God taking the lead.
Thanks Dawn for this beautiful piece. I’d be preaching on ‘Learning to love by forgiving’ this Sunday and will be sharing some of your insights. More of God’s grace.
Roxanne Yannul says
Diki B says
Hi Dawn, I just came across this article and really liked what you wrote. What i’m wondering is i’m caught between two friends of mine who have issues with each other. Jill (not real name) is saved and Liz (not real name), says she is but she doesn’t exhibit any of the characteristics of a true child of God. When Jill’s husband (also Liz’s brother) passed away 4 years ago Liz wanted to be in control of everything and said very cruel and hurtful things to Jill. Jill says she’s forgiven Liz, but she gets very upset and defensive to the point of vehemently declaring “no way” at the mere mention of us doing anything together. She also gets very defensive and edgy when she knows Liz is going to be at the same gathering we are going to be at. I try to calm her down, but i really don’t know how to handle this response from her. Liz on the other hand thinks she has done nothing wrong and is still angry at Jill because she didn’t like the way Jill handled her brother’s affairs and the funeral, which really was for Jill to handle because it was her husband. I mean, seriously? Life is too short for this. I’ve had people tell me i forgive to easily/quickly, but i’d much rather be this way instead of hanging on to past grievances. Anyway, do you have any suggestions on how i might be able to help Jill get past this or should i just leave it alone. It just bothers me because anger and unforgiveness are such joy robbers and i hate to see her so stuck in this place. Please can you give me some advice. I’m more concerned about Jill at this point because she is a Christian. Thank you! I’m sorry i didn’t mean to write a book.
It is good what you have shared today but impossible if the other person doesn’t want to reconcile
Elisa K. says
When the reconciliation happens in Christ, it’s the best.
But sadly, I’ve have to have no contact boundaries with the people who were not willing to acknowledge what happened. And would not talk to me about the situation I wanted to speak the truth in love about.
Plus, their body and facial language behaviour showed condemnation and a type of shunning covered up with polite but only surface sugar coated niceties.
And two times, people who were really close to me betrayed my trust in them. By condemning, showing impatience and then expecting me to do their version of reconciliation. Forget what happened. One of them. I eventually had to have no contact due to the problem of her always blaming the issues all on me, but taking no responsibility of her part in the problem. I always had to apologize to get the peacemaking I wanted.
The other person used to be able to talk it out. But after issues in her life were stressing her out she started to do the same as the other person. We kind of amicably but not perfectly were able to do the no contact with the help of the pastor of my old home church.
Both times I had to gently reinforce the no contact boundary since they were trying to guilt trip me into their version of reconciliation.
This sadly, not spoken of enough. What I have learned from scripture and via christian resources that are biblical. Is that I can, by my free will choice, choose to forgive as Jesus has forgiven me. And my reason to forgive is Christ.
And I need to face the pain and ask for His healing. This part is hard. Since I was a child I learned to suppress anger inwards towards myself. And this means also dealing with pain and fear and heart wounds. I recently watched videos of Dr. Neil T. Anderson, a ministry uploaded on Youtube. The book Steps to Freedom in Christ that he wrote helped me. And the video on forgiveness made me realize what I need to do with my christian counselor. Hopefully this will help me not be afraid of been part of a church fellowship anymore.
And be free to feel the connection I felt to God’s Holy Spirit in Christ Jesus and His Word, again. Like when I was born again at 19. But better, with christian maturity. I want to grow. I want to be gracious as Jesus is gracious to me.