I’ve been in ministry for over 30 years and I like to think I know a little about conflict. Sometimes I created conflict (youth ministry, am I right?) and sometimes it found me no matter how fast I ran from it.
Conflict permeates the pages of scripture but scripture also gives a way to resolve conflict wisely. Conflict has its’ good uses. Without conflict no good ideas reach their best, no story would be interesting, no forgiveness would be needed and no love would be experienced.
Conflict is an opportunity for deeper growth and discipleship. To be honest, conflict is not something to be avoided but processed.
This is part one in a three part series on conflict in the church and how to avoid unnecessary conflict while resolving the worth while conflicts. You can check out part two here.
The first kind of conflict we have is personal conflict. This kind of disagreement is found when two people have an issue. This issue could be anything from not liking the way someone is treating you or how they are treating someone you know to someone is doing damage behind your back with gossip and lies.
Jesus addresses this kind of conflict in Matthew 8:15-16
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Every conflict is not a sin, but sin always involves conflict. Someone who does not like Star Wars is not a sin, maybe, but if they start saying that all the new Star Wars movies ruined their childhood, etc. then I might have a conflict with them. This is not a life altering, deal breaker for our relationship. We can over come this, maybe.
Sin always creates a conflict if a person in the church, a follower of Jesus (not always the same) violates a code of conduct Jesus or scripture has clearly outlined as something harmful to the unity of the Body of Christ. So, how does Jesus say we should handle someone who has “sinned” against us or caused an offense?
Handle conflict one one one
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.
Once again, what offends one person does not offend another, but if you harm a brother or sister in Christ or they offend you, this is to be done personally. Face to face is always best because texting has no context and emojis are confusing. When Adam sinned, God came to him directly. God did not snap a pic of Adam and Even sinning and tag them in picture on Instagram or in the sky, He went to them directly.
No one likes conflict. It makes people nervous and squeamish, but the end result of conflict, handled correctly, is love re-established between to people who love Jesus.
Bring others for clarity
But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
This seems like Jesus is advocating bullying but he is not. Jesus is helping a person who has been sinned against establish justice for the sake of unity. Sometimes, if there was a financial dispute, having 2-3 people listen to the conversation was to establish if a sin had actually taken place or was this about nothing. It also prevented believers from acting like squabbling children in a court of law.
The people you bring into a conversation should act as witnesses and impartial judges rather than enforcers of your point of view.
One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. Deuteronomy 19:15
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
This is a last recourse for someone who is causing such disruption is requires the church body to know. In cases where the offender is in some leadership capacity, this course of action is required. The people of the church need to know that every measure was taken to resolve the matter in the case of leader who has been causing the conflict. Every case of conflict does not require you to offer weekly announcements of someone who disagreed with someone else, although this would make church announcement more interesting. The goal of taking a leader or high profile member to task is, ultimately, restoration not humiliation.
In the end, the person who you tried to reconcile with, through one on one conversations and mediation, may feel very strongly about their point of view or may be obstinate in their sin to the point where fellowshipping with them would be toxic. In these cases Jesus says it’s better to move on and leave those people to learn from their mistakes. We, as believers and as the Church, should always leave room for repentance and remorse for those who realize the error of their ways.
Remember, Jesus said,
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
This whole talk was inspired because a young man in the UK purchased a custom video from me on Fiverr. You can watch the message below. If I can do a custom message for you, check out what I offer here.