Summary: Exposition of Matthew 18
A CHRISTIANS’ GUIDE TO CONFLICT
INTRODUCTION... The Town Sage, David Moore in Vital Speeches of the Day
Two men who lived in a small village got into a terrible dispute that they could not resolve. So they decided
to talk to the town sage. The first man went to the sage’s home and told his version of what happened. When he finished, the sage said, “You’re absolutely right.” The next night, the second man called on the sage and told his side of the story. The sage responded, “You’re absolutely right.” Afterward, the sage’s wife scolded her husband. “Those men told you two different stories and you told them they were absolutely right. That’s impossible—they can’t both be absolutely right.” The sage turned to his wife and said, “You’re absolutely right.”
If you ever come in contact with another person, there is a good chance that you will have a conflict. The church is a place that is filled with people and so there is a great chance that conflict will happen in the church as well. That is quite a true understatement: the church is full of people and so there will be conflict.
The Bible actually presents several times where there was conflict in the church:
* Acts 6:1-7 records for us that there was a conflict in the church between Grecian Jews and the Hebraic Jews over the treatment and provision of widows. The church dealt with the conflict and as a result the first deacons were installed to help provide for the physical needs of the church.
* Acts 15:1-41 and Galatians 2:1-10 together describe another conflict in the church over false teachings about Jewish customs and Gentile Christians. Verse 6 of chapter 15 tells us that the leaders of the church met to discuss the conflict and dealt with it and as a result a letter was sent to Gentile Christians affirming their standing in Christ and refuting the false teachings that had many people worried.
* Romans 14:1-7 also shares with us more conflict in the early church over pagan festivals and holy days. Some were participating and some were not. It caused great conflict. The Apostle Paul, in dealing with the conflict, commanded each of them to love one another and to guard the faith of others whether weak or strong.
* 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 records for us another conflict in the church. This conflict was so great that the Corinthian church was becoming divided and was in great peril. Paul instructed the Corinthians that they should be “perfectly united in mind and thought” (verse 10). The conflict centered around who was baptized by whom and the people sought to put themselves above others based on which person (Paul, Peter, Apollos) had baptized them. Paul sought to end the conflict by uniting them (3:1-23) all under Christ and His leadership.
What do these various passages tell us about conflict? It will happen. It will happen over theological issues. It will happen over practical issues. It will happen over political issues. It will happen over cultural issues. It will happen over personal issues. It will happen. When conflict comes to your door, what will you do? I would like us to review this morning what we are to do with conflict and how the Elders of our church have affirmed recently what we as a church body will do in dealing with conflict. We do not have to wonder in vain. Matthew 18 describes for us how to deal with conflict in our lives.
READ MATTHEW 18:15-17
Jesus teaches us in Matthew 18 a three step process for dealing with conflict. I would like you to quickly look over these three verses and see if any of the words used indicates that any of this is a suggestion. Are any of these things suggestions? Nothing in these three verses is a suggestion, but rather we find commands from the God who made us on how to deal with conflict with one another.
Matthew 18:15 begins the process of dealing with conflict. Verse 15 also tells us that if your have a problem with someone or someone has sinned against you, this is what you are to do. The very first step in the process is to go to them one on one. Jesus, in His Divine WIsdom, instructs us to first attempt to work out our differences just between ourselves. Perhaps it was just a misunderstanding and can easily be cleared up. Perhaps the person is even unaware of the hurt that has taken place by way of a mis-spoken word or action.
Jesus instructs us to begin to solve conflict and disagreements among those involved first. Why does He do that? I think He does that to aid in the process of forgiveness and to squash any resentment or bitterness that may be growing inside us. He commands us this so that we can move on. Job 21:25 reflects a little on bitterness when that verse says, “Another man dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good.” Ephesians 4:31 commands us as well to “Get rid of all bitterness.” The first step in dealing with conflict is one that is simple and it allows us to deal quickly with our differences and to move on with our lives. It rids us of resentment and bitterness and allows no place for Satan to gain a foothold... and there is nothing Satan likes more than two Christians mad at each other.