Summary: Jesus was no fool. He knew that the Church would have its conflicts - so he gave us instructions on how to resolve them. Sdaly we so rarely believe him!
Church Conflict Resolution Mt 18:15-20
This is the one place in Scripture where Jesus talks about Church Discipline, which nowadays is so sadly lacking.
I’d like to look at one verse today
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out
their fault, just between the two of you.
If they listen to you, you have won them over.
Gossiping can be a real killer in church.
I know from first-hand experience.
Story: I used to think this was all very heavy duty until about the mid 80’s when we were in an English Pentecostal Church in Rheinfelden.
Maddy went to a women’s prayer meeting at Stephanie Miller’s house and the ladies were asked to write down their prayer requests – and that strict confidentiality would be observed.
Maddy didn’t know what to write down, but she knew I was busy as I was one of the leaders of the Church and I was still in full time employment as a patent lawyer and we had young children.
So she wrote down, “Please pray for my husband”.
One of the ladies, Michalyn recognised Maddy’s writing and went off telling everyone that our marriage was on the rocks and that I needed counselling.
When I eventually caught up with Michalyn, together with the Swiss pastor Urs Hauri – he was a great pastor - I asked her why she didn’t ask me about the matter, rather than spreading rumours - as I could have simply cleared it up very quickly if she had dealt with it the Scriptural way.
Instead of apologising, she insisted that the Holy Spirit had told her that she should tell others about it, despite the teaching of Scripture to the contrary and the fact that she had her facts wrong.
Jesus was no fool – he understood the human heart and his way.
Jesus knew that he came to found the Church – the Ecclesia – the children of God – a body of believers
And he knew the problem of conflict.
Yet gossip never cures the problem.
So he gives us some very simple instructions
1. If you have a problem with a brother – go and talk to him
Problems don’t go away by burying your head in the sand.
They just get worse.
There may be a simple reason for what that person has done when you see the whole picture.
But it is important to have the right attitude, when you raise the matter with your brother
You are looking for putting the matter right, not scoring points against him.
2. If he doesn’t listen bring two or three neutral others along to look for arbitration on the matter
Often reconciliation can occur when you have wise heads advising you on the matter.
My issue with Michalyn was resolved when I saw her together with the minister of the Church in Rheinfelden Urs Hauri.
Jesus says in Matthew 9:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Note peace makers!
Peace doesn’t always happen by itself.
You sometimes have to MAKE peace.
You have to work at it.
Larry Crabb wrote
“The difference between spiritual and unspiritual community is not whether conflict exists, but is rather in our attitude toward it and our approach to handling it.
When conflict is seen as an opportunity to draw more fully on spiritual resources, we have the makings of spiritual community.”
In other words, it is how we handle conflict that determines the level of our spiritual maturity!
The truth of the matter is that we will always have conflict
How we handle the problems conflict throws up will make all the difference
What makes or breaks relationships, and what makes or breaks churches, is what we choose to do in conflict.
We must have the right attitude.
3. Finally if the matter cannot be resolved and it is serious enough we should bring it to the whole assembly
We will have problems that require the whole church to decide
Michael Green the famous Bible Commentator and former Rector of St Aldates in Oxford wrote this;
“A Christian business I was associated with had steadily been losing money.
We were able to trace it to one person on the staff of the business. He was seen alone. He strenuously denied any wrongdoing.
So I as Rector and three others saw him. He confessed what he had done when faced by incriminating evidence in the presence of witnesses. Sometimes even that does not suffice. It is necessary to tell the church. That is a painful last resort.” (Michael Green - The Message of Matthew p. 195)
It is hard sometimes – but there are times when we have to bite the bullet.
We need to be a community that is open and seen to be open.
It is sad to see the consequences when this procedure is not followed.