Summary: A sermon preached in the midst of conflict in the church. What does Jesus say about dealing with conflict?
DEALING WITH CONFLICT
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!
READ MATTHEW 5:21-26
Jesus speaks in this passage about conflicts that we have with other people in our lives. We know of course that murder is wrong. Jesus assumes that His audience knows that murder is wrong and I will assume that you know that as well. It is the law of our country as well. Verse 21 tells us plainly that anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. Jesus then takes it a step further in verse 22 and says that anyone who is “angry with his brother” is also subject to judgment. Anyone who curses another is subject to judgment. Jesus tells us plainly that evil speech and anger with one another is sin and will reap for us judgment. The judgment will be either governmental judges (verse 22... the Sanhedrin) or the judgment of God (verse 22... the fires of Hell).
Do you understand Jesus so far? There are conflicts in our lives with the people around us. What are we to do? How are we to act? Fortunately for us Jesus continues in verse 23. He says “therefore.” Because there will be times when you are angry with the people around you, this is what you do. Because there will be times when you need to say something to someone, this is what you do. Please note that I am not telling you this, but these are the words of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High.
What are we to do in the midst of conflict? Verse 23 describes a situation where you have come to worship and are offering your gifts and realize that there is a conflict in your life.
Are you going to ignore it?
Are you going to let it go?
Are you going to gossip about it to the other members of the church?
Are you going to talk about the person behind their back?
Are you going to write anonymous letters to people tearing them down?
Are you going to make phone calls and stir up sentiment against them?
What are you going to do?
What does Jesus tell us to do?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:24 that we are to go to that person and be reconciled to them. We are to make peace with that person. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Whose responsibility is it to live at peace with everyone? Yours. Mine. It is an individual responsibility. We are to go to one another and settle our differences before they get out of hand (verse 25), before they wreck our relationship with God, and before it damages our witness to nonbelievers (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).
This passage in Matthew 5 is not the only time that Jesus spoke about conflict. In Matthew 5, Jesus says that we are to... [have the congregation summarize]. Now let’s see what Jesus says in Matthew 18.
READ MATTHEW 18:15-19
II. MATTHEW 18:15-19
These verses in Matthew 18 were given for what purpose? What does verse 15 say? What does Jesus say is the topic of what He is about to instruct on... someone sinning against you. I find it interesting that Matthew 5 covers if you sin against someone and chapter 18 covers if someone has sinned against you. Jesus has covered all the bases. These verses provide us a step by step process when someone has done something against you.
First, verse 15 says that you should go to the person that you have the conflict with and attempt to resolve the situation. You are to go and show them and explain to them the fault that you are having with them. Jesus realizes that this personal one on one meeting may not go well. The person may listen to you. They may not... and Jesus does not leave us alone in this situation.
Second, verse 16 tells us that if the person has ignored you and has not listened that you should take two or three others along with you to discuss the matter. The Book of Deuteronomy states that testimony is established by two or three witnesses. Why does Jesus instruct us to take two or three others along and try again? I believe this serves a two-fold purpose. If you, in trying to get people to go with you, cannot find anyone to go, maybe there has been no wrong committed by them. The first purpose is a validation of what you feel has occurred. Also, the person in question may need two or three others to tell them of their fault for them to believe it. The second purpose is a validation that what they have done is in fact sinful to you. Again, there are two outcomes of this meeting. The person may be convinced by you and the witnesses that are brought. They may not... and Jesus does not leave us alone in this situation.