This last Sunday our local church completed our study on Christian Conflict Resolution, and you can hear the final of our four messages on this topic built upon the study of Matthew 18:15-17 and Galatians 5 & 6 in the embedded audio above.
Since the Church is composed of sinners saved by grace on their way to sanctification, it’s no surprise that we observe contentions going on in the Church as early as the first century. What we observed from our study is that the Christian life is not one where we live in our own little internal monasteries. Supposedly, we are enjoying deep private fellowship and communion with Christ, and yet that love never shines out to our brother. As says 1 John 4:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
If you love God deeply, you love your brother. What we are talking about is a specific way that we show love for our brother in how we resolve disputes. If we do not love our brother, if the love of God does not abide in us, we will deviate from these instruction from our Savior.
Matthew 18:15-17 (1599 Geneva Bible):
“Moreover, if thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he hear thee, thou hast won thy brother. But if he hear thee not, take yet with thee one or two, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be confirmed. And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the Church; and if he refuse to hear the Church also, let him be unto thee as a heathen man, and a Publican.”
The contrast to this command should also be noted. Galatians 5:15 (Geneva): “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed lest ye be consumed one of another.”
Jonathan Edwards, in his message on I Corinthians 13, the “Love” Chapter, wrote:
“Some injure others in their good name by reproaching or speaking evil of them behind their backs. No injury is more common and no inequity more frequent or base than this. Other ways of injury are abundant (as well). … Some injure others by making or spreading false reports about them and so cruelly slandering them. Others without saying that which is directly false greatly misrepresent things, picturing out everything respecting their neighbors in the worst colors — exaggerating their faults and setting them forth as far greater than they really are, always speaking of them in an unfair and unjust manner. A great deal of injury is done among neighbors by this uncharitably judging of one another and putting injurious and evil constructions on one another’s words and actions.”1
But you know it’s so easy for us to want to hear the latest gossip on so-and-so. This is not a sign of the love of God at all. It is also easy for us to want to mask our bitterness against another person by presenting it as a warning for others to avoid harm. But if a person truly is harmful, we have a responsibility to address his sin in the way God’s Word prescribes, by pursuing Matthew 18 accountability for both sides.
Ronald Reagan had a maxim he used. “Trust, but verify,” he said. “Trust. But verify.”2
What a shame we will bring on the Body of Christ if our local churches are not able and diligent to resolve disputes according to God’s Law, if they are not accountable to Christ’s commands, if they put a believer in a position where he has no choice but to take another to trial in a civil court.
Here are the four areas we’ve covered up to this message on Christian Conflict Resolution:
- The goal: To restore
- The purpose for procedure: Accountability
- The “heart” of the matter: Only God knows the heart.
- The universal nature of these commands: Equal accountability