Friday, June 05, 2020

The Matthew 18 Principle for Conflict Resolution

Compiled and written by Lance Lloyd of Sequatchie, Tennessee; worth sharing and used by permission (by owner of web page where it was shared)

Matthew 18:15-17 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

From these verses, several guidelines can be found for resolving conflicts between Christians.

Before beginning the process, one should first consider if he/she is able to bear the other’s sin (I Peter 4:8 – And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins; Romans 12:18 – If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men).

Step One: A Christian who has a conflict with another Christian is called to address the matter with the other person personally. When matters are handled privately, misunderstanding can be addressed, and there is great potential for the other person to respond positively. In addition, a private meeting helps to avoid the problem of gossip.

Step Two: If a private discussion does not solve the issue, a Christian is to take one or two other believers and meet with the person with whom they have conflict. The clause “that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” refers to the Old Testament law that required a charge to be supported by two or more witnesses to be valid. In the case of personal conflict, this principle allows for additional witnesses to observe the matter firsthand and help determine the proper course of action.

Step Three: When there is no resolution after steps one and two, the matter is to be taken before the local body. Only in rare cases will a Christian seeking to follow the Lord refuse to resolve conflict when the entire congregation is involved.

Finally, if the person in the center of the conflict refuses to respond positively even when the entire congregation is involved, then that person is to be considered as “a pagan or a tax collector.” This simply means to excommunicate the person, removing the negative influence from the congregation.

Christians are called to handle disputes in love, with a goal of restoration. Conflict should be handled according to the steps listed in Matthew 18 out of a desire for holy living and love for the person who has committed wrong.

(See also Go to Him by R. N. Davis.)

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