We are going to be reading verses 15-20. Picking back up in our series on Biblical Conflict resolution. If you weren’t here for the first there messages, please go back and listen to them. Much of what I said there is foundational for the rest of the series. What we are looking at today is pretty much the go to verse in Biblical Conflict resolution. Here, Jesus is teaching His disciples and he lays out a blueprint of how to deal with someone who you feel has wronged you. Often this process is referred to as the process of church discipline. Which is a foreign concept to many in the church today, but is very important to the life of any church.
So, before we begin, I want you to think about a situation in your life where you feel you have been sinned against by another Christian. It may have been recent, or in the past, but I want you to think about it, and write it down. How did you handle it? How did you attempt to handle it? Are you still in a relationship with this person? We are also going to try something for the first time. if at any point during the sermon you have a question about the content, write it down. If we have time at the end, I will open the floor for questions. If we don’t have time at the end, I would encourage you to write down the questions and ask them either in an email, or on my website where I post the sermons.
Well, this section of scripture is crucial to anyone dealing with conflict with a believer.
Lets read the text.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosedfn in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
As we look at this section, we are going to take it into three steps. This week, we are going to focus on the first step. Which is verse 15. We are going to look at verse fifteen in four parts.
1. “If your Brother Sins against you…”
First thing to notice here is the fact that this is a discussion about your brother. Here Jesus is addressing sin between believers. This is an important thing to note. The key to this process working is the context of the church body. If someone is not connected to a church body, the consequences of unrepentant have no effect on them. So, it is crucial to realize that this is between Christians.
Second thing to note here is the word “sins”. If you recall from our first or second message in this series, you cannot assume someone has sinned against you if you are offended by someone. So, it is curial to remember that you should follow these steps when you are offended, but never assume they have sinned against you, until you have proof, which you get in the next few steps.
The next thing to understand here, and this is a tough one to discern, but you do have an option here when it comes to an offense. Proverbs 19:11 says that it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. So, you do not have to go to someone every time you are offended by them. You can choose to overlook it. There are times when it is wise to overlook an offense. Authors will tell you different things about when you should overlook and when you should go. I would say that if you are able to put an offense behind you without it affecting either side of a friendship, you are free to do so. I will also say that if your relationship is negatively affected by an offense, and you have withdrawn because of it, you should go to them. Furthermore, if you do believe it is a pattern of sin for that person, I would say, you have an obligation to go to them.
Also, note that this is a sin against you. This verse is not a license for sin sniffing, or prying into another person’s life to find every issue and deal with. This is also import an that you don’t take up someone else’s offense as your own and try to confront someone on their behalf.
2. “Go, and tell him his fault…” This may be the most difficult part of this process. Here is where most people take the cowardly way out and just avoid the problem, and live with an unspoken broken relationship. Ken Sande calls these people Peace Fakers. It is a very difficult thing to do, but here we see Jesus telling us to go to them, and tell them their fault. Here is also where you need to remember the L.O.G. that we talked about last time. You have to go and Listen more than you talk, Overcome pride with Humility, and Give them the grace you want to have. This process allows for one of three things: They are able to explain to you what their real actions, or intent were, they realize they were wrong, and repent, or they may confirm that they sinned against you, and refuse to repent. The thing to remember is to go!
3. “Between you and him alone…” Here we see an important piece of Biblical wisdom that is clear throughout the Bible. That is that in times like this, you keep the circle as small as you possibly can. Scripture is clear that the tongue is a deadly weapon, and we as Christians should be very mindful how we use our tongues. By keeping the circle small, and not gossiping, you neither taint the other person’s image to others, nor sin against them by spreading lies if you have misinterpreted the other person’s actions.
This is also difficult for us because we are more likely to talk to other people about our offenses than we are the person who has offended us. Here we see that we should talk to that person before we talk to anyone else about our offense. There are times when we do go to others and share with them our offense, but that is after this step. We must go to them first.
John Piper says this about talking to people instead of about them…”It is easy—and far too tasty on the tongue of our sinful souls—to talk about people. But it is hard—and often tastes bitter—to talk to them. When you are talking about them, they can’t correct you or turn the tables and make you the problem. But if you talk to them about a problem, it can be very painful. So it feels safer to talk about people rather than talking to them.
But Jesus does not call us to make safe choices. He calls us to make loving choices. In the short run, love is often more painful than self-protecting conflict-avoidance. But in the long run, our consciences condemn us for this easy path and we do little good for others. So let’s be more like Jesus in this case and not talk about people, but talk to them, both with words of encouragement, because of the evidences of grace we see in their lives, and with words of caution or warning or correction or even rebuke. Paul urged us to use the full range of words for the full range of needs: “Admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all”
I would also say that it is important for us to get in the habit of asking people if they have talked to the person if someone comes and shares an offense with us. I had a boss once who was very helpful in this. If anyone came to him and shared a frustration with another employee, his first response was to say, “stop, have you talked to them yet?” We need to develop that same response if someone comes to us to share a frustration or offense of another person. Most people I have read agree that giving an audience to gossip is no different than sharing it with others. Mainly because you are allowing a problem to persist, and not helping that person to follow a Biblical process of dealing with conflict.
4. “If he listens, you have gained your brother…” So, here we have a reminder of what the process is all about. in the end, Biblical conflict resolution is about reconciliation. It is about gaining back a brother. If you meet with the person, one on one, removing the LOG, sharing your heart, and keeping the circle small, you have an opportunity for them to realize their sin, repent, and you forgive, and you are reconciled, you can put the issue to rest, and move forward with your relationship.
Now, we will look at what you do if the person does not repent next week.
A couple of hints as we close:
This process has so much to do with grace. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt.
Work very hard to maintain an attitude of love towards the other person. This can be very difficult, but you need to work very hard to do so.