MATTHEW 18:15-20: “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: How do I deal with personal offenses? This is one of the most important things I need to face in my life. The way I deal with offenses will determine the health of my personal spiritual life, my relationships, and even the life of those beyond my immediate relationships.
Conflict in life is something that cannot be avoided. We will all face it. We may be the source of the conflict, or we may simply be the recipient. However, we will face conflict. How we deal with it is the important thing. Jesus has given us 3 important steps that we must not ignore. If we do, not only will our relationships remain estranged, but this estrangement will affect the lives of those around us.
Most conflict can be resolved if we will simply follow the first step. Jesus said,
- “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. “
This is where most of us fail. Jesus is telling us to deal with conflict on a one to one level. Personal conflict is not a group event, it is a personal challenge. If someone sins against us, Jesus’ instruction is to go to this person, one on one, in private, and try to work it out. Jesus put such a high value on this type of personal reconciliation that He said in the Sermon on the Mount,
- “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 NKJV
The goal is not to determine who is right. The goal is personal reconciliation. Jesus put a higher value on this than on offering a gift at the altar. How many times have I come to worship with an unresolved conflict in my life? I know that my worship is not complete as long as this relationship remains strained.
I will never forget a time when the Lord revealed to me that I was the offending party. It was on a Sunday morning, I was lifting my hands in praise as we were singing to the Lord, and the Holy Spirit’s conviction was heavily upon me. I knew that I had offended a dear friend and that I had ignored this offense. They had not approached me, but the Lord was calling me to go to them. I fought this thought all through the service. No one likes conflict, especially when you are the one who has been the conflict originator. I left this Sunday with a heavy heart.
I knew the Scripture. I knew what I had to do. It was one of the hardest calls I ever had to make. This friend lived in another state, so I was unable to meet with them face to face. When I called them, I humbled myself, confessed what I had said, and asked them to forgive me. They were gracious and said it was no problem. However, at that moment I was released from this burden, and our relationship was restored.
Over the years I have learned the importance of dealing with offenses head on, one to one. There have been very few times when I have had to take the additional steps of bringing two or three witnesses, or involving the church. I believe that most issues could be resolved between two believers if they only humbled themselves and were honest about their offenses and asked for forgiveness. For both individuals, the offended, and the offending party, the goal for the believer is to be forgiveness and reconciliation. It is never about being in the right, it is about being right with one another and with God.
When we do not heed this call two things happen. The offense becomes greater and the pathway of reconciliation becomes harder. The second thing that happens is that we spread our conflicts with others. Instead of talking one to one, we begin to tell others of our hurt. They then begin to look at the other person through our offense. What results are multiple strained relationships stemming from one. An evil report is like a virus that spreads and multiplies the spirit of un-forgiveness in others. From one small offense families can be destroyed and churches can be split. If only we would heed this simple instruction.
Lord, give me the grace and the humility to face my conflicts head on. Help me to always have a heart filled with forgiveness that is motivated toward reconciliation and restoration. Guard my lips so that I do not tell my offenses to others. Help me obey the call of Jesus to work out my conflicts, one on one, in private.
In Jesus Name!