I've had a particular passage of the Bible come to my attention lately: Matthew 18. Specifically, Matthew 18:15-17, which contains Jesus' instructions for how to handle conflicts with other people.
Conflicts happen. We aren't all perfect, and we don't all consider everybody else's circumstances and feelings whenever we do something. It's just life. We don't all hold hands and walk down the happy golden trail towards Utopia together all the time.
But that doesn't mean we don't love other people. It doesn't mean we can't get along. It just means we have different personalities, different callings, different spiritual gifts, different jobs, and different situations that we're dealing with. No big deal.
But Jesus gave us specific instructions for how to deal with those differences that tend to arise. And Jesus' instructions are a very big deal. They become a bigger deal if we forget about them, because inevitably, if we forget about them, we get into trouble.
Jesus' instructions are:
- If you have a problem with somebody, go to them directly.
- If they won't listen to you, take one or two more people, and go to them again.
- If they won't listen to the group of you, then go to your church group and tell them about it. (This would mean your Sunday School class or small group, for example.)
This is what Matthew 18:15-17 says verbatim:
“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.”
I've seen a situation happen like this lately (where Matthew 18 wasn't followed in a conflict), and I'd like to never see it happen again.
So wouldn't you know. This very morning, when I woke up at 4:30 AM, I had a text from someone, letting me know about a situation that didn't make me particularly happy. I laid back down and thought about it for a minute.
- First I thought I would just ignore it. Let it go. Whatever.
- But then I realized it really bugged me a lot.
- I got up and went to have my morning quiet time, and couldn't focus on anything but this situation.
- I asked Papa to help me see the situation with His eyes, not just go off on a tangent.
- The more I thought about it, the more I actually got concerned for the welfare of the person that had done the thing I was bugged about. It was something odd, that led me to believe that this person–a precious person that I really like–might be struggling a little.
- So I thought I'd just go to her, not only to let her know how I feel about the situation, but because I am truly concerned for her.
I don't know yet how it will turn out, but I can tell you that I felt better about the situation immediately after deciding to talk with her. All of the worry and anxiety left, and I know it will turn out ok. Maybe even excellently, as some really good things could come out of it.
Are you dealing with a situation right now in which you are upset with someone, or they are upset with you? If so, just go to them already! It's not hard.
- Talk to them about the problem in a loving way.
- Actually care about proper resolution, not just about being right.
- Care about the other person more than you care about yourself, and show it.
- Use “I feel” language, not accusatory “you” language.
If they will hear you, you have gained your brother (or sister) back. And nine times out of ten, they will hear you.
So don't just sit there and stew. Go to your brother who has wronged you. You will be much better off for it.
Have you ever seen a situation just melt away when you dealt with it according to Matthew 18? Please share your story in the comments below!
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