Conflict Resolution in the Body of Christ
The topic of today’s post is conflict resolution God’s way. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus lays out the prescribed method of conflict resolution for those in the Body of Christ.
“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.”
Here’s the summation of Jesus’ method:
Do a one-on-one. If they don’t hear you...
Try meeting with them again, this time taking 1 or 2 trusted Believers with you. If they don’t hear you...
Confront them before the [appropriate] congregation. If they still don’t hear you...
Treat them like an unbeliever and separate from them.
This an excellent method of conflict resolution (because Jesus said so!), even if it can be a bit intimidating depending on the person requiring confrontation. But that IS what Jesus prescribed.
He didn’t say to unfriend/unfollow, delete, block, or ghost someone you have a relationship with just because you’re having an issue with them.
It takes fortitude to do this as the confronting party. ESPECIALLY when it’s someone you respect and look up to.
Next, we see in Matthew 5:23-24 that Jesus says that if your brother has an ought against you, then to leave your offering at the altar, and go to them to resolve it.
“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”
This, in turn, directs us back to the method Jesus laid out in chapter 18.
Later in 1 Timothy 5:19, the apostle Paul adds that accusations against elders should not be brought/heard except without 2 or 3 witnesses, because out of the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses, every word is established (Deut. 19:15, 2 Cor. 13:1). And at the beginning of this chapter in verse 1, Paul says that elders should not be rebuked, but rather exhorted (encouraged toward good works) as fathers and mothers, and younger people as brothers and sisters (1 Tim. 5:1).
You CAN & SHOULD Speak Up
Contrary to popular opinion and teaching, this means that yes, accusations can indeed be brought against elders - those who rank above you such as apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists as well as administrative positions such as bishops/overseers, elders, and deacons; also against those who are elders by means of age - YET there is a proper way to do it! And here we run into a common problem amongst leaders: How can someone RESPECTFULLY raise a criticism if leaders will not hear them?
No Humility, No Maturity; Know Humility, Know Maturity
I find it disturbing that there are leaders who blatantly refuse to hear critiques, criticisms, or testimonies against them. Many times in these situations, if someone who is a layperson or lower in rank brings an accusation against or to a leader, the leader automatically discounts the concern, writing it off, by summing it up as someone who is rebellious or manifesting rejection. And similarly, when a peer raises an accusation, that peer is written off as being jealous or envious of the other minister.
Beloved, how can we solve conflicts God’s way if our knee-jerk reaction is to write off every accusation we hear?
Are there those who are operating in spirits of offense, unforgiveness, rejection, rebellion, stubbornness, jealousy, and envy? OF COURSE. But there are more qualifiers than just refusing to hear something because it’s not what you want to hear. And someone could say the right thing in the wrong way. Let’s face it, you don’t often hear leaders teaching laypeople who to bring accusations against leaders. Some people just do the best they can, even if their method wasn’t the best.
Agreement & Unity vs. Wounding & Offense
Jesus didn’t lay out His prescribed method of conflict resolution to make people feel bad. The reason He did it is laid out in Matthew 18:18-20:
“Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together I. My name, here am I in the midst of them.”
The whole point of this is AGREEMENT and UNITY! God desires agreement and unity in His Body, and if we cannot reach conflict resolution maturely, then we will not truly be in agreement. And this agreement is twofold: agreement with man and with God.
If you mistreat your wife and remain in disagreement, your prayers will not be heard (1 Peter 3:7).
If you know your brother has ought against you, but you ignore it, your gift will not be accepted.
If you will not hear the person, the ensemble, and the congregation that has ought against you, you will be put out of the congregation.
It was not until agreement and unity was found that the Spirit of the Lord moved upon the 120 in the Upper Room (Acts 2:1-4).
Now, this does not mean that we will literally agree with everything someone else says or does; however, it does mean that we must seek to remove legitimate offense and causes of offense from the Body. In a nutshell, we must take responsibility for our wrongdoings even when we thought we were being godly at the time.
If you are continually growing in God and you can’t look back and recognize some missteps you made in the past, then I would question if you’re really growing in God. I would also question if you ever took a step of faith, but that’s a different topic for a different day...
To be clear: we must learn the difference between 1) recognizing an offensive act and 2) nurturing or operating in a spirit of offense. Jesus said that offenses would come, but woe to the person by whom they come (Luke 17:1)! We must seek to end offensive actions that wound people.
This is not about people who just take things the wrong way or have a broken filter. This is not about people who don’t want to hear biblical truth so they cry “I’m offended!” This is about recognizing when someone is legitimately in the wrong - even if that someone is you! - and then seeking to bring about biblical resolution. AND THEN truly assessing what led to that situation so you do not repeat the offensive action(s) again.
And when YOU are responsible for wounding, that is 1,000% NOT the time to say, “Dead people feel nothing.” Don’t allow pride and stubbornness to hinder your compassion and more importantly, your recognition of YOUR wrongdoing!
We can’t keep using Christian cliches as an excuse to not hear our wounded brothers, sisters, daughters, and fathers. Our job is to mature in the things of God, to be continually perfected in the things of God. And if we cannot properly, authentically, and maturely handle conflict resolution, then our growth will be stunted until something gives.
Your title, your mantle, your metron, your measure, your jurisdiction, your gift, and your anointing does not give you an excuse to offend, wound, or disrespect people. Neither does it give you a pass.
Offense in the name of protocol is not spiritual. Offense in the name of tradition is not biblical. Offense in the name of spirituality is not godly. Neither humanity nor spirituality is an excuse. We must simply do better. And that starts with taking a look at the [wo]man in the mirror.
Getting to the Heart of the Matter
To Wounded Leaders
To the leader who offends because you were wounded when you came up through the ranks, there is healing and wholeness for you. Likely, your leaders did the best they knew to do. And now, you have the opportunity to do better. Go to God to receive your healing and deliverance. There is an overflowing, neverending vat of love for you to dive in and receive everything you need!
To the Wounded Sheep
To the person who has raised an accusation against a leader for the right reason(s), NEVER EVER apologize for standing up for yourself or someone else. You deserve respect, dignity, and honour. If your method was a bit off, you can apologize for that, but never apologize for standing for the truth even if no one agrees with you. Even if no one hears you. Even if no one believes you. God hears you. It took boldness to say what you said and do what you did. And remember, God is your vindicator! He will bring the necessary rewards and repercussions to the necessary parties. Seeking forgiveness, healing, deliverance, and peace, and trust Him to handle the situation in His perfect timing.
Church, we must do better! We must hold ourselves accountable to God and His Word - not just to our peers - for how we treat God’s people. God will wink at our sin for a time, but when we know better, it’s time to do better. If you’ve read this far, then you officially know better. You can never say you don’t know. Consider this your charge and your mandate to actively pursue treating God’s people better.