We live in a world where conflicts are bound to arise. Jesus indeed said that offences will come, and people will offend you. Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come:” (Lu 17:1) Friends, loved ones, relatives, neighbours, workmates and fellow believers will occasionally offend you.
At the end of the day, God expects you to resolve those conflicts with other people in order for you to appear pure before Him in worship. “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. ” (Mt 5:23-24)
Many people fail to pray through and fail to get God’s approval in worship because of unresolved conflicts. Many people indeed don’t resolve their conflicts. They instead store bitterness and rejection against those who offend them for a long time, to their own detriment. Many times, the unresolved conflicts affect the health those offended as well as wounding their spiritual lives. Therefore it is in the best interests of one who is offended to seek resolution of the conflicts that bring offence.
In Mathew 18, Jesus gave two ways of resolving conflicts. One is confrontation(18:15-17); and the other is forgiveness.(18:21-35). Let us examine the two briefly :-
1.Confrontation – Matthew 18:15-17
“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.
The process described here involves 4 steps. We may not need to go through all except with a very stubborn offender. I wish to outline these steps under the acronym FACE.
- Face to face dialogue with the person who has offended you – Before you tell him do not tell others. He/she should be the only one to know. If you resolve the conflict, let the matter rest. You have gained your brother. This pre-empts gossip.
- Attitude – the attitude of reconciliation is love for the person offending you. Therefore you are protective of his/her reputation.
- Church – two members as witnesses. If the offender refuses to hear you, one or two others church members should accompany you to speak to the person. If he hears them, then the matter rests there. No other people should know.
- Church leadership – If the person fails to hear the one or two above, the matter should be brought to the church leadership who will arbitrate.
- Excommunicate – If the person does not accept the church ruling, then the church should excommunicate him/her, so that the person will hence forth be regarded as a non-believer.
2. FORGIVENESS – Matthew 18:21-35
The second step in reconciliation that Jesus taught is that we should forgive those who offend us without a limit. (70X7) The reasons we should forgive are as follows:-
- We too are imperfect and have been forgiven by the father. We are not God’s children because of our merit but because we have been forgiven. On the cross Jesus cried; “Father forgive them.”
- Forgiveness will release us from the bondage and prison of resentment.
- Forgiveness will release us from the heavy burden of carrying the offender on your back.
- Forgiveness will remove the acid of bitterness from our hearts.
- Forgiveness will bring us into divine favour and fellowship with our father.
- The father expects it of us and will not forgive us if we do not forgive others.