Relationships often prove
hard to establish and, inevitably, harder yet to maintain. They can
be sabotaged by poor communication and quickly flare into major disputes.
Such disputes damage relationships and the cause of Christ.
Jay Adams says, "Problems
between Christians should not continue unresolved. When they do, strength
is sapped from the congregation and members work at cross-purposes.
Unresolved problems hurt everyone and dishonor Christ's name. There
is no place, therefore, for such loose ends in the church. God does
not allow for loose ends; rather He insists that every personal difficulty
that arises must be settled. . . And, for that purpose, God graciously
provided a method by which this can be accomplished."(1)
God in His wisdom gives simple
instructions to guide us in the process of handling disputes. Two passages
of Scripture clearly address conflict resolution. The first shows how
to respond if you have done the offending. The second shows how to address
one who has offended you. In either case, Christian, it's your obligation
to seek Biblical restitution. You need to make the first move!
You may say, "I didn't
think I did the offending. My friend seems to be offended with me!"
You still have the responsibility to address the offense.
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.
Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with
him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the
judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily
I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast
paid the uttermost farthing.
When you discover you have
offended another be quick to apologize.
Learn to apologize in the
Do not say, "I'm sorry" or, "I'm sorry if you are offended"
or, "I wish we could put this thing behind us."
Learn to say from your heart, " I'm sorry; I was wrong for [fill
in the blank]; will you please forgive me?"
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 a heathen man
and a publican.
If one has offended you follow
the steps outlined in Matthew 18. The steps are obvious. The question
is, will you have the faith to exercise the obedience required to allow
God's Word to work?
Go privately to the individual. This often is the hardest step. Satan
has a way of convincing a believer that the effort is not worth it.
Truly, faith in God's control and wisdom is worth it! At this juncture
you must exercise faith in God's counsel (Proverbs 3:5,6). When going
privately to the "offender" approach him or her with a humble
heart. Prepare several questions to ask the individual rather than attacking
with an accusation. Often, the best way to broach the subject is with
a brief letter mailed in advance requesting a meeting, asking your questions,
and notifying them that you will be calling them to arrange the meeting.
When you call, you may then ask, "Did you receive my letter?"
Go with a partner. If the offense was not resolved with the first meeting,
or if the individual refused to meet with you, your next step of obedience
is to take a godly partner who will hear the matter with you and the
offending party. Again, ask your prepared questions. Be careful not
to become argumentative. The goal is understanding and unity.
Go to your pastor and church leadership with the problem. At this point,
the conflict becomes the responsibility of the church leadership to
address and may result in church discipline action. Church discipline
is always motivated with the desire that there eventually be restitution.
God's method works!
Faith is necessary as you seek to obey God about granting forgiveness.
The refusal to forgive frequently stands in the way of Biblically mandated
unity. Forgiveness should be a watershed point– a whole new direction
in a relationship. Yet, forgiving does not necessarily mean immediate
forgetting. Forgiveness means that you no longer continue to dwell on
the sin that was confessed and forsaken. You chose to begin looking
for the "fruit" of their repentance (Luke 3:8).
With the fruit of repentance comes the ability to keep past hurts in
perspective and to move on to new opportunities. Forgiveness is not
a feeling, it's a commandment.
Forbearing one another, and
forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as
Christ forgave you, so also do ye
Exercise the faith to ask
Exercise the faith to address
Exercise the faith to forgive!
E. Adams, The Christian Counselor's Manual (Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Baker Book House, 1973), 52.