June 26, 2016
CommonUnity – Week 3 – Conflict Resolution
In this message we will look at how Jesus has called us to deal with conflict resolution in the church. We are called to maintain unity and to pursue peace.
Take out your Bibles and find the book of Matthew, Find chapter 18 and put a bookmark there. Then find chapter 5 and keep your finger right there.
Just as a quick survey here? How many of you believe that The Bible is the WORD of God? If you believe that can I hear a loud Amen? Ok, second question (same response) How many of you struggle with obeying parts of the Bible at times? Last one, How many of you believe that we are supposed to obey all of the Bible even when we don’t exactly want to?
Today we are going to talk about one of those parts in the Bible! But I want us right now to commit to telling God, We are going to obey your word. Not pastors words but your word. Lets Pray!
We have been talking the last couple weeks on the topic of unity. In our first week we looked at the fact that the early church devoted themselves to fellowship. And we looked at how the definition of fellowship is much different than we often think of it. We saw through the word Koinonia that fellowship can easy be defined as Doing Life Together for the Purpose and Glory of God.
We also noticed that we have a real enemy that wants to defeat this in the church, but it is Jesus greatest desire that we be unified (one) just as He and the Father are one.
Last week we looked at the Great Common-Mission that Jesus gave the church. As we looked at that, we recognized that without a common mission unity could be destroyed. In order to have true unity we all need to be moving together in the same direction for the same purpose. And that purpose is to make disciples! That is the purpose Jesus gave the Church and that is our mission here at Grace. So, as we are going through our daily lives we are on the mission of making disciples of all we encounter. We do this by living a life that honors and glorifies God and by telling others of His love and goodness for them.
Simple right? Not so much. Since the beginning of the church there have been problems. Actually, we see that since the entrance of sin into the world there have been problems. And we have a real enemy who likes to exploit sin to his advantage and cause division and conflict in the church. If we let the enemy have his way he will destroy this church. That is his goal. Just this week I got word that a good friend of mine in ministry resigned last week from the pulpit. I don’t know a ton of details, and to be honest I don’t need to know any, because I know this, it was the enemies plan to destroy this work and this pastor friend of mine. Why? Because he was doing something for God and that is what the enemy hates.
It is a sobering thing to see that. And that is why today’s message is so important. Paul reminds the Ephesians church in Ephesians 4:3 – Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Why? Because there was conflict happening in the church. Let me be very clear here…. There will be conflict in this church. Not because I desire it, but because Satan still rules this world. When you have two people get together there will be conflict. It is inevitable.
Let me tell you a little story. When Elizabeth and I started dating, everything was perfect. It was amazing, I thought wow if this is the way life could be being with her, I never want to stop. Now if you know my wife, she is a realist. Me not so much, I love to remain blissfully ignorant of real life. I call it optimism, being a man of faith, believing the best. But my wife keeps me grounded in reality. She knew that our life would not be perfect or idyllic for forever. She knew the truth that we are both sinful creatures and that eventually we would have conflict. So one day during our dating period she prayed and asked God to bring us a problem….. Yes you heard that right she prayed for problems!
Now in her defense she was not very specific on her prayers. You see she was thinking the external kind of problem. She wanted to assess how we as a couple would come together (in unity) to tackle this nebulous external problem. But (and here is a secret) if you pray for something be specific, we experienced our first (of many I might add) problem. And that lead to conflict. Now to be honest I really don’t even remember what the issue was, I can say probably with good certainty that it was my fault and that I was to blame because I am a sinful creature.
We worked through the issue (obviously) and then she proceeded to tell me that she had prayed for problems. Now we had our second fight. 🙂 I told her that if we were going to be together that in no uncertain terms, she was never ever allowed to pray for problems ever again. And as far as I know she has submitted to my authority in that to this day.
John 16:33 Jesus warns us. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The truth is until Jesus comes and takes us home we are going to have conflict. But that is not an excuse to resign to it. In Psalm 34:14 – Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
And in Romans 14:16-19 – Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. 19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification
Did you notice something in common with those verses. 1. We are told to pursue peace. We are told to make every effort to do what leads to peace. but 2. The source of conflict is called evil.
James address this when he talks to the church.
James 4:1-3 – What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James says fights and quarrels are a result of sin in our lives. let me say that again. fights and quarrels are a result of sin in our lives. How many of you sin? Raise your hands. So if we all recognize that we ALL sin why are we surprised when conflict happens.
But Pastor – the church should be loving and should never offend. There should never be problems in the church, if we are all following God there should never be a problem. In Ephesians 4 Paul goes on to say… Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32) If there is no conflict why do we have to forgive each other?
Proverbs on Conflict
Now in the book of Proverbs conflict is talked about a lot. Solomon really calls out two big things… One is being hot tempered and not loving, The other is gossip.
Proverbs 10:12 – Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.
Proverbs 15:18 – A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.
Proverbs 16:28 – A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.
Proverbs 20:19 – A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.
Proverbs 26:20 – Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
These 2 things can be the death nail of any church or ministry. I have heard and seen many ministries destroyed over these very two things. So what is the prescription for conflict in the church. How do we deal with it? What are we supposed to do to maintain unity and peace? How do we as the disciples did… “devote ourselves to true fellowship” How do we fulfill Jesus’ prayer for the church that we be one as He and the Father are one? Lets look at the book of Matthew.
Lets remember that these are Jesus’ words. This is what Jesus tells us to do. This is where like I said at the beginning we struggle to obey the word of God.
Matthew 5:23-26 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. 25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (So often misquoted out of context)
19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Similarities of Matt 5 and Matt 18
These 2 passages are complimentary to each other. There are some striking similarities and some stark contrast to these to passages.
First both are dealing with how to handle conflict between believers. Both passages say brother and sister. This is important because it assumes a couple of things. One we are equal before God. We are both children of the King. Second, we have a familial relationship that must be maintained. (Nothing bothers me more as a parent than when I see my children fighting. When they do not handle conflict well. When they do not show each other care, respect or concern. If this really bothers me what do you think it does to the heart of God, when we don’t treat each other the way we should? We are family and we have a responsibility to treat each other the way our Father wants us to.
Second, we must be proactive. Let me say that again, we must be proactive. The word is GO. This is probably one of the hardest parts, of these words. We do not have the excuse to “let things blow over” to assume that problem will just go away. I do this way too much. This is one of my biggest failings because I want people to like me I avoid personal conflict. We do not have the permission by God to sidestep His word because “we are not wired that way”. In order to maintain unity and have true fellowship we have to be proactive in dealing with conflict.
Third, there is no prescription for how big the offense is. It does not matter whether it is a huge problem or a tiny one. We are to deal with it. I have heard many pastors speak on both sides of this issue. And I understand that we are to as believers see each other as works in progress, that we are to be patient with each other and bear with one another (Colossians 3:13). We are not to be easily angered or offended (1 Cor 13, James 1:19). But if we are forgiving one another and we are not holding any malice or anger in our hearts, Then we should be able to go to each other and help build each other up in the Lord by helping others to see and offense. (Give an Example)
Forth, The purpose is to for reconciliation and restoration. The purpose of dealing with conflict is not “to give them a piece of my mind” or “to shame them into confession” or even to “get this off my chest”. Those are all false motives. In each of those cases we are thinking about us. We are thinking about how we are effected. Jesus instead calls us to think about the other person. (Phil 2:3-4) Our goal in any situation should be to make the relationship better. This requires a death to self and alive to the work of Christ in our own lives. (Romans 6:11) If being proactive is one of the hardest parts this is the other hardest part. Why because it is impossible to do in the flesh. When I say that I don’t mean that we cannot do it while we have these bodies, instead I mean if we allow any of our flesh to control our hearts and minds in this process we cannot do this. It requires us to surrender everything we have and everything we desire to the work of the Holy Spirit.
He can and will do this in us if we allow Him to do so. The days of saying I can’t do that are over with Jesus in your life (Phil 4:13). We can walk in unity, We can confront Biblically, we can reconcile and restore what the enemy and sin has broken. In Luke 6 Jesus tells a parable that reminds us that in order to help our brother with His issue we need to deal with our own issue first. This is does not give us a right to not deal with the other person it requires us to go before God and ask for His forgiveness and ask Him to lead us to act as ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)
Fifth, This is to be done one on one. No one else is to be involved. No one else is to know. This is a slippery slope we all fall into. It is how gossip happens. We don’t need to share with someone else the details of this issue. Some might say, “well I need them to pray with me about it.” NO you don’t! Rom 8:26 says “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” That means they can pray and even if they don’t know the details or even who is involved they can pray effectively because the Spirit translates for them. Here is a phrase we need to learn. “I don’t need to know and I will still pray” Say that aloud with me. “I don’t need to know and I will still pray”
The second part to defeating gossip is when someone come to you and says something about someone else. Stop them, hold up 1 finger, And ask them “have you talked with that person about this?” If they say yes, then say, then lets go talk to them together. If they say no, then say you need to go talk to them come with me and I will set that up right .now!
No more talking about it. You don’t need to hear their side of the story. (The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth) You don’t need to come to their defense (Jesus is their defender). This is the only way that we can be devoted to unity. This is a spiritual discipline! We must begin to practice. The only way you get good at this is by practicing it.
Well what if I mess up and forget. Repent, go to that person and make it right. Tell that person you should not have let them tell you ll about the problem instead you should have followed the Biblical guidelines and helped them follow Matthew 18.
Now I have to admit, I have this problem as much as anyone in this church. I have not followed the word of God in this the way I should. I know this is hard. But it is something we all need to do. We must commit to holding each other accountable to do this, Me included! If we don’t will never see God develop this church the way He wants to. No one gets a pass on this. NO ONE. And I am pointing at me first!
If and only if it cannot be resolved one on one in the spirit of humility, do you bring someone else along. And they are not there to take your side. They are there to make sure that EVERY word both yours and theirs is fully established. So in that process they are there to discern what is going in the situation and to try and see where the fellowship of the spirit is being broken. Is it because of your sin, their sin, or (and most probably) a combination of both.
If it is unresolved, then that is where the leadership of the church comes in to play. Well what if it is the leadership that is the issue. We still follow Matthew 18. No one is above the word of God. We do not have permission from the Head of the Church (Jesus) to make up our own rules. It is His church and he calls the shots.
Differences with Matt 5 and Matt 18
Those are the things in common with these 2 passages. Very quickly here are the differences.
First, it is all our responsibility to do this. If we are the offender or the one offended we must make it right.
Second, if we are the offender we have the command to do it quickly. Why, because if we let something go on that is a problem and we don’t deal with it, we become complicit in their bitterness and anger.
IF,we do this church here is the amazing thing. Matthew 18:20 give us a promise. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” The great news is we are not alone in this process. Jesus wants us to do this and He promises us that he will be right there if we do it according to His will and His word.
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