Aside: I spent today with my friends Ryan, John, and Jimmy here at the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis, IN. Biggest news… Johnny Hunt is the new SBC President… but you probably already know that by now. Here are some thought’s I’ve been thinking on for myself I thought I’d share with you. Again, you probably know these things, but it’s good to be reminded every now and then.
God states that if we are at odds with our brother or sister in Christ we must first work through that before our worship is acceptable to Him (Isaiah 1:11-16; Matthew 5:23-24). He says that the matter of peace is so important that it is worth interrupting our worship to make things right, THEN we can return to worship.
The way to know if we need to be reconciled with a person is when we sense something is wrong… when there is tension… when there is a barrier between us and the other person… when they avoid us, or we avoid them… by the look in a person’s eye… when the first thought we have when we see someone is repulsion. In short, when there is an absence of peace in any relationship. As it is written in 1 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace…”
Scripture is clear about how disagreements are to be handled. The best and most well known passage is found in Matthew 18:15-18. Jesus gives a three step process. Here is what He says to do…
First step. Talk to the person with whom there is a disagreement by yourself… just you and that person… alone. This means you go to the person with the motivation and intent to work things out so that the relationship is healed and restored. It does not mean you go to give the person a piece of your mind… make a point… or set them straight. If those are your motivations, it will blow up in your face. This may mean it takes time and talking to them more than once. Thus what Paul wrote in Galatians 6:1-2. The goal is always healing and restoration.
Note! If our goal and desire is not for healing, restoration, and forgiveness… then our motivation is contrary to the reason Jesus came… reconciliation. As Christians we have been giving a ministry of reconciling, not dividing. See 2 Corinthians 5:17-18.
Second step. If an impass prevents reconciliation, then take one or two people with you so that they can be impartial witnesses to what is said and taking place. They are there for the purpose of helping the reconciliation… for making sure both sides are following Christain principals… to support the process by praying… and to give testimony to what took place. The goal of the process is still healing and reconciliation.
Third step. If the person refuses to work toward reconcilation, then the matter is to be brought before the church in a final last ditch attempt toward healing and reconciliation. This does not mean, nor is it necessary, for the whole church to know about the matter so as to make a decision. It means that representatives chosen by the church (Deacons, Elders, others) can make a decision about the events and how they have transpired. If the person still refuses to work toward reconciliation THEN… and only then… are they are to be treated as if they were an unbeliever (Tax collector).
Another Consideration. It may be that once we interact with the person regarding the problem, it comes to light that we ourselves have contributed to the situation. That means that we must be open to recognizing our own sin… confessing it to God and the other person… and then doing whatever is necessary to work toward reconciliation. After all, rarely is one person completely 100% innocent. That is the reason Paul wrote in the Galatians 6:1-2 that we are to “look to ourselves.”
Jesus said that the way people who are outside the church will know we are His followers is by our love (How we treat) one another (John 13:35). So it is by our conduct that people determine what kind of follower we are of Jesus.