The Beginning of Conflict Resolution

Matthew 18:15-17 (NKJV) - 15 “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. 16 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.’[b]17 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.

One of the things that has troubled me for many years is the lack of focus on the word of God.  You would expect people who are not Christian to not consider the word of God as a guiding light in their lives.  Jesus said that we live by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).  Jesus also told us that we make the word of God ineffective because of our traditions (Mark 7:13).  An area where the lack of abiding by the principles revealed to us in Scripture is conflict resolution.  What happens when you are offended by someone?  What happens so much, and is seemingly normal, is for someone to hold a grudge of some sort.  This may be manifested by the offended person avoiding the offender, not speaking to the offender, etc.  I've seen people hold grudges for years. This type of thing destroys relationships and tears apart families.  My father grieved because of unforgiveness that perpetuated in his family, which he knew nothing about the causing incident.  The effect of that is that I really don't know much about my family on my father's side.  To make matters worse, his family held the grudge against him even though he had nothing to do with it.  He was guilty by association.

When someone offends you, tell them.  Another course of action is to simply forgive the person and move on.  If it is someone that you know and what he says seems out of character or you reason in your mind that he wouldn't hurt you on purpose, then it becomes easier to just forgive him and chuck it as a misunderstanding or that he just had a bad day.  Otherwise, go to the person in private and let him know that you were offended or that he otherwise hurt you in some way by his words.  He may not know that he hurt you.  Many conflicts can be attributed to misunderstanding.  That means that someone interpreted the words or actions of another in a way that the other person did not intend.  We are all different and we all have different ways of communicating.  Therefore, there will always be those who interpet what you say or do based on how they communicate, not realizing that you may have an opposite way of expressing oneself. So the first thing you should do when offended by another is to go to that person privately and tell them.  The offender at least has the opportunity to explain himself and clear the air so to speak.  At this point the conflict is resolved and you have gained your brother.

Jesus goes on to say that if the offender does not hear you or dismisses you then return to him with witnesses so that every word is established.  Perhaps he is offended that you thought he would offend you.  Perhaps you did something that offended him first and he was retaliating.  You never know what a person is thinking or what may have set them off so to speak.  By having witnesses you establish every word and have, hopefully, an object party to oversea the discussion.  If he still dismisses you then Jesus said to take it to the church (assembly or congregation of the Jewish Synagogue, or the ruling bodies of the Synagogue).  The object during this whole process is to gain your brother.  You could very well forgive the person at the beginning and eliminate the need for any of this.  However, gaining your brother is a good thing and worth pursuing.

So when there is conflict, as a Christian abiding by the principles of the Kingdom of God, we should seek to restore the relationship that was adversely affected by an offense.  Ultimately it is up to us to forgive no matter what, but here the objective is to gain our brother.  This one simple thing is neglected much even in the church and we are left to deal with emotions, grudges, and ultimately unforgiveness in the heart of others towards us.  When someone resents you, then they are more prone to do something to harm you.  This is perhaps why Jesus said that we should reconcile if we know that someone is angry with us (See Matthew 5:21-26).

Unforgiveness is one of the biggest sins there is with regards to human relationships.  Unforgiveness has a damaging affect on ourselves and others around us.  When we hold unforgiveness in our hearts it's like drinking poison and expecting the person that offended you to die.  What we don't realize is that unforgiveness in our hearts is hurting us, not the other person.  Unforgiveness is a poison that destroys all types of human relationships.  Therefore, when we hold grudges and refuse to forgive and reconcile things with the offender, then we are only perpetuating the works of the enemy to destroy our relationships.  Remember that Christianity is about relationship with God and each other.

Therefore, we have to put aside how we feel and do what we know is right.  Here is another problem.  Too many people operate on emotions instead of reason or according to the word of God and the revealed Kingdom of God.  Because a person hurt us emotionally or perhaps physically, we will get even or find a way to cut him or her off from our lives. That is the work of the enemy.  Resolving conflicts is so important and the bible reveals to us much about that topic.

So if someone offends you either forgive them outright and go on with your life or go to that person privately and resolve the offense.  Perhaps she didn't know she offended you.  You bring resolution to the situation and peace between the two of you when you follow what Jesus taught in this situation. Don't hold a grudge.  Don't avoid the person.  Don't be hostile towards the person.  Love says to reconcile.  Do all you can to reconcile the relationship.  The resentment (unforgiveness) that you may have should be erradicated no matter what.  Seek to resolve conflict and bask in the way of God instead of keeping the conflict alive through your unforgiveness and sit in the seat of the enemy.