Reading: Matthew 18: 15-17
Verse 17: If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
Today’s passage deals with conflict resolution in the church. Although the church is intended to be the loving body of Christ and to reflect His light out into the world, at times there is conflict in the church. Sometimes the conflict involves just two people, but at times the conflict can involve larger groups of people.
Jesus chooses to address conflict resolution in the church because it does happen. And it is no coincidence that this address follows the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew’s Gospel. Perhaps Jesus addresses it so directly because He knows a second truth as well – when conflict arises most of us avoid it at almost any cost. If we are hurt or offended or sinned against by another at church we would much rather “get over it” and avoid further conflict than go and talk with that person. Yet Jesus tells us to do just that – go and talk with them. Why? Because unresolved conflict becomes a murmur always humming just below the surface. It becomes a feeling that can pervade gatherings and can inhibit the church’s ability to function as the loving body of Christ.
Jesus also gives two more steps to try next to try and resolve the conflict. If a one on one visit fails, Jesus says to go back with one or two other believers. Bring someone wise and respected to navigate the waters of reconciliation. He is not saying to make it three on one but to bring in others who will help both sides come to the table to find resolution. The next step, should the second step also fail, is to bring it before the whole church. Hopefully more heads will work together to find a solution that leads to repentance and forgiveness.
At each step the goal is always reconciliation and restoration. In the end, “If he listens to you, you have won your brother over”. This is the goal: to help one another along on our journey of faith. We are called to hold one another accountable. This is true love in the church – being open and honest and transparent and speaking the truth in love as we all journey together, each seeking to grow in our faith.