Introduction: Two brothers had two different personalities and goal. The one brother talked to his dad. The other brother talked to his mom. This eventually caused the younger brother and his mother to scheme against the wishes of the father and the older brother. The conflict brought a huge upheaval that eventually resulted in the formation of two separate nations. Family conflict occurs in page after page of the book of Genesis. And yet through the generational stories, gospel grace reconciliation trumps it all at the end of Genesis. When we open up the book of Exodus, we read story after story of new conflict among the Hebrew people. The Bible is the book that we must go to in giving us the guidance we need to deal with conflict. We are in a Sunday morning series dealing with conflict and gospel grace reconciliation. Today, we look at step three. In review, step one calls us to overlook transgressions by others as the Lord does with us. Step two urges us to search our own hearts and see how we might have contributed to the conflict. Step three involves going to your brother or sister to talk about the conflict. In this message, I am utilizing thoughts from brother Ken Sande in Billings, Montana. Also, I am using the New King James Version of the Bible.
Step Three – Jesus tells us, “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.” – Matthew 18:15
Elsewhere Jesus says, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24
So if you have a problem with your brother or you know that your brother has a problem with you then you need to get together and prayerfully seek God’s reconciliation in your relationship.
Before you decide to talk to your brother or sister? Ask yourself these questions:
Is it dishonoring to God? Is it damaging your relationship? Is it hurting others?
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” – Galatians 5:9
Is it hurting the offender?
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” – Leviticus 19:17
“Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” – Proverbs 24:11-12
“Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” – Proverbs 27:5-6; 9:8; 19:25; 28:23
“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1
The Greek word for restore is katartizo – to mend, to repair, to equip, to complete, to prepare.
You should be going to your brother for gentle restoration. This is ongoing, loving, continual action for gospel grace reconciliation. Be going to your brother as many times as the Holy Spirit does in communicating with you over issues in your own life.
“The Greek verb used for “go” in Matthew 18:15 implies a continual action. If you don’t succeed at first, try to discern what went wrong, seek appropriate counsel, and correct your mistakes. Give the other person time to think (and give God time to work), and then go again. You should continue seeking to resolve the matter privately until it becomes apparent that further personal conversations are truly pointless or are likely to do harm. At that point you should consider whether it would be wiser to overlook the matter entirely. If doing so is inappropriate, you will need to seek help from others, leading to step four.” – Sande
So how do you prepare for such an encounter?
- First, you need to prepare your own heart. If you desire to promote peace, you will not rip into your brother but be humble and transparent before him about your own shortcomings.
Do you need to confess any of your sins as you talk with that other person?
Here are some example scenarios:
“Bill, I appreciate your forgiveness, and I will really work at controlling what I say in the future. In fact, I’d appreciate it if you would let me know if you ever hear me talking like that again. In the same way, I believe there are some things you could do differently in the future that might help to avoid similar problems. May I explain what I mean?”
“Linda, there’s no question that my careless words contributed to this problem, and I am really sorry for aggravating you. At the same time, I’m not sure you realize who you contributed to this problem. As much as I would like to drop the matter, I’m afraid we’ll have similar problems again unless we get all of our concerns on the table. May I explain how I see your conduct in this matter?”
- Prayerfully plan your interaction with that other brother or sister with these suggested guidelines.
Give the hope of the gospel.
“When someone has disappointed or offended me, my natural tendency is to come at them with “the law,” lecturing them about what they have done wrong and what they should now do to make things right. This approach generally makes people defensive and reluctant to admit their wrongs, which makes a conflict worse. The Lord is graciously working to teach me a better way to approach others about their failures. Instead of coming at them with the law, I am learning to bring them the gospel.” – Sande
Look at what God has to say to the most schismatic church in the New Testament.
“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” – I Corinthians 1:2-9
Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” – James 1:19-20
God’s wrath is always perfect. We have the perfect illustration of Jesus cleansing the temple. Also, God’s wrath is a perfect demonstration of His righteousness in the book of Revelation. But our wrath is usually 99.9 percent of the time not perfect when we are engaging with other adult brothers and sisters. The meekest man on the face of the earth, Moses, did not exhibit properly a righteous wrath with the complaining, carnal children of Israel. We must take note of this. We must learn to listen in the heat of conflict.
“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” – Proverbs 10:19
“A quick-tempered man acts foolishly” – Proverbs 14:17
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” – Proverbs 16:32
“He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.” – Proverbs 17:27
“He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” – Proverbs 18:13
“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” – Proverbs 15:28.
Seek to agree
When in conflict with that family member, or friend on the job, or church member, is there anything that they are saying which you can agree with about yourself?
“Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it.” – Psalm 141:5a
“The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility.” – Proverbs 15:31-33
“But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” – Ephesians 4:15
Use the Bible carefully
This is critical. Don’t use it to tear down a brother or sister. Use the Scripture in proper context and to the proper situations.
Recognize your limits
“Finally, whenever you are trying to show someone his fault, remember that there are limits to what you can accomplish. You can raise concerns, suggest solutions, and encourage reasonable thinking, but you cannot force change. God may use you as a spokesperson to bring certain issues to the attention of another person, but only God can actually penetrate the other person’s heart and bring about repentance. Paul clearly describes this division of labor in 2 Timothy 2:24-26: “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (emphasis added). As we have seen throughout this book, God calls us to be concerned with faithfulness, not with results. If you prayerfully prepare, speak the truth in love, and do all you can to effectively communicate your concerns to the other person, you will have succeeded in God’s eyes regardless of how others respond (Acts 20:26-27). God will take it from there—in his time your words will produce exactly the results he wants.” – Sande
Next week, we will conclude this Sunday morning series on conflict and gospel grace reconciliation by looking at step four (involving one or more witnesses) and step five (taking the conflict to the church).