As Christians we are set apart from the world to look different than the world. This should be evident in our ethics, politics, relationships, friendships, time management and many other areas in our lives. In today’s Scripture we see how we should be different from the world in our conflicts and disputes as well. The apostle Paul addressed situations in the Corinthian church where Christians are bringing other Christians to court to handle their differences. Paul calls them out for this. He does not hold back. He brings out sarcasm asking them how they’re supposed to judge the world and angels when they can’t even judge each other in trivial cases (v. 1-3). He points out that this is a horrible testimony to the world and legal system that will judge their cases with an unbiblical worldview (v. 4, 6). He shames them (v. 5a). He even tells them that it would be better to take one for the team in the dispute than to bring it to the world (v. 7). Paul does not hold back in this matter because he knows that the witness of the Gospel is at hand.
So how do we handle grievances and disputes amongst the family of God?
The go to passage for handling disputes amongst the body of Christ is Jesus’ own words in Matthew 18:15-20:
15“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he 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 he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 18“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will bebound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
1. Point out the problem (sin) privately. Confront them individually and gently. This shouldn’t be done through a subtweet, a text or through a lawsuit obviously.
2. If the problem (sin) is not repented of, the first person should approach the other with 1-3 other witnesses. This is not a witch hunt. Make sure that this is not for the purpose of gossip or slander and can best be done with a pastor or leader you both trust.
3. Let the church be aware of the situation, if the person is still in the wrong. This doesn’t have to happen in every situation but this is why it’s important to have mentors and church leaders to help.
4. If the problem (sin) is still going on and the people involved are not repentant then don’t consider them a member of the church. Once again, we do this gently, the goal is not ex-communication but restoration.
You’d be surprised but this actually works. Jesus knew what he was talking about when it came to drama and church problems and I’m pretty sure reality tv and political debates show us that the world’s way is the exact opposite of how we want to resolve conflict.
However, please remember:
There is a time to forgive and forget (overlook the sin/problem).
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. After is the parable of the unforgiving servant
Lastly, let’s remember that although we do see the danger and harm in bringing most church conflicts to the courts, there are cases that even the wisest pastors and church members need to go to law enforcement and the court. For example, a church is stupid and in my opinion sinful if it doesn’t handle a case of abuse or molestation without reporting it to authorities. As shepherds we can help after but we need to be careful to not ignore the authority God gives the state in certain legal matters where we are to obedient of and deserve legal justice for.
- Do you handle church conflicts in a Biblical way?
- Is there someone or a situation that you need to address in light of reading today’s jumpstart? If the Spirit is convicting or moving, please don’t ignore Him.
By: Erik Koliser