Attitudes In Conflict, Part 3
“…Go and Tell Him…”
Warren E. Berkley
Jesus knew there would be the conflict of offenses. He said once, “temptations to sin are sure to come,” (Lk. 17:1). He also said, “…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother…,” (Matt. 5:23).
He not only knew this would happen, He gave specific direction for reconciliation: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others alone with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector,” (Matt. 18:15-17).
We may be tempted to assume that nobody ever follows this. We shouldn’t be so quick with that negative verdict. Is it conceivable that Christians have followed this godly resolution method, and IT WORKED? It never had to be brought “to the church,” because the conflict was resolved before that step. That’s a far better assumption.
If, however, this hasn’t been followed, offended parties should re-engage in compliance with the Lord’s teaching. Notice that this is about sin. We may disagree on matters of opinion or have various levels of different understanding of passages where no sin is involved. So this teaching isn’t for just anything we might label as a conflict. Notice the words: sin, fault, witnesses.
There are two keys to the application of this text. One is attitude. If we are hardened in our dislike of the alleged offender, that can keep us from making active and sincere application of the text. Two, if we do not have sufficient evidence and witnesses, that can and should create hesitation.
Otherwise, trust in the Lord’s wisdom should cause us to promptly do what He said to do – in the circumstance He described. What joy and hope that we don’t have to be stuck in long-term bitterness. If our hearts are centered in God, we will want to apply this passage, seeking the repentance of offenders, and protecting ourselves against the anxiety and stress of unresolved disputes.
“Go,” (Matt. 5:23-24). “Rebuke,” (Luke 17:3). “Forgive,” Luke 17:3,4). If necessary, “Withdraw,” (Matt. 18:17). But, do not let the sun go down on your wrath (Eph. 4:26,27).
And, as to the intended outcome, read this.
“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins,” (Jas. 5:19-20).