Please read Matthew 18:15-20 (look to the bottom of the page to read it or click the link to go to it.)

Often times the quote “where two or more are gathered” is recited when Christians speak of prayer. The intent is to claim more power in the prayers lifted in community rather than in isolation. While that is wonderful and pure motivation–and it rings of truth–the actual quote from Matthew 18 is not in direct reference to the spiritual power of a prayer meeting. Jesus is instead clearly speaking about conflict management among his followers. It may have a “bonus application” to our prayer life. But it has “direct implications” for the way we go about solving disputes in the church.

In Matthew 18 conflict management starts at the point when someone feels “sinned against.” Being honest here is crucial. How often do we feel slighted or offended but when it comes down to it we really haven’t been sinned against? We need to simply offer grace for such things and move on. But when we are really and truly sinned against Jesus offers only one path. He does not say that we should spread gossip about the person. He does not say we should sin against them in return. He simply says that we [highlight class=”highlight_yellow” style=””]1) go to the source [/highlight]and if the person listens and confesses (the best outcome) all is back to normal. However, when this is not the case he offers the second level of biblical conflict resolution. We should [highlight class=”highlight_yellow” style=””]2) confirm with others[/highlight] that the person is refusing to listen. This way it is not simply “our word against theirs.” This may look like a modern day intervention where a group of disciples tells another that they are astray and need to wise up.

If they still refuse to turn around we are instructed to [highlight class=”highlight_yellow” style=””]3) take it to the entire church.[/highlight] At this point the conflict resolution has evolved into a full-scale church discipline scenario. All churches should function with some process whereby this biblical plan for conflict resolution can take place. In this teaching Jesus Christ has delegated great power to us to “bind and loose” (a Rabbinic concept meaning making a change to the interpretation of religious law). We should not take this role lightly nor exercise it too sparingly. To go to the final level and determine to [highlight class=”highlight_yellow” style=””]4) treat a former disciple as a pagan [/highlight]is a sticky situation but one that is necessary for the completely unrepentant believer.

So consider for a while who has sinned against you. Really think about it. Do you have a name coming to mind? Do you have two? Or perhaps a long list? Let the slights and offenses that are less than sin melt off of you today. But for those occasions where you have truly been sinned against, take this four step plan of Jesus in hand and begin the process. It all starts with you taking the bold step to go to the source. As Jesus knew when he gave us this plan, the process often ends with that simple step.

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“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the fault. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If that person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. If the church decides you are right, but the other person won’t accept it, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. I tell you this: Whatever you prohibit on earth is prohibited in heaven, and whatever you allow on earth is allowed in heaven. “I also tell you this: If two of you agree down here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them.” – Matthew 18:15-20 (NLT)

 

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