Many of us avoid confrontation because we’re not really sure how to go about it, but as Christians, we’re called to live in harmony with fellow believers. Thankfully, Jesus gave us a roadmap to help us serve as leaders in the ministry of reconciliation. Join Calvary Christian Academy’s Bible Department Head, Pastor Bill Schott, as he breaks down the Matthew 18 principle that is not only relevant for adults, but for children as well.
Can you think of the last time you encountered conflict with someone in your life — a family member, friend, or colleague? Chances are you weren’t entirely thrilled to be in that situation and would have rather avoided it altogether. Oftentimes, us humans are prone to avoiding confrontation with others because we’re not sure what to say or do.
Thankfully, Jesus knew we would need guidance in this area and laid out a simple and effective framework in Matthew 18 for resolving a dispute with a fellow believer who appears to have sinned against you (and ultimately God).
Living in Freedom
As a high school Bible teacher, I have turned to the Matthew 18 principle to help students resolve conflict caused by gossip, slander on social media, and other wrongdoing. One way we strive to foster a biblical environment at Calvary Christian Academy is by exhoriting students to live free from the bondage of grudges, resentment, anger, and unforgiveness, reminding them that Jesus commands us to love one another, even our “enemies” (Matthew 5:43-48
We must ultimately remember that hurt people hurt people
The Lord cares enough about us and our relationships to give us the Matthew 18 principle; it’s a divine way of setting ourselves free by the damage done by other people so we don’t have to carry the burden of baggage. Forgiveness is based on our ability to understand the dysfunction that exists in others because of the Fall
. We must ultimately remember that hurt people hurt people, which should move our hearts toward compassion, humility, and the ministry of discipleship. Responding in such a manner will help us take the offense less personally.
Practicing the Principle
So how do we go about making an offender our friend again? How do we stay faithful to speak the truth in love?
As you walk through the steps below, I want you to envision implementing them in the most organic way possible. Follow the principle with speech that comes naturally to you. Remember, our goal should always be to show love and genuine concern. Something I like to do is ask the person I’m addressing to stop me if they feel I’m not coming across loving.
Try working it out between the two of you.“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
Your first step should be addressing the issue with the individual directly face to face. The next best option is video chat if an in-person visit is not possible either due to proximity or health concerns. Addressing the individual first and foremost means not venting about your issue with someone else, which is otherwise known as gossip.
Your first step should be addressing the issue with the individual directly face to face.A good way to approach the conversation is by starting with a positive, presenting the issue, and ending with a positive. When presenting the issue, make sure you use non-accusatory verbiage that focuses more on what you understood, observed, or experienced and how it made you feel. Approach it from a place of curiosity. Here are some phrases to consider:
- There’s something that’s been bothering me that I wanted to share with you…
- I’m looking for some clarity because I was confused when I saw XYZ….
- It seems to me that…
If the person you’re confronting is in denial, what if they’re right? Approaching the conversation with an open mind and heart may reveal that you may be the one who needs to ask for forgiveness. But if this is not the case, tell your brother/sister that you don’t want anything hindering your relationship, and remind them that as Christians, you are called to peace, harmony, and unity. If we decide to leave our friends in their sin, the conclusions of heaven will not be made known in their life (verse 18).
Bring in witnesses if necessary.“But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” (verse 16)
This step can be a bit awkward because sometimes the individual you’re addressing can feel outnumbered and threatened. It always helps to give that person a heads up about needing to take this step as opposed to blindsiding them. Although they should already know this is what Jesus calls you to do as His followers, they may need a gentle reminder so they don’t feel like you’re just trying to cause unnecessary drama.
The goal is to identify one or two other Christians who have observed or experienced the same sin you have. I would approach this conversation as a loving intervention that begins with expressing the group’s genuine concern for the individual. You can have peace knowing that the Holy Spirit is present during this situation to guide you, as stated in verse 20: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Although the Matthew 18 principle is designed for believers, taking its first two steps would be wise if you were ever to find yourself needing to confront a non-believer.
Involve the Church to speak into the matter.“And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (verse 17)
If you were unable to achieve reconciliation in the previous step, taking the matter to the Church would be your last attempt to make amends. Who is the Church practically speaking? This can be anyone with spiritual authority, ideally a pastor you both have a relationship with. In a Christian school setting like CCA, this can be a teacher or administrator. The pastor or educator is charged with bringing it back to what the Word of God says.
you ought to still love them and be evangelical toward them despite there no longer being a genuine friendship or relationshipIf the meeting between you three does not end with repentance and restoration, know that you’ve done your part. When Jesus says to treat the individual like a heathen or tax collector, He’s telling us to treat that person as someone who is outside the faith. This means you ought to still love them and be evangelical toward them despite there no longer being a genuine friendship or relationship.
Teaching Endless Forgiveness
Extending forgiveness and achieving harmony is not easy, but we cannot forget to what extent we have been forgiven. Romans 5 tells us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And when Jesus said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” on the Cross, the verb forgive
in the original language was in the future perfect tense
, meaning that He asked God not just to forgive those who persecuted Him in that moment, but before, after, and all throughout the persecution process. He was referring to an ongoing, endless forgiveness. God forgave you and me an unpayable debt, so the expectation is that we would forgive as He has forgiven us.
Extending forgiveness and achieving harmony is not easy, but we cannot forget to what extent we have been forgiven.
As parents, we need to teach our children the importance of forgiveness from an early age. As they mature, you can walk them through the Matthew 18 principle in the form of acting, creating mock scenarios in which they would have to apply the principles.
Children who are being raised to love and serve Jesus need to know that even though forgiveness is a medicine that doesn’t taste good going down, it is healthy and good for them.
Children who are being raised to love and serve Jesus need to know that even though forgiveness is a medicine that doesn’t taste good going down, it is healthy and good for them. They will probably be mocked for displaying such obedience and initiating reconciliation God’s way, even by fellow Christians, but remind them that there is strength in humility and great is their reward in heaven.
In order to teach these principles to our children, we need to be modeling them and practicing them in our own lives when conflict arises. But thanks be to God and His grace that He left us with a framework that is designed to lead us, His children, toward peace and freedom.
Pastor Bill Schott serves as the head of the Bible department at Calvary Christian Academy and as an Associate Pastor at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. At CCA, he teaches high school classes such as Apologetics, Typology, New Testament Greek, and Biblical Hebrew. He and his wife Diana have two grown children and two grandchildren.
If you want to learn more from Pastor Schott, he will be teaching a free online class on the book of Revelation beginning February 24 at 6:45 PM. For more information and to register, click here .