Conflict is inevitable. Having said that, a clear sign of Christian maturity is not how well you avoid conflict, but how you respond to conflict. Immature Christians are quickly offended and slow to forgive; whereas mature Christians are slow to take offense and quick to forgive. In our current series we have thus far learned that: 1) we are able to forgive, 2) we should forgive, 3) it is good to forgive, and 4) how to forgive. Today, we shall learn from Matthew 18:15 when and how to go to someone who has sinned against us.
- When you sin against someone, go immediately. When you become aware of your sin against someone else, go to them as soon as possible (Matt 5:23-24) to confess your sin and ask for forgiveness. This is important because this only happens through the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the grieved conscience is a gift from God.
- Prayerfully determine if you have been sinned against. It is hard to make it an entire day without being offended. Our pride is sensitive to the words and actions of others and is easily wounded. While we cannot overlook sin committed against us, it is virtuous to overlook an offense (Prov 19:11). One pastor differentiates between an offense given and an offense taken. Too often we may take offense to what another has said when that person did not mean to offend.
- Choose to forgive the one who sinned against you. If someone has sinned against you, you must go to them and seek to reconcile. But, before you ever speak to them, make the intentional decision to forgive them. (See last week’s message for more on this point.)
- Go and tell him his fault. In Matthew 18:15, Jesus instructs us to “go and tell him his fault.”
- Between you and him alone. This initial encounter must be private. Resist the urge to gossip about it with others. Far too many conflicts become worse because the matter is discussed between everyone except the two in conflict. Go to them alone.
- With Humility. When you meet with your brother you humbly recognize that you are a sinner who has been saved by grace. You accept responsibility for your actions and approach graciously.
- With Justification. This goes back to whether or not you should overlook the offense. You should only approach the person if you can offer proof of the offense and show that it is sinful. When Jesus said, “tell him his fault”, He is instructing us to convince with solid, compelling evidence as you expose the sin to them.
- With the intent to reconcile. The purpose of the meeting is not to get vengeance on them or to “get even” with them. The purpose is to reconcile. Jesus said, “if he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
- But what if he does not listen? If he does not listen, love compels you to keep pursuing reconciliation. Next week we will discuss the next steps of Jesus’ plan for reconciliation.