Matthew 18:15-20 – “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. 16 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.’ 17 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. 18 “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” NKJV
I will, no doubt, rock some people’s boats today in what I write. Most conflicts are handled other than biblically. We all know it, yet we continue to do it. Here Jesus gives us a very clear picture and process through which we are to handle disagreements and conflicts. It is a directive that we do not follow, in part, because the church of today is ill-equipped to do its part in resolving disputes.
Jesus tells us that if we are wronged by a brother or sister, we are to go to them directly. We are not to spread it amongst ourselves and make it a matter of he said/she said and form cliques and divisions. Our interest should be to resolve the conflict between us and a brother or sister in Christ. The Lord advises that if we do this and the person hears our plea we have reconciled and gained our brother.
Jesus takes it to the next level in telling us that if the offender does not hear us, then we are to take one or two more with us and appeal to them again with oversight and support from within the church, and by implication, it would be by godly unbiased voices probably from the eldership.
The purpose of these additional people is to establish witnesses to what is said and done. If that fails, then we are to take the matter to the church. Is that the church as a whole or the eldership of the church? That is a matter that many disagree on but either way, the matter is made public. Then if the person who has truly offended or wronged another refuse to hear the plea before the church he is regarded as a heathen and a tax collector.
Then Jesus says something that most take as being an entirely different topic, but the context and content cannot be regarded that way. He is still talking about someone sinning against another and in the context of two or three witnesses establishing a matter. He says, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound on earth and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
If you bind the offender by agreement that person is bound spiritually in heaven and earth and if you set them free from the offense, they are freed. Jesus then said, “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.” While I agree this applies to other things it is also absolute that it applies to handling conflict. This shows how serious God is about resolving conflict and what you do individually and collectively regarding sin and offense within the local body.
Do not let matters of conflict fester and become malignant, address them immediately, properly, and under the guidelines of scripture. You will find that there is incredible power in this process, and it will be transforming.
May God be with you as you go through your day!