Daily Devotion August 31, 2023

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collection” (Matthew 18:15-17).

     Conflict is nothing new to humanity. Disagreement has been with us since the days of Cain and Abel. Whenever two or three are gathered together, our human differences are certain to arise.

     Of course, conflict can produce positive outcomes when handled properly. Donatella Versace once said that creativity can come from the conflict of ideas. David Taylor, the former CEO of Procter, and Gamble, claims that many of the company’s products are the result of disagreement. The tension created between the differing perspectives amongst P&G’s researchers often leads to greater innovation.

     However, great damage can be done when conflict is mismanaged. Relationships are particularly vulnerable within the church. In today’s Scripture lesson, Jesus addresses the matter of conflict resolution through a process summarized by the following three steps:

       1. When you have a disagreement with another Christian, go and present the concern with the
           person or persons directly involved.
       2. If the matter remains unresolved, bring two or three other Christians into the conversation for the
           sake of resolving the matter.
       3. If the conflict continues to go unresolved, take the matter to the church (or for United Methodists               go to the Staff-Parish Relations Committee).

Sadly, I have witnessed discord sown among the saints by persons that refuse to follow this formula. They either lack the courage to approach the source of the conflict directly or they find that triangulating others into the disagreement will rally a vocal majority to their cause.

     As an administrator, I sometimes find myself involved in disputes. I’ve appreciated most the persons that have followed the “Matthew 18 Model”. In the vast majority of instances, the conflict was resolved rather swiftly and amicably.

     Moreover, the three-step process works well in all human relationships. For married couples that cannot reach an understanding, steps two and three may involve other trusted Christians or a pastoral counselor. The same formula can be utilized by work colleagues,
friendships, and extended families.

     My prayer is the next time you find yourself sideways with someone that you might resist the temptation to skip step one. It takes courage to approach the person with whom you disagree. Yet, when all is said and done, peace has a greater chance to reign supreme when Jesus’ counsel is heeded.