Here are some things we learn about conflict resolution from Jesus’ words in Matthew 18.
To begin with, we have to “admit our hurt”; we have to admit that someone else has offended us, or admit that we have offended someone else. So often we have conflict with others, and we will say things like, “That didn’t hurt me.” Sure it did. That’s why we think about it all of the time. And we will never experience healing from it until we admit that we’ve been hurt and become willing to confront the person who hurt us. By the way, confessing our hurt is better than repressing our hurt (which causes us to be unhealthy on the inside) or expressing our hurt (which furthers hurts our relationships on the outside).
Second, we need to refuse to gossip about those who have hurt us if we really want to reconcile the broken relationship. When people hurt us, rather than seeking to reconcile the relationship we are tempted to tell others privately or publicly how those people have hurt us. But Jesus said, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense.”
Third, we need to pursue reconciliation with others if we really want to restore the broken relationship. Many people practice procrastination or avoidance when it comes to reconciling broken relationships, which means they will remain unreconciled. Jesus said that we need to go to those who have offended us, and in another passage He said that we need to go to those that we have offended and seek to reconcile that broken relationship. By the way, when we get a meeting with those who have offended us or we have offended, we need to: 1) clothe ourselves with love and peace, 2) state our case specifically and lovingly (because if we say it offensively it will be received defensively), 3) listen to our offender’s perspective (1 Peter 1:19), 4) admit our wrongs to our offender (Matthew 7:3, 5), and 5) be willing to forgive our offender (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Fourth, we have to be willing to follow the process that Jesus outlined for us in Matthew 18:15-17. We have to first go to the other person privately. Then, if the relationship is not reconciled, we need to bring 1-2 others with us. Then, if the relationship is still not reconciled, we need to involve Church leaders in helping us reconcile the relationship. If we follow that process, 99% of relationships will probably be restored.
Paul wrote, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). And Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Let’s strive to be “peacemakers” rather than “peacebreakers” in the days ahead.