Matthew 18 says; “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
This verse is often quoted when people are claiming authority over something, but to be specific, these are words of authoritative affirmation. If you read back to v15 it’s in the context of correcting someone. What’s being said here is that if a decision is made in resolving a conflict and the person challenging someone chooses to restrict someone or release someone, then heavens authority is in it. The bible gives us a guide to dealing with conflict and correcting someone in sin. In light of that guide, here are my five tips for dealing with conflict:
1) Get into Conflict:
This might seem dumb, but we need to realise that conflict is not a bad thing. Falling out is not a problem… not making it right after is. Issues rarely resolve themselves. We need to challenge each other and have the occasional conflict. Iron does not sharpen iron unless it strikes.
2) Speak it out:
As Matt 18:15 says, go to a brother and show him his wrong… if he listens then you have won him over. Talk to the person about the issue. Be sensitive but direct. There is a tendency to say something more gentle than the hard truth at this point. Don’t avoid the issue and be encouraging about the need to make it right.
3) Don’t let it continue:
Matt 18:16 says that if they don’t listen then you need to have a mini intervention. If your holding yourselves to account then this is right for the situation; take one or two respected peers with you and talk through the issue and get the person in conflict to see the issue. This is not about ganging up on someone, but about objectivity and accountability. DISCLAIMER: This may not work with renegades and unaccountable people… also outside a church or work context, it is rare to see this approach.
4) Turn up the heat:
Matt 18:17 Tells us that if the person still does not listen and is indignant, then we have no choice but to make the issue public. In a church context this looks like bringing it to the church leaders and beyond that a public Congregational rebuke. We go from 1-2 people having an input, to the whole community.
Matt 18:17b onwards tell us that if they are still refusing to listen, then the only other option is to isolate and excommunicate the person. This is simply to show them how serious their defiance is. It is extremely rare to see this in any mature church, but sometimes necessary. Normally a conflict is resolved by step 2 because people are reasonable.
These principles are transferable. In a non-church context it might look like a tough conversation, followed by friends input, followed by a bigger peer group and if no resolution is found step 5 can sometimes look like you distancing yourself from somebody as a result of an unwillingness to change.