That familiar sick feeling sank in my stomach. Actually, it felt more like someone had just punched me in the stomach and then sent an elephant to sit on my chest.
My shoulders sank under the weight that I had felt so many times before.
It seemed to me that the very moment I thought I had moved on from the hurt and disappointment, something would propel me back to square one where I was forced to work through it all over again.
Will this ever stop? Will this person ever stop hurting me?
To find answers we have to ask the right questions.
“Will this ever stop? Will this person ever stop hurting me?” aren’t questions that can be answered. However, we can answer the question “How many times do I have to forgive?”
Actually, this question has been both asked and answered before. Peter asked the question, and Jesus answered him in Matthew 18. Actually, the whole chapter is worth examining because the entire chapter deals with how we resolve conflicts.
Most people skip past verses 1-14, focusing only on verses 15-17 for biblical conflict resolution. But that is step 4. If you skip steps 1-3 and fail to do step 5, you will have the whole process out of balance!
5 Things Jesus Taught Us About Conflict Resolution
1. We need humility. Matthew 18 opens with the disciples asking Jesus about who will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ answer likely surprised them—maybe even disappointed a little—when He told them that they had to have the humility of a little child.
Oftentimes, when people talk about this familiar passage, they stop there. But Jesus went on to say that if anyone causes a child to sin, it would be better for that they be drowned in the sea. What is He saying?
He is saying that the kingdom of heaven first of all requires humility. This is a basic requirement for living the Christian life! When we fail to walk in humility, many of our actions, choices and words will not only be offensive, they will cause us to stumble in our own walk with the Lord.
Proverbs warns, “Pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Pride is what caused Lucifer to be cast from heaven. It is dangerous to the believer!
2. Offenses will come. If we suppose we can walk through this life and never be offended, we are living in a fairy tale. The question isn’t whether or not we’ll ever be offended, but how will we deal with that offense. However, Jesus warned us that it is a serious and dangerous thing to offend someone. He said, “For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes.”
While He was talking within the context of children, there is a broader context that we see in this whole chapter—and that context is the body of Christ. Believers.
Dear saints, we must remember two things:
a) We will be offended. It will happen. We shouldn’t be surprised when it does.
b) We must live our lives in a serious manner because it is a serious thing to offend another believer or cause them to fall!
3. Jesus still loves the believer who has fallen and we need to love them too. The parable of the Great Shepherd who searches for the lost sheep is most often shared in context of Jesus searching for lost souls. But this is an incorrect context! The sheep was already part of the fold, but became lost.
Jesus shares this story in context of a believer who has fallen away!
The sheep wandered off and got lost, just as believers sometimes wander off into sin. It’s painful to the whole body when a believer falls into sin! But what should our response be?
Many times the response is gossip thinly disguised as a “prayer request.” Other times, for whatever reason, we fail to reach out them and try to restore them. Yet this is our responsibility as the body of Christ, to restore a fallen brother.
How do we do this?
4. There is a biblical approach to offense and restoration. One thing that often disturbs me is how often conflict is aired over the Internet, on blogs and social media. What is worse is Christians’ response. It’s like they grab a bowl of popcorn and enjoy the show. This is not only a bad testimony, it is a destructive to the body!