Am I personally some shining example of how to use this process? No, not in the least, I’ve handled conflicts and problems in my life as poorly as anyone possibly could. I still screw up at this – most often in my personal life – and then have need to repent to God and the injured person. But since I began chasing after God’s ways, it has gotten much, much better, and it continues to (Thank you Lord Jesus!).
It wasn’t until I began actually walking His paths, setting Christ before me in my life, at the head of my life, that I learned of this Biblical model for dealing with disagreements between brothers (and sisters) in Christ Jesus. It was of course right there in scripture waiting for me to read it with an open heart and hungry eyes. And while it is a process to be used especially between believers, the principals of it apply for our dealings with all people in and outside of the faith.
Below I am reprinting an excerpt from an email conversation I had with a brother over a year ago, and my reply to him as it lays out the process I’m talking about. The conversation itself was long and varied (a few weeks actually), and I am only including what pertained to the subject at hand. Even though I am not identifying anyone, I did get his permission first to use his words, which I am printing exactly as he wrote them.
In my words on the subject, I have gone back and corrected my lousy typing in the original, which contains my usual errors, such as keying a semi-colon instead of an apostrophe to create a contraction. Other than that, I have only changed the wording and such on a minimal level for the sake of clarity to the current reader(s).
“After the service was over I walked up to this “priest” and told him I hoped he would either reform or find another religious faith to belong to since he did not agree with this one. He wanted to argue/debate but I would have none of it. I simply said, “And, I will do everything in my power to make sure you never return to this parish so long as I am a member.”
Having not been present, and not knowing the extent of the disagreement, I can only answer based on what you said in the above paragraph; and with that as my only measuring tool…I’d have to question your actions, and I would completely disagree with the concluding statement you made to him. Why? Not that I manage to do this perfectly myself by any means but…
Matthew 18:15 – Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
We (Christians) are commanded to do all things in love, which would’ve meant you asking to speak to him privately later. And then when you did speak with him, to do so with the love of Christ – calmly, carefully, and compassionately. Going by what you wrote above, you got a snoot full of attitude (an angry spirit) and waltzed up to the guy proclaiming “Get it right or get out!” If you had arranged to talk with him in private at a later time, you would have then had time to prepare yourself and your spirit for it and then not spoken out of your own upset feelings. James 1:19-20 says: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: (20) For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.).”
At that point, if he listened to you…Hooray! If however he still refused to listen to what you had to say (and that means you being willing to talk with him and discuss it – part of calling someone to repentance is taking the time to be sure there is a clear understanding of the sin involved), you then proceed to the very next verse.
Matthew 18:16 – But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
You take a couple of brothers in the church with you, and you go back and try again. Not as a some kind of lynching party, but as reasonable men who may then be able to gain headway by their way of speaking, or by the combined conviction of multiple voices speaking to him in truth and love. If all of this fails – you will have each other to be able to verify that you each acted properly and correctly in trying to correct this person (In this particular case, you’d most likely have wanted to take some elders of the church with you). And again, if he then listens and repents? Hooray!! But if at that point he still balks, still refuses to own up to his sin, or repent of it, etc. Then what? Proceed to the very next verse.
Matthew 18:17 – And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
This part is (or at least it certainly should be) very hard for you and your church brothers to do; but you now have no choice. You call him up before the church, the assembled congregation; you then state openly and totally the problems and issues at hand. You do this very carefully, and civilly (not like a bad episode of Perry Mason), and then you allow him to state his case before the church. If he then chooses to repent, Hooray!!!!! If however he does not even then repent of his sin – he is to be shown the door, and no one from the church is to be walking with or supporting him outside of the church walls either. He is to be anathema. This step should never ever be done easily, hastily, or in anger. It should only be done accompanied with tears and with great sorrow for you’ve now lost a brother in Christ. That is never cause for rejoicing. Not ever.
The last thing you wrote above was that you were going to stand against this man, and you would ensure that he was made unwelcome forever. “Everything in your power” you said to make sure of it. That is absolutely not the way to handle it, the very desire to do so is wrong.
After going through all of the steps I listed above, the brother who has been sent out, hopefully for his own good! 1Corinthians 5:5 says:“To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus”. Our hope in doing it is that he may be brought to repentance by following his own sinful path. He should still be held up regularly in prayer by the brotherhood, his restoration hoped and prayed for continually. And if and when he does return, humbled and repentant unto God, ready to walk the path of righteousness again…he is to be welcomed with open arms. It should be a cause of much joy that a “lost” brother has been restored to the faith.
2Corinthians 2:5 – But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. (6) Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.
Having been cast out for his sin(s) by the church was enough discipline by the brotherhood, no retribution or resentment is called for or even allowed.
2Corinthians 2:7 – So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
When someone comes to a place of true repentance, they need forgiveness of God, and then of their brothers and sisters in Christ or the grief of their past actions alone can actually take them down all over again.
2Corinthians 2:8 – Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.
No resentment, no reservation, and no further rebuke. Open arms, warm and welcomed like the prodigal son Jesus spoke of in Luke 15:11-32.
2Corinthians 2:9 – For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.
We are commanded to be obedient to Christ “in all things”. No matter how injured we were – we forgive others as He forgives us…or we are not His. 1John 3:10 says plainly: “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”
2Corinthians 2:10 – To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;
We (all adopted children of God) must always forgive in all things, and we can do so because of Christ, only because of Christ, because of the Holy Spirit living in us and through us, we are empowered to reflect Him in our actions towards the rest of the world.
2Corinthians 2:11 – Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
This side of Heaven, every single thing is always a matter of right or wrong, good or evil, God or the devil – there are no gray areas, no middle ground, no DMZ’s. The war is always on, and the battle is always running.