A Biblical Process To Handle Disagreements Among Brethren

Time and again within the church I am made aware of a brother or sister in Christ who has or is handling a disagreement with another brother or sister in an improper manner. Most often I am made aware of it because they (1) tell me either about how they’ve dealt with an issue already, (2) they tell me what so-and-so did/is doing and how upset they are by it, or (3) they come asking how to go about dealing with an issue they are having with someone because they are unsure how to go about it. Needless to say, number #3 is the one I prefer to run into since it usually has the least additional conflict already added.

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).

His words:
“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.”

My response:
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.




5 thoughts on “A Biblical Process To Handle Disagreements Among Brethren

  1. Anonymous says:

    I agree completely. If you go in anger, you automatically put the other person on the defensive, and lose communication.Always go in love.Faye F.

  2. Michael says:

    Very good application of Scripture, brother. Exegesis, explication, explanation…all excellent, methinks.The only thing that bothers me a lil bit is the excerpt from Matthew that reads “let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” — and accordingly, your use of the word “anathema.” Are all heathens and publicans anathema to all Christians? Should it be so?Surely we ought not (to) act like them or allow their behavior to influence our own. . .but aren’t we nevertheless called to love them (as enemies)? I guess i’m just struggling a little with the very notion of treating a former brother differently (or worse) than we are told to treat ALL people.Here are the first two definitions of anathema @ dictionary.com :1. a person or thing detested or loathed: That subject is anathema to him.2. a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction.Yikes!What happened to “love the sinner, hate the sin”? Is it EVER right for a Christian to detest or loathe another human being? Or to accurse/consign him/ner to damnation or destruction??? When do we throw our hands up in the air and say “Oh well, we tried, we followed all the steps in Scripture, that person is damned”?So long as s/he is alive, there IS hope and the possibility that s/he will come back to Christ.

  3. >your use of the word "anathema." >Are all heathens and publicans >anathema to all Christians? To say that my using the word anathema was a description of all heathens and publicans is an overstatement on your part of what I was putting across. I'd say that a good part of that misconception, as well as a healthy chunk of your struggling with the concept are linked to the word anathema, and to the modern common definition you cite of its meaning.Strong's Hebrew and Greek dictionaries (anathema is a Greek word) defines it like so:G331ἀνάθεμαanathemaan-ath'-em-ahFrom G394; a (religious) ban or (concretely) excommunicated (thing or person): – accursed, anathema, curse, X great.And in the New Testament, 1Corinthians 16:22 uses it thusly:"If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." The Bible is clear on this – anyone who has been "put out" of the church is accursed, and we are to have nothing to do with them.So, when you go on to say:>but aren't we nevertheless called >to love them (as enemies)? I >guess i'm just struggling a >little with the very notion of >treating a former brother >differently And how is continuing to earnestly hope and pray for their restoration showing a lack of love? How is rebuking sinful behaviour (and making numerous attempts to resolve it) unloving? That is what real love is – being willing to stand in front of someone and say "You're going the wrong way! Stop before you hurt yourself!" There is nothing loving about watching someone walk off a cliff you knew was there because it suited there desires to go in that direction. Whom He loves he also chastises.>Yikes!>What happened to "love the >sinner, hate the sin"? First of all, that phrase is not in the Bible at all. Second, it was not even coined by a Christian, but by Ghandi (big-time Bhuddist) who used it to explain what he believed the Christian message was in a nutshell.Well guess what? He was not a Christian, and he never did have a real or deep understanding of the gospel – it was always filtered through his Bhuddist viewpoints.>Or to accurse/consign him/ner to >damnation or destruction??? When >do we throw our hands up in the >air and say "Oh well, we tried, >we followed all the steps in >Scripture, that person is damned"?Perhaps you'd better re-read the post. Nowhere in it does it even slightly imply that any man has the power to damn another. Knowing me as you do, I am more than bit shocked that you would for a second think that I could ever entertain such an idea – let alone promote it to others.We do everything that we can do – so long as it is without in any way compromising the gospel – and after that…there is nothing else for us to do but let someone go where they choose to go. Standing in the gap, pleading, repeatedly: "STOP! There's a cliff up ahead!!" until you've no voice left, and since they've made it clear they want you to do nothing but shut up and get out of the way…you finally do (with great regret) get out of the way and let them go is a far cry from picking them up by the belt and heaving them over the side and listening to them scream their way down!>So long as s/he is alive, there >IS hope and the possibility that >s/he will come back to Christ.Didn't I strongly stress that they are always to be welcomed back should they repent? Didn't I also strongly stress that we should continue to hope and pray for restoration for them? Didn't I fully explain that the sincere hope we hold in allowing them to walk away towards destruction is that left to their own devices they will hopefully see their error, repent, and return to the church?How you could question what you have, in the way you have, and hold the concerns that you seem to after having read through the post and begin your comments as you did:>"Very good application of >Scripture, brother. Exegesis, >explication, explanation…all >excellent, methinks."begs the question from me: what exactly was exegeted and applied for you??? Let alone excellently. Methinks we should possibly continue this "off-post". What say you?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Nice post and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you as your information.

  5. serloren says:

    You're quite welcome! Sadly – as you can see – this page sees very little time spent adding to it (which would benefit me as much as it may ever anyone else!), but I am glad to know that even so far after the initial posting it is still helping others in some small measure.God bless and stretch you! 🙂

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