Our theme for this month: “Changing the tone of the conversation”
Our Bible verse for today: “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he doesn’t pay attention to them, tell the church. If he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like a Gentile or a tax collector to you.” Matthew 18:15-17 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Talk to the person, not about the person.”
As I write this it is Saturday morning. Tomorrow is Sunday and hopefully you will be gathered with your church family. Although most of the time church gatherings are a time of good fellowship and spiritual nurture, they can also be occasions for conflict, gossip, and slander. It’s often been said that “The only thing wrong with churches is that they’re full of people.” That’s funny but true. People have problems, and sometimes those problems play out in church life and cause conflict. C.S. Lewis wrote, “There’s always one thing more going on in every person’s life of which you know nothing.”
Everybody has issues. And that means that every person you encounter in church tomorrow will have at least one thing going on in their life that they wish wasn’t there, and which is causing them concern or heartache. Be sensitive to that! And be gentle.
In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus provided us with a structure for conflict resolution. When there’s an issue between you and another person you are to go to that person privately and talk to them about the thing that’s bothering you. You are to do it in love and with the goal of resolving the issue and restoring the relationship. There’s a good reason Jesus has told us to do this. Our natural inclination is usually to avoid conflict and unpleasant encounters. But when we have something against someone we want to be able to talk about it. So since talking directly to the individual could be uncomfortable, we instead talk to others about the individual. This is where gossip and slander comes from.
There are only two reasons to discuss the situation with someone other than the person it pertains to. The first is to get their counsel so you will be prepared to go speak to the other person. The second reason is so you can ask that person to be one of the individuals in step two of Jesus’ process for conflict resolution. Step two is when you have one or two others go with you to speak to the individual to help resolve the issue.
The third step, if the first two didn’t work and if the issue is important enough, is to involve the entire church in the effort to resolve the problem and restore the relationship. But the situation would need to be serious indeed for it to arrive at this stage.
The point in all of this (in keeping with our theme of changing the tone of the conversation), is that we are to avoid gossip and slander – even gossip and slander dressed up as a prayer request! Jesus wants you to talk to the person, not about the person.