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God's Word on Conflict
Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit
Eph 4:30: "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."
Fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ is such a blessing. When people focus on the Lord, praise and pray, study and apply, love and edify each other, it's like heaven on earth. Unfortunately, because all people are sinful and struggle between flesh and Spirit, conflict can arise from time to time. When people don't know what God's Word says about resolving conflict, or if they do know, but don't obey, results can be devastating.
God has called us not to remain babes, but to grow in His Word and mature (Eph 4:15). Not everyone is at the same level of maturity in Christ. Indeed, we learn obedience by the things we suffer (Heb 5:8). All things do work together for good for those who love God and are the called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).
Let's take a moment to look at some passages in the Word regarding conflict and then see why obedience to His Word is the best way to keep Satan in his place.
The Devil's Foothold
Jesus said in Mat 18:15-17:
- If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
Now, this would be the ultimate scenario, wouldn’t it? The first thing one must do is to determine the worthiness of the sin committed. Is it a big enough sin to make it an issue? For example, if a brother feels you spoke disrespectfully to him and hurt his feelings, would that be a major issue? Not necessarily, but he might feel it can be addressed respectfully and hope you will be more conscious of this behavior in the future.
Where he could err, however, is if he lets the sun go down on his anger, waiting to address the issue with you, thus giving a foothold to the Devil (Eph 4:26-27). Furthermore, should he decide to talk to someone else first, this could add wood to the fire. Surely, we understand that each person has a close friend or confidante and may just need to seek advice as to whether to just pray about it or decide to make it an issue. Pro 26:20 tells us, “Without wood a fire goes out, and without gossip a quarrel dies down.”
However, a bigger err would then be for his confidante to take matters into his own hands, whereby he involves two more parties. God’s Word says in 1 Peter 3:9 that we are “not to return evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”
In the meantime, the one you offended finally lets you know. You are grieved and apologize, asking for forgiveness. Surely, the issue should be resolved in love.
However, what do you feel when you find out that three more people know about this situation?! Now, it’s up to you to go to the offending party(ies).
Can you see where disobedience to God’s Word gives a foothold to the Devil?
- But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.
If the offending party(ies) will not hear you, nor will they take accountability for their actions, take another with you. If you and you partner are ignored, it’s time to take it before the church.
- If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.
While the word "church" is ekklésia: an assembly, a (religious) congregation, it's probably not wise to share the details of the offense with all church members; rather, the issue should be taken to an appropriate authority in the church. The responsibility of the church leadership is to bring the parties together and discuss the issues, addressing the sin and bringing reconciliation. However, if the church leader requests this gathering and the sinful party(ies) do not wish to communicate, this should not be forced.
More often than not, church leaders do not want to be a part of petty disputes. Unfortunately, the consequence of this avoidance is people leaving the fellowship.
- If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Should you be a part of a church that will heed the Word of God in such a case, the believer(s) in rebellion must be corrected by the leadership. And, all affected parties must then forgive each other and continue in fellowship. None of us are without sin, and just like we hold others accountable to us, we must be accountable to others, amen!
But, aren’t we just supposed to love each other unconditionally? Forgive as we’ve been forgiven? Do you not address behaviors with your children? Why must we be accountable? Accountability is defined as having an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions.
Let’s look at Luke 17:3-4: “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."
First of all, what does rebuke mean? Rebuke is the Greek word epitimao (ep-ee-tee-mah’-o) to ax upon, censure or admonish, forbid, straightly charge. Obviously, God’s Word gives us the directive to rebuke someone who sins against us. Again, we must consider whether the sin is even worth addressing in the first place.
If the one who offended you apologizes and asks your forgiveness, you must let them know you’ve forgiven them. Silence is also a sin. For you to leave that person in the dark is not to bring peace to the relationship.
What if the offender does not acknowledge the sin? What if you are treated with silence? That would be equally wrong.
Ponder Ps 32:3-5: "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’”
Based on Luke 17:34, it is the responsibility of the offender to not only acknowledge the sinful behavior to the Lord, but also to the one sinned against, verbalizing repentance. At that point, the one sinned against must also verbalize forgiveness. James 5:16 confirms that we are to "confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed."
Mat 15:17 clearly states that if the offender won’t listen to you, even one or two others, and ultimately the church, he is to be counted among the Gentiles (heathen/unbeliever) and tax collectors (dishonest/despised).
This type of thing is grievous to the Spirit of God. Those who call themselves Christians and yet rebel against submission to the Word of God and each other cause dissention in the body of Christ. More often than not, it’s the party sinned against that ends up leaving the fellowship, especially in the case where church leadership does not want to get involved.
How can anyone have peace worshiping our Lord when regarding iniquity in his/her heart? Ps 66:18 states, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear.” Mat 5:23-24 tell us, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
Truly, to have no conviction about these matters and continue worshiping God and doing all the religious works of the church is hypocrisy! Is God pleased? Pro 28:13 tells us, "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion."
For further study on hypocrisy, I invite you to read my hub Jesus Called Them Hypocrites!
Satan’s purpose is to scatter the sheep. He can only attempt to do this through the wolves in sheep’s clothing. It’s important the sheep not get discouraged, in any case. Sometimes, a fellowship is large enough that the sheep can just find others with which to fellowship; but in the case of a very small group, the hostilities waged against the sheep could pose as a stumbling block to those not involved. Be comforted, for the Lord does not call us to oppression, and will call His sheep out of a den of vipers to be used in blessing those who will receive another “baaaa-aaaaa!”