In Matthew 18, Jesus gives a step-by-step process for resolving conflicts with other Christians. We’ve already seen that we are supposed to deal with our enemies by loving them. However, we don’t need to spend eternity with these individuals. We can let judgment fall on these people and it only benefits us. We become profitable (reward) off of our enemies.
However, when it comes to people we are supposed to spend eternity with, their judgment does affect us. We need a better solution to dealing with people within the church so that Jesus’ “bride” isn’t unprofitable. We need a perfect solution.
"At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Matthew 18:1)
Matthew 18 actually begins with a question from the disciples! ALL of what follows is in response to another question about VALUE! Jesus reiterates that the GREATEST OUGHT to be a servant. (We can't seem to get away from this point...yet today the majority still believe GREATNESS is demonstrated by LACK of servanthood, meekness, humbleness, etc!)
"Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire." (Matthew 18:8-9)
Jesus then goes into an explanation of profitability. Again, profitability is God's metric for GREATNESS...NOT APPEARANCE. The best way to be profitable is to serve...to love. We are going to deal with the above verses and others more specifically on Friday. For now, Jesus is setting up conflict resolution within the church by establishing God's metric for GREATNESS (Answer: profitability) and God's metric for getting to Heaven (Answer: profitability). This culminates in Jesus blatantly stating God's Objective (God's Will):
"Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." (Matthew 18:14)
Take some time to read the first fourteen verses of Matthew 18 to see how Jesus connects the concepts we have been talking about over this series on LEADERSHIP. Notice, Jesus is going to teach something NEW to the disciples...AND Jesus takes the time to set up the background (the WHY). The foundation for conflict resolution involves: serving, loving, profitability, and God's Will (Reward and Salvation).
When people represent Jesus as being mysterious or appealing to our emotion or as primitive, they are PROVING they haven't read the Bible well or they are biased. Jesus was absolutely superior in His thought process...He is STILL beyond us with things He said and did 2000 years ago!
Why haven't ANY characters been created recently that are beyond us? Aren't we smarter than people were 2000 years ago? Understanding all of this secures my faith Jesus actually existed because no person could have created a character 2000 years ago that is STILL beyond us.
Jesus is now ready to go deeper and begins this section with "MOREOVER..."
"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. 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. 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." (Matthew 18:15-17)
Jesus says that if a BELIEVER has wronged you, you need to tell him one on one. If they hear you, then the process is done: Let justice take over. If they don’t hear, then you need to get one or two more people and repeat the process. If the person still doesn’t hear you, then you are supposed to tell it to the church. If the person doesn’t hear the church, then he is supposed to be treated as a heathen.
Notice, this did not say he had to agree with you. Jesus never said that you should focus on resolving the issue and getting your justice. This process is actually focused on benefiting the offending party! Your focus is love. That is, you are supposed to be concerned with the profitability of the person who appears to be in the wrong.
Also, a more extreme version of "not hearing" you is not to meet with you. This passage could have just as easily said if they don't meet with you...however, it wouldn't have covered the case where they meet with you but don't hear you. There is no excuse for not hearing or meeting with you. The Bible says we shouldn't break bread or argue with unprofitable people...this is AFTER you have contrastively proven for yourself you are correct by meeting with them and hearing them out. You don't have to agree. You don't have to argue. You just have to be able to repeat back to them what they believe to their satisfaction.
Jesus is saying to act as a servant (LEADER). Your goal is to facilitate the wrong doer’s purpose and progress. If he has done something wrong, you are supposed to make him aware of it so he can consciously make a choice whether he wants to make it right or not. This means he OUGHT to be able to repeat to you what you BELIEVE about the situation well enough that you agree he understands...and then the process ends EVEN if he disagrees with you.
If he hears you and disagrees, then the matter is up to God and you’ve done your part. This is not an opportunity to embarrass the offender or control him. You are not obligated to carry out judgment because you might be wrong. Remember Jesus said your job is not to judge because it is unprofitable for you. Your objective is to teach...to be profitable. In fact, if the wronged person does hear you, doesn’t repent and ends up being in error, he will actually receive a bigger punishment and you will receive a bigger reward.
If the offender doesn’t hear, even after the church leadership is involved, Jesus says they aren’t a part of the church. Essentially, Jesus is saying the person who isn’t willing to hear is unprofitable and does not have what it takes to continue the journey. The person is expressing their will to pursue comfort and avoid growth. And like Jesus referenced in His foundation explanation, the body is better off being without this heathen and making it to Heaven (being profitable) than for the whole body (church) to suffer because they have a member who is so prideful he is unwilling to hear and makes the whole body unprofitable.
Notice, the final decision is left up to the church and not you. You must give up your will before the process is over. Therefore, you also need to be ready to hear what the church has decided if it doesn’t go your way.
This conflict resolution method is perfect. It never exposes the wronged party to being in error and it accounts for a way to help the apparent wrong doer. There isn’t a more profitable way to resolve conflicts than for a wronged person to focus on facilitating the purpose and progress of their apparent wrong doer and leave the ultimate decision in the hands of a group focused on love.