How to Resolve Conflict with a Friend.
Today I am answering a reader’s question. Do you have a question that you would like answered in the “Dear Charity” section of the blog? Please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org Please include if I have your consent to post your question on the blog. Also please include how you would like your question to be signed. (i.e. Anonymous, Your Name, Searching in Seattle ect…)
How do you apply Matthew 18 in your daily life? (a.k.a. when people are being rude and gossiping about you?) What does that look like? Or what about the flip side when someone is talking about someone else without going to them first? Even about the little things?
What a great question! I am so impressed by your desire to apply Matthew 18 in your everyday life.
This is a very important passage of scripture, but often people overlook it because it means they may be put in an awkward position. It is easier to satisfy our flesh and gossip or complain about others instead of honestly trying to work out a hurtful situation.
The scripture the reader was referring to is:
Matthew 18: 15-17 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
We’ll start with the first part of your question: What do you do “when people are being rude and gossiping about you.”
In Matthew 18 the word is “sins” but in some translations it is also interpreted “sins against you.”* In your situation it sounds like you feel a sin has been committed against you.
According to Matthew 18, the instruction is clear – you need to address this situation with the person.
I think it is very interesting that the words brother and sister are used here*, the original word is “adelphos” which refers to another disciple (someone who follows Jesus). I am noting this distinction for a few reasons.
If someone is not a follower of Jesus, I think it is still a very good general principle to address the situation. However, you may want to change your approach. If someone does not acknowledge the authority of the Bible, it may not be very productive in your conversation to start with “you know Matthew 18 says that I should talk to you because you have sinned against me” The Bible is the best manual we have for how to live our lives and its principles are applicable whether you are saved or not, but it may only isolate a non believer if you start off the conversation with a scripture.
Realize that the way you handle this conversation is a reflection of Christ to this person. I am not saying that you water down the truth of the situation, but I am saying to keep the grace you have received through Christ at the forefront of your heart and mind as you talk with the person.
1 Peter and 2 Timothy gives us a few great reasons to express grace in our conversations with non believers:
– People may come to repentance, and become a follower of Jesus.
– We will be blessed.
– Your conscience will be clear.
– You will prove their accusations wrong.
2 Timothy 2:25:
“Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to acknowledge of the truth.”
1 Peter 3:9:
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
1 Peter 3:15-16:
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
– Start with a heart that has forgiven. If you express anger with the person because you have not forgiven them you are missing an opportunity to share the grace of Christ that you have already received.
– Before the conversation, ask the Lord to show you what His thoughts and heart are towards this person. He may say something like “they are really hurting right now” “I love them and I want them in my family” or “I have an incredible purpose for their life.” When we take a few moments to see beyond the surface of our own pain and frustration and see what God sees when He looks at another person, our heart attitude towards them will be one of love instead of condemnation and shame.
– Starting the conversation. I think the beginning of these conversations are very important to think about as it will set the tone for the rest of your interaction. Here are some possible beginnings:
- “Suzie Q. I wanted to talk with you about something that has been hurting me. I want to talk to you about it because I don’t know if you realize that it is hurting me, and if someone was hurt by me, I would want them to come to me first instead of holding secret bitterness inside.”
– Repent at the beginning. Before I begin a conversation like this I always ask the Lord if there is something I need to apologize for to the other person. Guess what! There usually is! When we begin these conversations with acknowledging our own wrong and asking for forgiveness to the other person it is much more likely that your humble apology will soften their hearts to hear what you are saying.
– You are working towards reconciliation.
Saying something like the phrases below can help to set a positive atmosphere that lets the other person know your heart is for reconciliation:
- “I really want us to get along as co-workers, neighbors, friends ect… and I want to work towards a positive outcome for both of us”
- This situation/comment/gossip has hurt me, but I want you to know that I have forgiven you.
- I want us to have an even better relationship at the end of this conversation.
– Take 1 or 2 others with you. If it is a situation at work, you will want to talk with your supervisor and your human resources person. If it is a personal situation, I would suggest taking 1 or 2 people who are respected for their wisdom and Godly counsel. I would also suggest it not be someone that would be immediately associated as being “on your side” (i.e. your Mom or best friend). Take along people whose hearts are for reconciliation not just that you are proved right.
– If the person is a believer, Matthew 18 gives us clear instructions what to do next: If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church.
Tell it to the church, means approaching your spiritual authority at your church. This may be a mentor, small group leader, section pastor (i.e. Woman’s Ministries coordinator), associate pastor or possibly your senior pastor. If you are at a large church you may not have a relationship with your senior pastor and it is a good guideline to approach spiritual leadership that is more connected to your life. If you are unsure who can help you with this at your church, contact your church office and ask who you should talk to help you resolve a conflict between believers.
– If they refuse to listen to the church authorities: “and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Hopefully it will never come to this, and you should never make the decision to treat them as a pagan without the church being in complete agreement with this decision. Remember the goal is reconciliation within the body of Christ, not that someone would be cut off from the body.
If the person is not a believer and doesn’t listen to you or others, the answer is love, grace and prayer. Pray for them to know Jesus. Extend as much grace and love to them as you can, remembering that God tells us our response to their wrongdoing may be what brings them into a relationship with Jesus. A wise pastor once told me “lost people will act like lost people.” This has always stuck with me and helped me when I become frustrated with the behavior of lost people. If someone doesn’t have Jesus I can’t expect them to act like what a follower of Jesus should act like. I shouldn’t be surprised when I encounter un -repentance, anger, and hurt. I need to be vigilant in interceding for their life and looking for ways to show the love of Christ to them.
Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you respond?
* Source is http://www.biblegateway.com