“Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (Matthew 18:33).

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It would require both sides of the debate to humble themselves in order to get it; there is a profound truth here in the cover photo pictured above. The cover photo is actually a meme I found on social media, which I have a feeling was created by someone on the opposite side of the political aisle as I usually find myself, and that is precisely why I chose it for this post.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, yet two rights frequently make a wrong. Go figure!

We have conflict right now, all across our nation, a lot of conflict, in fact, and that conflict has infiltrated the church, as it often does, yet God has not left His children without direction. Jesus lays the foundation of conflict resolution for me right here.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5:38-42).

It’s not even necessary to be dealing with an “evil person,” and this word still sets a tone for conflicts on all levels.

Christians have a responsibility when wronged by another believer to confront the dispute and seek restoration. Nowhere do I read to skip right over the much needed, yet admittedly uncomfortable, exercise in conflict resolution and accountability, and proceed right to pretending everything’s alright. No wonder so many Christians, instead, talk behind people’s backs and harbor ill-will in their hearts. I don’t know about any of you, but that doesn’t sound like Jesus to me at all.

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 (Matthew 18:15-17).

By the way, you still love them, no matter the outcome, good or bad, even if you must part ways in peace so as not to stumble (Acts 15:39), and as a side note, look at all the fruit God produced despite Paul’s and Barnabas’ sharp disagreement and obvious human fallibility.

But back to Jesus’ teaching about dealing with sin among believers, I doubt it was by coincidence that this teaching in Matthew 18 was recorded between the Parable of the Wandering Sheep and the Parable of the Ungrateful Servant. After all, even if one out of a hundred sheep goes astray, the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and searches for the lost one until it’s found. His sheep are important not only to the angels in heaven and to the Shepherd, but also to God the Father, and it is not the Father’s will that none should perish. Unfortunately, Jesus’ instructions on resolving conflict are commonly misinterpreted, or taken out of context, or disregarded, all together. However, I believe the unfailing love expressed in the Parable of the Wandering Sheep and the gracious mercy expressed in the Parable of the Ungrateful Servant should put to rest any contextual arguments regarding Jesus’ intent. “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (Matthew 18:33).

The failure to resolve conflict as commanded has injured the church, and likewise, I recognize that my own failure to obey the very same command is why I find myself carrying around a lot of unwanted baggage. Whether corporately or individually, failure to heed the Lord’s teaching invites discord to spread like wildfire and strife to multiply. The devil must delight anytime we get it in our heads that we know better than God. No wonder God detests pride, and Jesus goes so far as equate anger to murder (Matthew 5:21–22). Satan is so subtle. So, what is our defense, brothers and sisters in Christ, when our Savior humbled Himself for our sake? Paul speaking of Jesus, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8). Jesus obeyed even though it cost Him His life. Truly, Christ was the Merchant who went and sold all that He had to buy the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:46). You know, come to think of it, Jesus puts a whole lot of things, not just conflict, in perspective for me right there.

Pride comes naturally, while humility is hard, but God is faithful. I believe Jesus would have His children do a lot of things in humility and love to bring about mutual edification and peace. After all, Jesus—you know, God—did wash the feet of sinful man; think about that! In the midst of all the unrest, which the enemy has intended for our destruction, over the past weeks, I have seen God bring people together, many of whom may have never had crossed paths otherwise. Yes, I still believe that we’re on a particular trajectory, but as I wrote previously, a lot of time passed between Babylon and the Rome. Let’s make the best if it!

Enjoy the song, Bury the Workman, by Unspoken.

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