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Matthew 18:15-18

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. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

This story has appeared before, but it fits with our current series.

I feel comfortable that we have established that there are many times when the sins of our brethren are very much our business, and even the business of one’s church. We skipped over one area, because we are covering that today. That is the subject of personal offenses and conflict among members of a church and how the body of believers should handle those situations. We skipped because today we are going to look at a situation of conflict among church members which was handled very well and Biblically.

Is conflict a problem in churches? Is it a problem in the entire world? Of course it is! Conflict can have serious effects within a church, anywhere from just the Kingdom work being impeded to churches being divided literally and ripped apart. Conflict is a problem.

So, today we are going to use a real life illustration of conflict in a church and is successful resolution to make our point. I have the full permission of the person in question, as the persons in question are…me..and my family.

We are a blended family. I came into this family in 2007 after having been married previously for 25 years and already having raised two children to adulthood. The lady I blended with so to speak had been married also, but was still raising her children at that time aged 6 and 10. I was divorced because at the time I had no clue God even cared about such things and she was divorced for some very Biblical reasons. That really doesn’t matter, though, and isn’t really the point of this.

Blended families are….difficult under almost any circumstance, and ours has been no different. Some interesting things have been part of the mix in our family, however. First of all there was me. I came into this a brand new believer who knew NOTHING! I did, however, understand that I was responsible to lead this blended family spiritually. The other half of the blend had, however, been sorely disappointed by a man who was actually called of God to be one of His preachers. So, here we have a clueless man of God trying to lead a family that has been misdirected by a failing man of God.

So, we have had our ups and downs; however, overall the Holy Spirit has kept us pointed in the direction He  has wanted us to go. Today’s story deals with one of the downs, and this down was nearly a show stopper. It was a Sunday morning before church when things blew apart, and, blow apart they did. (This wasn’t just out of the blue; it had been simmering for a bit.)The details don’t matter, but it can be summarized by saying it was a split between the clueless, overly stern, overbearing and inflexible(that would be me), and the wounded, distrustful, willful and rebellious(that would be the other parts of the blend.) No fingers are being pointed here; there was enough sin in this conflict to fill a book, from every person present, all four of us. Things were said, words were hurled…and so it goes.

I ended up not going to church that day. As they all headed that way, I was still muttering stuff like “If this is how Christians act, why did I become one?” Did I mention this was pretty bad? Any way, I didn’t go to church. I didn’t go to church on a 5th Sunday, and that is when we church all day and eat. Did  I say this was bad? So, church goes on all day, I am absent, and the rest of the blend is visibly upset. I can only imagine the thoughts many people had.

What could have happened here? Oh, all sorts of things could have. It could have been ignored. Rumors could have been started. People could have talked for days about this. They could have blamed me. They could have blamed her. They could have blamed the kids. Standard church stuff, right?

Let me tell you what did happen. Later about 3 o’clock, after everybody had come home and we all locked ourselves away in our corners, we got a phone call. Our best couple friends said they were going to come by. Response: Eh, this is really a bad time. Their response: We are on the way. In just a few minutes we heard what sounds like a half dozen car doors slamming. It was actually only three. In seconds, there on our porch, stood our couple friends, the preacher and his wife, and one of our deacons. Five of them, four of us. I guess they felt they had to outnumber us.

Over the next couple of hours a life changing thing happened. Those people completely and totally meddled in our very personal business. Under the direction of my friend the deacon, every person got to say what was on their mind, all four of us. Once we did that, we all got to say what we thought of what everybody else had said. Then each of the visitors told us exactly what THEY thought of the way each of us was acting. Upfront, honest, and with no holds barred. They used words like sin, and rebellion, and obedience, and kindness, and sacrificial love. They beat us with our own Bibles more or less.

But you know what? It worked. That’s what loving churches do. They don’t abandon the struggling, they hedge them about. They don’t sugarcoat their failings, but they deal with them openly and with love. They identify the sin, but don’t condemn for it. They don’t turn their backs on those who are erring, they chase them down and embrace them. They restore them if possible, not cast them aside harshly. Do I need to add more, or is the point made?

In closing, and just something to ponder, because eventually we will get to this issue as well. What if we had just laughed them off, rejected their wise, Biblical counsel, and continued on the path to disintegration we were on? What would have been a proper reaction then?

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