So we have been rolling right along now in this series on Emotionally Healthy Relationships which is so important for so many different reasons.  If you think about it, this series is so important is because life isn’t easy and what makes this life so challenging is the fact that we do life with people.  Can we just say it, life with people is not easy…and frankly it’s not something you can avoid.  Every day of your life you are out there in the world encountering people.  People like you.  People who are busy.  People who are stressed and hurting.  People who are overworked and underpaid.  People who are moving faster than they should.  People who are imperfect just like you and I.  So if you think about it, millions and millions of imperfect people, running around this planet at a speed that none of us should be running at, with hurts and stress and issues all of their own bouncing into each other is going to lead to some interesting moments, and when I say interesting I mean painful and challenging moments and today we are really going to get into this as we look at something that most people aren’t a huge fan of and that is conflict.

When you think of conflict what comes to your mind?  Do you realize that even as a Christian and a church goer there will still be run-ins with people?  You get that right?  It’s going to happen even as a good Christian person…there will be moments of conflict, and can I just say there is a way to handle it and a way not to handle it.  I will tell you there are many moments in my own life where I wish I could just have a do over in the area of how I handled a tough situation with a person.  How about you?  Well this is what we are going to get into today, I know it’s a challenging subject but there will be conflict in your life.  The Bible not only helps us understand that (I mean even Jesus dealt with confrontations) but it also talks to us about how to handle conflict in a healthy way.  And we are going to get into that today, because no matter how much you smile, or how nice you are, or how good you are at the church thing or the Christian thing…you will have conflict to work through in your life and there is a way to do it, and a way not too.

So to get this started I want to remind you of something that I think is so important and that is love.  Remember we can be the best Christian’s in the world, we can do all the good Christian things and if we forget that we are to love God and love others, all our good Christian behaviors and practices are a tremendous waste of time.  Paul says it this way…

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.  MSG

This is the key and it’s something we see in Scripture over and over again.  Love is everything…in fact love is so important that Jesus actually raises the bar for us on his expectations of how a disciple of His will love others.

Matthew 5:43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best — the sun to warm and the rain to nourish — to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.  MSG

Can we just say it, what Jesus is asking of us here is hard to live out.  It’s one thing to love the lovable…but it’s is certainly a whole other thing to love someone who has hurt you isn’t it?  I have to tell you the concept of this type of love is so challenging…unconditional love seems beyond us, and I believe it is impossible without God’s help.  Love is so important.  Love is everything and today we are going to talk about the area that I think we see this type of love really being put to the test, and that is in the area of conflict.

Can I ask you something as we get rolling today?  When I mention how messy it is to do life on this planet with people what came to your mind?  When I talk about loving someone who hurt you or when we simply read Jesus’ teaching about responding with prayer to those who hurt you who came to your mind?  If you are in this room today I know that you have walked in some sort of conflict…it’s inevitable.  We all deal with it, even me, I know this is shocking but even the Pastor in this room has experienced conflict, and I will tell you I haven’t always walked away from conflict responding with the energies of prayer for those that hurt me.  This isn’t easy, it is challenging, and we need the power of God’s in us to respond well to conflict.  So I say this to hopefully help you breathe a little easier today…we will deal with conflict.  All of us.  It doesn’t mean that we have to like it, but we will all deal with it.  Even Jesus dealt with conflict and the messiness of life with people…and do you know what is really cool?  He actually lays out a way for you and I to deal with this stuff, in a Godly way.  Which is really what I want to walk you through today.  So let’s look at Jesus’s teaching today here found in a couple different places in the book of Matthew…

First Jesus says this in Matthew 5 in his famous Sermon on the Mount…

Matthew 5:23 “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, 24 abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. 25 “Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. 26 If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine. MSG

The first thing we read here is that if you are having an issue with someone, and there is an unsettled thing there with a person, Jesus wants that resolved before you would even come to worship.  I think that really shows us a couple things.  First it shows us Jesus understands that we will deal with people issues, but it also shows us just how important it is for us to not hold resentment and hurts, but to work out the conflict, to forgive so that we can stand before God with a pure heart.  We are to resolve these hurts and wounds, and forgive and seek forgiveness.  Jesus would say that it is so important that we should drop the church stuff, and go get that right with someone before we enter God’s presence or move into a time of worship or communion before God.  This really shows what a priority this is to us.  Then in verse 25, I think Jesus really shows us an important thing to do, that will probably be the last thing you want to do.  Jesus says this…

Matthew 5:25 Come to terms quickly with your enemy before it is too late… NLT

Have you ever been in a fight, ok, fight is too strong a word because we are good Christian people…have you ever been in a disagreement with someone and left that moment just either angry inside, hurt inside, or just completely frustrated.  What is the last thing you want to do in that moment?  I would be willing to bet the last thing you would want to do is make is to go and make it right.  Why?  You are hurt.  They are hurt.  You are right.  They are wrong…and it just hurts to step back into right?  Or maybe you made the emotional decision to never, ever, ever talk to them again after that!  Well Jesus would say, you need to resolve this thing, and to do it quickly.  Sam what are you saying here, I thought the saying was “time heals all wounds?”  Can I tell you something, time does not heal wounds, love and forgiveness does, time may mask wounds and hurts and pain, but it will continue to bubble up in us if we don’t address it, and deal with it.  Listen to me, kicking that can of hurts and issues down the road isn’t healthy and I think Jesus is really trying to help us here.  We need to come together and handle this stuff “quickly.”  Later Paul would say this in his letter to the Ephesians…

Ephesians 4:26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, NIV

I believe in both these cases both Jesus and Paul are trying to help you here.  For so many of us we carry so much weight on our shoulders that just shouldn’t be there.  Resentment, hurts, bitterness, pain, anger…it’s like wearing a big heavy back pack, and I believe what scripture is saying is that we don’t need to carry this stuff day, after day, after day.

*I am applying an asterisk here…I do believe we need to use some common sense here, there is also a time when it is ok to take a deep breath and allow each party to get their emotions together so that the conflict can be resolved properly, without the emotions at their peak, so if the emotions are at their peak, it may be worth taking a breather, and not just saying I am furious but Jesus said resolve it now, and pushing in on it when everyone needs to calm down some!  It’s worth breathing, calming down, and handling things well…but I do believe that most conflicts could be handled well if we were to do it as Jesus said…Quickly.

So the first thing we want to do is resolve it quickly if we can which we saw there in Matthew 5.  No, time doesn’t heal all wounds, love and forgiveness does.  Then we move to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18 which I think is so important.

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’   17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. NIV

Ok, now we are getting into something here.  Jesus says here that we need to try to handle this “just between the two of you.”  So this would mean we would talk to the person face to face and try to work it out this way.

You know what this means?  It means that if I am going to resolve conflict in a Godly way I’m going to talk to the person personally.  You know I’m pretty new to the world of Facebook, and I’m not really sure I will be able to stay on Facebook very long, but I will tell you something that has intrigued me about Facebook.  It’s how public we take our hurts and our issues with someone.  We post it for the world to see, and allow our friends and everyone to read of how we have been wronged and to jump on our side with us and to comment to us about how awful it is, and how right we are.  Often times the other party gets to read it too right?  Do you think that will settle the argument or hurt down?  No.  I mean it feels nice to just flop out the vague Facebook post where we can all agree with how wronged you have been but this isn’t how to handle conflict.  This just makes us feel better and probably is escalating the conflict isn’t it?  So when we are hurt or wronged, there are many ways to try to win the public opinion over right?  I mean for some of us in the church we take it to everyone in the church in the form of a prayer request so they can hear what the person did and spread it around the church that way right?  Well, Jesus would say the best way to handle this would be to talk directly to the person you are in conflict with one on one.  Now please hear me well, I’m not saying you couldn’t reach out to friends for prayer, but I am saying when we are going public with the conflict or issue it’s not typically with the purest motives, it’s typically out of hurt and wanting to win the court of public opinion.  Jesus’ encouragement wasn’t to destroy someone on Facebook, it wasn’t to share it with the entire church as a prayer request so everyone knows how right you are and how wrong they are.  It wasn’t to run person to person and vent it all on everyone else while talking about that person you are upset with…no, this is what Jesus said…

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” Jesus

I think this is a very important thing for us to look at…Jesus says we should resolve the conflict quickly, meaning don’t do the time heals all wounds thing.  Then Jesus says we should handle it between the two of us…meaning face to face, one on one.  Without the vague Facebook posts, or by talking to everyone we know about it, or even by winning the battle of public opinion by really nicing it up spiritually as a prayer request.  Go to the person and deal with it, but let me throw another asterisk in here.

*Remember Jesus says that we should resolve it quickly, and between the two of us, but we started with something that needs to stay in the forefront of our minds when we are in these difficult situations.  And that is that Jesus also said that when someone hurts us we should do what?

Matthew 5:44 …When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.

So please remember, yes quickly…no not out in public where you can get everyone on your side and prove how right you are, handle it one on one…but please start here, by praying over the situations with God…I think when this becomes our practice we can handle the situation differently because we are inviting God into it!  Ok so I think we would all say that the way Jesus talks about handling these situations does make sense, and I think a lot of conflict can be handled by simply doing these very practical things that Jesus talked about here…but what do you do when it isn’t working.  When the conflict is past what the two of you can handle one on one, well Jesus addresses that too!

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’   17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. NIV

Do you see it?  There is a time to seek help.  Sometimes it does grow past something you can handle one on one in a healthy way and that is when you get others involved.  Whether that be a close friend, or a counselor, or the church leadership or what have you.  Listen there are times when you need help and that is ok…it’s what being in a community is all about, but I think it’s very important to follow Jesus’ guidelines here.

Can I tell you something that really can be challenging for me…it’s the last line in this teaching where He says basically that if you do all these things and the person just won’t have it we are to do this…

Matthew 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. NIV

Basically when I read that I think Jesus is saying that there is a point where you may need to forgive, let go, and move on…regardless of the other person’s response…which isn’t all that easy to do.  I don’t know about you but I have an amazing ability to loop through situations in my head, and I seem to continue to fight and argue in my head…and can I just tell you I win all of those imaginary arguments that I have with that person…but here’s the deal.  I have responsibility for my part.  I can’t make someone forgive me or move on, so there is a point where I have to be willing to let go.  This is so hard to do.  Once again I feel like Jesus is really trying to free us up here.  Remember if we can’t move on, if we harbor bitterness or feel a hardness in this…it’s like carrying this heavy backpack on our shoulders that Jesus just doesn’t want you to walk in…and the only way through it, is forgiveness.  It’s so interesting how this interaction Jesus is having continues this way.  He teaches them the right way to resolve conflict and then just two verses later in the conversation we see Peter ask an interesting question.

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  

So without a calculator can I just say that sounds to me like forgiveness is a really big deal…and that we should forgive a lot.  Jesus says that our ability to forgive is an extremely big deal, and when I say extremely big, I mean HUGE!

Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.  NIV

Listen, life with people is messy.  The Bible never said that if you are a good Christian you will never deal with conflict.  While most of us would probably like a world where there wasn’t conflict to deal with the Bible teaches us how to deal with it well.  It’s inevitable that we will have tough moments with people so how we handle it becomes an extremely big deal.  Jesus doesn’t want you carrying the weight of this stuff and you don’t have to if you can deal with this stuff the way Jesus taught.

  • First deal with it quickly, don’t avoid it or just hope that time heals all wounds.
  • Second please deal with it person to person, don’t take to Facebook or Social Media or the group prayer chain to win the court of public opinion trying to get people on your side. Deal with it one on one.
  • Third when it isn’t working and it can’t be resolved that is when you go for help from the outside…to your community that you lean on in those moments.
  • Fourth and I think this can be hard, if they can’t let go and you have done what Jesus asked you must forgive and move on so that you don’t get stuck spiritually and emotionally.

So as we leave here today after discussing a very challenging topic I have some questions for you that I want you thinking through.

  • Is there someone in your mind or on your heart right now that you need to talk to?
  • Is there a situation that you need to step into and handle differently than maybe how you have been handling it to date?
  • Is there someone out there you need to forgive or ask forgiveness of?

I know no one likes to deal with this type of thing it isn’t necessarily fun, but it is so important and I really think that is what Jesus is trying to help us with as he teaches on conflict resolution.  So that we can walk in genuine relationship.  Jesus wants us free, and whole, and that can’t happen by brushing everything under the rug.

So as we head back into this last worship set, who is it that you need to talk to this week?