Read Matthew 18:15-17. What three steps does Jesus give us to help us to resolve conflicts when we are wronged by another church member? How are we to apply these words in our contemporary situations?
Jesus’ desire in giving the counsel of Matthew 18 is to keep interpersonal conflict within the church in as small a group as possible. His intent is that the two people involved solve the problem themselves. This is why Jesus declares, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone” (Matt. 18:15, NKJV). As the number of people involved in a conflict between two individuals increases, the more contention can be created, and the more it can affect the fellowship of other believers. People take sides, and battle lines are drawn. But when Christians attempt to settle their differences privately, and in the spirit of Christian love and mutual understanding, a climate of reconciliation is created. The atmosphere is right for the Holy Spirit to work with them as they strive to resolve their differences.
Sometimes personal appeals for conflict resolution are ineffective. In these instances Jesus invites us to take one or two others with us. This second step in the reconciliation process always must follow the first step. The purpose is to bring people together, not drive them further apart. The one or two who join the offended party are not coming to prove his/her point or to join in blaming the other individual. They come in Christian love and compassion as counselors and prayer partners in order to participate in the process of bringing two estranged people together.
There are occasions when all attempts to solve the problem do not work. In this case, Jesus instructs us to bring the issue before the church. He certainly is not talking about interrupting the Sabbath morning worship service with an issue of personal conflict. The appropriate place to bring the issue, if the first two steps have not helped to reconcile the two parties, is the church board. Again, Christ’s purpose is reconciliation. It is not to blame one party and exonerate the other.
“Do not suffer resentment to ripen into malice. Do not allow the wound to fester and break out in poisoned words, which taint the minds of those who hear. Do not allow bitter thoughts to continue to fill your mind and his. Go to your brother, and in humility and sincerity talk with him about the matter.” – Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, p. 499.