[This first appeared at LifeChurchNC.com]
November 22, 2016
“If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 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.’[d] 17 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 NIV
As people are reconciled to God by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we believe that we are called to respond to conflict in a way that is remarkably different from the way the world deals with conflict. We also believe that conflict provides opportunities to glorify God, serve one another, and grow to be like Christ. Therefore, in response to God’s love and in reliance on His grace, we commit ourselves as a church-body to respond to conflict according to the following biblical principles of peacemaking:
- Glorify God—Instead of focusing on our own desires or dwelling on what others may do, we will seek to please and honor God—by depending on His wisdom, power, and love; by faithfully obeying His commands; and by seeking to maintain a loving, merciful, and forgiving attitude.
- Get the log out of your own eye—Instead of attacking others or dwelling on their wrongs, we will take responsibility for our own contribution to conflicts—confessing our sins, asking God to help us change any attitudes and habits that lead to conflict, and seeking to repair any harm we have caused.
- Go and show your brother his fault—Instead of pretending that conflict doesn’t exist or talking about others behind their backs, we will choose to overlook minor offenses, or we will talk directly and graciously with those whose offenses seem too serious to overlook. When a conflict with another Christian cannot be resolved in private, we will ask others in the body of Christ to help us settle the matter in a biblical manner.
- Go and be reconciled—Instead of accepting premature compromise or allowing relationships to wither, we will actively pursue genuine peace and reconciliation— forgiving others as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us, and seeking just and mutually beneficial solutions to our differences.
adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Peace (Ken Sande) Resources on the Biblical Peacemaking Process: peacemaker.net
The Peacemaking Process
A prescription for Biblical Reconciliation within the context of the Local Church:
Stage 1—One-on-One Resolution
How to “go to your brother or sister.” (Matthew 18:15a)
- A member will contact the offender to set-up a meeting in hopes of reconciliation.
- The two parties will then meet and attempt to reconcile their relationship following the biblical peacemaking principles.
- Reconciliation achieved.
“If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matthew 18:15b)
- In most cases, conflicts are resolved here.
“He/she doesn’t listen”—one-on-one failed. (Matt 18)
- The initiator (member) is encouraged to contact pastoral staff or Elders for conflict counseling between the two parties before meeting, where the initiator will be educated on the biblical peacemaking process.
- Following the meeting, the initiator will be asked to give a follow-up report that the conflict has/hasn’t been resolved.
“Take one or two with you.” (Matthew 18:16)
- The initiator will be asked to submit to an intervention process, led by pastoral staff or the Elders.
- The initiator and the offender are invited to participate in a mediation with a staff member or the Elders.
- The pastoral staff member or Elder(s) will facilitate the mediation, beginning with the laying of ground rules, and will evaluate the conflict while applying the biblical principles of peacemaking
- Reconciliation achieved. Mediation ends with a settlement the two parties initiate and accept. The mediator will follow-up to ensure both parties are following-through and that peace has/is being made.
If necessary: Only when the initiator and offenders are both believers and members of the church:
- If sinful action by the initiator or offender is not owned as sinful or destructive to their relationship with the other party, with the church and with the Lord, the reconciliation process is stalled. The process will then progress to Stage 3.
Stage 3—Pre-Church Discipline
“He/she refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church” (Matthew 18:17a)
- The mediator (pastoral staff or Elder(s)) will review/educate both the initiator and the offender on our church discipline (Peacemaking) policy. Both parties (only if members) will be asked to submit to this policy and the additional steps now necessary in the process for the purpose of reconciliation.
- Process then focuses on resolving the offense by asking the offender to seek ownership a second time using principles of biblical confession, determining appropriate consequences, and seeking the other party for forgiveness.
- Keep the circle small.
- Reconciliation achieved.
If this latest attempt at sin-ownership, confession and repentance fails, the process will then progress to Stage 4 and a possible disciplinary process.
Stage 4—Disciplinary Process Exercised
“Treat them as you would an unbeliever/unrepentant sinner” (Matthew 18:17b)…“That his/her spirit saved.” (1 Corinthians 5:4-5,12-13)
- The Elders (along with any mediators who have been involved up to this point) will meet with the offender to confront the sin and to make a plea for confession and repentance.
If this third attempt at sin ownership, confession and repentance by the Elders fails, the Elders will once more review the church discipline (peacemaking) policy and the consequences will be defined, which may include a period of separation from membership and/or participation with the church. The goal of visible repentance is quantified with recommended actions.
- An Elder follows up with the offender according to established terms with the one being disciplined.
Treating others as unbelievers/unrepentant sinners
- It is important to remember how Jesus viewed the tax collectors, prostitutes, and people who had been pushed to the margins. They were the ones drawn to His message.
- Although they are treated as unbelievers and unrepentant sinners, they are ARE NOT treated as outsiders.
- With the exception of being asked to leave the church for a period of time, we welcome them just as we would anyone.