15 “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.
I gotta be honest. This was a hard one for me to swallow. Especially verse 15.
When I was a kid, and I got into a disagreement with someone, the first thing I did was go find a few other people that agreed with me. Ones that would be willing to stand with me in the middle of a conflict. Why? Because when I tried to disagree with someone privately, they would make it public. I hated having personal things become public without warning. And it was never done in a positive way. As you can imagine.
The best defense was to get a posse, and hope that yours was bigger than theirs. Either way, winning was important. Or at least not getting smeared up against a wall during recess. Lines were constantly being drawn. You didn't want to end up on the wrong side.
It's also a great way to deflect any personal responsibility. What if the other person is right? What if she truly wants to clear the air? Mob mentality usually sweeps individual digressions under the rug. I may have been wrong, but she was MORE wrong.
When we take it public, the chance to have just a disagreement diminishes. The chance to hash it out without emotional injury is gone once we start creating sides. Imagine the confusion you feel when one person disagrees with you. Now magnify it to include others, and soon you feel isolated and defensive.
Now that I'm, um, older, the urge to find someone to validate my position is the same. What my age has shown me, though, is that even if my position is correct, my priority should be the relationship. The one between myself and my challenger. If I love that person, and their stance is one that can cause them to stumble spiritually, I will stand firm. If their stance is whether blue is better than yellow, I've got to let it go.
If they are on a dangerous spiritual cusp, I must be unwavering. Although this sometimes does not look like love, we all know that it is. If we love that person, do we truly want them to fall away and sin? Do we walk away from our unbelieving friends because we care? Obviously not. Do we call in the cavalry, and take turns beating down our friend, because then they will see. One thing I have learned, as we get older, we can not be argued into conceding. All of us have developed a hardening of our hearts that has nothing to do with cholesterol.
These statements do not conflict with the fact that I believe God is sovereign. He has the whole world in His hands. (Sorry for the earworm.) I can not lead people to Christ, or to hell, if God has other plans. Thank you, God!
For those who don't know me well, I am rather conflict averse. I am getting better at conflict, but I don't care for it. Talking to someone, one-on-one, is daunting. Especially when I have been hurt. It is hard for me to confront someone when I need to. But I have learned, it is SO much better to have that conversation privately, rather than draw it out in a public forum. It is worth the awkwardness to clear the air and move on. And honestly, 90% of the time our relationship is better for it. I prefer the risk of being hurt again, in private, rather than a public stalemate that draws in many. And causes many to sin. In most cases I can't rebuild that personal relationship, even when I want to.
And so again, God's word speaks promise to our hearts. His rules are for our benefit. And because of that, His rules are for His glory. I am once again rebuked and humbled, commanded and comforted. And emboldened. Doing the right thing, no matter how hard, will provide me with the peace that God is delighted in my obedience. And in the meantime, I have treated another with the respect they deserve. I can't lose.