How do you handle conflict and tension?
So what gives? We canâ€™t ever complain?
Remember, complaining accomplishes nothing but harm. However, with every complain comes an opportunity to make things better. Complaints reveal something that isnâ€™t rightâ€”structure, attitude, profit, leadership, followership, etc. But mumbling and whining isnâ€™t going to improve any of it. It just adds misery to the entire depressing recipe. I mentioned some other detrimental things it does in part one, You can read about it here. But who wants to spend their lives tearing down when they can build up?
Only a sad, self absorbedÂ and lonely person.
Now letâ€™s wrap this up. the tension you, the reader might feel at this point is between the need to make things better or restore relationships, end conflict, deal with offenses, etc. and the tendency to be negative, tear down and sabotage your own life as well as the lives of others. So what can be done? Obviously there are times in life when things arenâ€™t going well, people are negative, someone is abusive,Â individuals are gossiping, moral is low, people are offended and on and on. Do we just ignore these things in favor of not complaining?
No. We deal with themâ€”without complaining. Remember, complaining has no useful purpose.
And, as it turns out, there are many biblical ways to deal with issues that have nothing to do with griping and moaning. Iâ€™ll give you not only the most well known, but also the most poorly followedâ€”Matthew 18.
First,Â an asideâ€”there are only 5 verses that deal with this pattern and issue of offensive behavior in the entire chapter of 35 verses, but this response has become so common place (read: knee-jerk reaction) that most simply refer to it as â€œMatthew 18.â€ By the way, a â€˜knee-jerkâ€™ default to Matthew 18 would be perfect if people were actually following Matthew 18â€“-most, however, do not. They instead follow some sort of hybrid version they come up with or were improperly taught.
Anyway, hereâ€™s the passage they are actually referring to.
A Brother Who Sins Against You
15“If your brother sins against you,[b] go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But 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.’[c] 17If 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.
18“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be[d]bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.
19“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Pretty simple, right? And certainly, complaining can easily cross the line into offensive behavior, so we can and sometimes should go right into Matthew 18 when we are offended. But hereâ€™s the problemâ€”people almost never get this right! The order is mind-bogglingly simple:
- Someone sins
- The offended party (the one sinned against) goes toÂ the â€˜offendingâ€™Â person (and that person only). If they go to someone else, they immediately sin themselves and Matthew 18 is not being followed.
- Show them where they sinned.
- Look for a response that indicates you were heard.
- If he/she does not listen, take it to the next levelâ€”witnesses, (bring 2 or 3 folks with you for round 2).
- Still no listening? Take it to the elders who then have the option of taking it before the congregation and exercising church discipline.
Itâ€™s not rocket science but hereâ€™s what I so often see and hear insteadâ€¦
I hear that so and so offended so and so (for me to hear it. It has already moved to gossip and more sin is being heaped upon the original offence). Then I hear that the hurt party has become more of a problem than the original offense and offenderÂ ever was. Soon there are camps formed and disunity over what was a relatively minor thing in the first place. As a result, even applying Matthew 18 becomes an incredible challengeâ€”almost an exercise in futility because so many webs of deceit and gossip and dishonesty have been sown that itâ€™s very difficult to untangle.
What a mess.
And can you believe it so often begins with something as simple as complaining?
Just some thoughts. Iâ€™m not complaining.