Prescription for Conflict

David Marvin // Jun 21, 2022

Remember all the things you learned in school that you never used again? In this message, we discuss one subject that was never taught but is a crucial skill to succeeding in life - conflict resolution. Learn about 2 essential things you need to know to resolve conflict in a healthy way.

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All right. What's up, everybody in the room, everybody tuning in online! We are continuing this series Anti Suppressants, looking at things you shouldn't suppress but address. Welcome, all of our Porch.Live locations, whether that is in Midland, North Houston, Boise, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Cincinnati…wherever you are tuning in from.

Let me start with some things I would like to not suppress but address. It has to do with things we learned in school that we have never used since. In other words, some of the curriculum and high school or junior high things that at least I was taught seemed to be things that were crucial in their importance, as though you would think, "These are going to be with you, and you're going to have to know how to use this skill for the rest of your life," and I don't think I've touched them since.

What do I mean by that? Maybe you can relate to some of these. Things like long division. When is the last time you pulled out and actually went through the math and did long division? No one. Everyone pulls out their phone and uses their calculator. Or the protractor and compass. Remember this? Unless you are an engineer, you have not seen this since seventh grade when you forgot to bring it to school that day, yet at the time, you would have assumed, "This is just going to be a part of life. For the rest of the time I'm on the planet, I'm going to be using and diagramming things like this."

Or things like cursive. I don't know if they still teach cursive anymore, but let's be honest. Anytime you meet somebody under the age of 60 who's writing only in cursive, it's a little concerning. It's like Grandma and this one guy, and it's like, "Huh. Really. Only cursive. That's all you write in." Not to name names, but Josiah. Or things like the recorder. Of all of the instruments I wish I could play… I can't play any instruments. I don't know who came up with this idea. There are so many… You know, the trumpet and the drums and the piano. Whoever came up with "Hot Cross Buns" on the recorder… It just is confusing.

Or the periodic table. Blast from the past there. Maybe you had to memorize and go through and know what scandium was, names that feel like they're out of Star Wars or something. Or Latin. There's a girl on our staff who spent eight years studying Latin. It is a dead language. No one speaks it. I know if you're a Latin person… Somebody is going to come up afterward and be like, "Well, you know, it's actually really helpful to learn all of the romantic languages because of…" Still, you can't talk to anyone on planet earth who actually speaks Latin.

The last one would be maybe the most iconic and bizarre one, which is the dissecting of a frog, which you would think is like, "Man, maybe this would be helpful for understanding the human body." That is not what the human body looks like. Then you contrast that to all of the things we didn't learn that, upon graduating college, you kind of have to figure out on your own, things that would have been really helpful to learn in school.

What do I mean? Things like how to do your taxes; how to do a budget; how to change the oil in your car, or when to change the oil in your car, as some of you need to learn; or stress management, how to handle all the stress of life. Even first aid or CPR would have been better than rope climbing in PE. Or interview skills for when that job happens, and last but not least, the subject I want to talk about tonight, which is how to resolve conflict.

There is no class that teaches you how to navigate the waters of relationships, yet relationships are one of the most important aspects of life, and specifically, your ability to maintain relationships. None of us were taught a class on that, and for the majority of us, if we learned anything about how to resolve conflict, it wasn't good. Maybe you grew up in a home, and what you were taught, intentionally or unintentionally, directly or indirectly, were very poor examples of conflict.

You saw and picked up the way your parents handled conflict, and they either stuffed it under the rug or exploded in front of each other. What you did learn and what became second nature or even how you approach conflict resolution was not helpful, yet in terms of relationships, and specifically studies on marriage, the number-one key defining determiner on your ability to succeed in marriage comes down to your ability to resolve conflict, how you handle conflict.

Your relationship health with you and your family, and one of the reasons some of us in the room don't talk to someone in our family anymore… Or your holidays consisted of your extended family being there except for that one uncle, your mom's brother or sister, and they're not there because there's a huge breakdown in the relationship that happened that never got addressed. Yet God commands followers of Jesus are to be about reconciliation and restoration of relationships or conflict resolution.

In other words, to be a Christian, not just in the title… There are a lot of people who claim to be a Christian by the title, but to be a Christian with the lifestyle involves being people who are committed to conflict resolution. So, tonight, I want to walk through and give a class, if you will, on the subject and the prescription for not suppressing conflict but addressing it and running toward it, and what God's Word has to say about how you and I can be people who fight for relational unity.

So, we're going to walk through two essentials of resolving conflict, qualities that should mark the people of God. The first one is going to be why it matters to God, why it's such a big deal. Over and over and over, the New Testament ethic Jesus introduced was radical, and it's still radical today in our world. As believers, we're not just to know that it's important to God, but also know exactly how to practice that. So, we're going to walk through, very specifically, how that happens.

The first idea comes from Matthew 5:9. It says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." Three sentences into Jesus' ministry, he says the ability to bring peace into situations is one of the things that will mark the people of God, the children of God. They will resemble the God who brings peace.

  1. A change in your perspective. As it relates to conflict and conflict resolution, I want you to change your perspective. What do I mean by that? The Bible doesn't teach conflict is a bad thing. Conflict is an inevitable thing. It teaches conflict is not necessarily bad. In other words, a lot of us think… You were raised in a home, and it was so divided, and your parents did so much fighting all the time you just began to believe this lie that conflict is a really bad thing. So now in a dating relationship when that pops up, you run.

The Bible doesn't say it's a bad thing. It says it's an opportunity to honor God in how you resolve the conflict, how you bring about peace. It's an opportunity to honor God and to strengthen that relationship. The first thing involves a change in perspective. There are two primary things to change as it relates to your perspective.

First, conflict is not a bad thing. All right, class. Here we go together. We're all going to say it together. This is the master class in conflict resolution. On three, we're going to say, "Conflict is not a bad thing." Ready? One, two, three. "Conflict is not a bad thing." All right. One more time, this time even the men. "Conflict is not a bad thing." It is an opportunity to honor God and strengthen your relationship by moving toward that person.

In fact, if you are in a dating relationship and you have conflict, you should not be as concerned as the person who's in a dating relationship who doesn't. Even secular studies show that in dating couples, or in any couple, where there is not conflict present… It's just inevitable. With two people coming together, there are going to be disagreements. That is a reflection of one person not actually expressing how they feel and growing resentful or of codependency.

You don't have to be a Christian, and people go, "If there's a relationship where there's never any sort of conflict, they're not going to have a lot of intimacy, because one of them is not being honest." So, you shouldn't be concerned about having conflict present. You should be very much concerned about how to resolve the conflict. But the first thing I want to hammer is that conflict is not a bad thing. It is an opportunity to honor God and to strengthen relationships.

Jesus said when you are people who bring peace…you're the type of person who seeks to bring peace in that relationship, bring restoration in that relationship…you look like children of God. I have three kids. All three of them have in common that they are the children of my wife and me, and they all have shockingly similar physical characteristics.

We make one style of child. You look at them, and you're like, "You're all the same people." Even their baby pictures… It looks like the same exact kid. They also look like a blend of their mom and dad, because as we all know, children resemble their parents. Jesus said followers of him will resemble their Father in heaven in that they seek to bring peace about, not to win an argument, but to restore relationship, to have unity, and to be united.

It is a big deal to God, which is the second thing as it relates to changing your perspective. We often think conflict is a bad thing or we think it's not a big deal. The Bible says it is a big deal to God. Over and over and over again, Jesus taught, "Prioritize relationships. I want you to prioritize relationships with one another as a reflection of your prioritization of the priority of your relationship with God." What do I mean?

In Matthew 5:23, he gave some teaching that would have been profound when his audience heard this. This is the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' first message ever. He looks into his audience and teaches on conflict resolution. He says this: "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift."

Now, when we read that, we're like, "Leaving your gift at the altar. Okay. No idea what that means." Maybe you think of "The Father's arms are open wide," or something like that, when it comes to the altar. What Jesus' audience heard… One commentator said it is the most inconvenient command Jesus ever gave. When his audience heard, "Hey, when you're bringing your gift to the altar…" What's he saying?

In first-century Judaism, there was a temple right down the road in the city of Jerusalem. There was a temple, and in that temple you would bring sacrifices for different sin or gift offerings just as a reflection of gratitude to God, and here's what that looked like. One time a year or two times a year, whenever you would go to present those, you'd get the whole family together. You'd get them on the donkey or get them on the camel.

We're getting all of the kids together. We're going into town. We're navigating the streets of Jerusalem, very narrow streets. We finally arrive at the temple. We have to go up these huge steps on the southern side of the temple and wait in a line that, at times, would last days, certainly lasted hours. After you go… We get all the family together. Everyone is hanging out. We're finally moving up the line, just like we're at Disney World. We finally get to the very front of the line. "I've got it. Honey, we're going to give our gift at the altar. We've waited two days to do this, and here we go."

As you're walking up to the altar, you remember Sarah. Sarah is frustrated with you about something. Jesus says, "I want you to leave your gift right by the side of the altar, and I want you to go and find Sarah." Who knows if that gift will be there when you get back? There weren't FastPasses or somebody to save your place in line. "It doesn't matter," Jesus said. "Leave it. Go address the issue that Sarah is frustrated with you about."

He doesn't say whether it's legitimate, whether you think it's justified. He says, "I want you to go and pursue them and restore that. Then come back, wait in the whole line again with the kids, get up to the front of the line (hopefully the offering is still there), and give your gift to God." See, we read that, and we run right by it. We're like, "Yeah. It's important to reconcile." His audience would have heard, "That is unbelievable."

It's a reflection of how relationships were such a huge priority to Jesus. In fact, you and I read that and go, "Man, it seems like Jesus is saying, 'I want you to prioritize relationships this way over worship of God.'" Jesus would say, "No. You prioritizing relationships this way is how you worship God, is one of the ways you worship God. You reflect that you are children of a heavenly Father when you do so."

Christians are meant to… We're about to walk through exactly how, which is one of the ways we stand apart as it relates to resolving conflict. We're to be people who are passionate about resolving conflict together and who look different than the world around us in the way that… "Man, you crossed me too many times. I'm done with you. I'm out. I'm cutting you out of my life and my relationships." We're to be people who run toward one another.

I have a friend who today was telling me a story. He went to a wedding recently, and at the wedding, the groom had family that was from another country, and the way the wedding went down, and the reception in particular, was based on the culture of that other country. One of the things they did was the bride and groom… They come together, and they do a money shower. In the bride and groom dance, the people at the reception will throw money at the couple as a reflection of support and blessing.

My friend was sitting there watching this, and he was like, "Man, that is so unusual. I didn't know I was supposed to bring cash." The guy at his table was like, "I have 20 ones you can have, and you can go throw them." He goes, "I don't know that I am comfortable throwing $1 bills at the bride as she dances at this wedding." The guy was like, "No. It's totally normal." He was like, "Hard pass," because it was so counterculture. For them it was totally normal. It's part of their culture, but from the outside it seemed bizarre.

What Jesus says about the church and about Christians is that you and I are to live in such a way that the world around us looks and goes, "That is so bizarre." If that's not happening in how you relate to people, the ways you pursue relationships with people, the ways you don't give up on conflict, the ends to which you'll go to forgive someone, to care for someone, the humility that marks your life… If you look like the world, that should concern you, because it may mean you're not actually a part of this different culture called Christians.

In other words, if everything I'm saying right now seems so crazy and like, "How could you? Are you serious? What kind of land do you live in where you just pursue people even when they hurt you and even when they've treated you that way? That doesn't seem right…" Are you operating from a filter informed by God's Word or informed by the world around us and your experience? The Bible says you and I are to operate through the filter and the lens of God's Word.

In other words, if what I'm saying is uncomfortable, that's because Jesus said this teaching, if you have the mindset of the world, is going to be uncomfortable. If we're honest, myself included, we've all been informed by how the world thinks about relationships and how we pursue them, and "I don't want to do that. That's uncomfortable." Jesus said, "In following me, it may be uncomfortable, but it's going to lead to light and life spreading in our world." As Christians, we are to not resemble the world around us but to look like our Father in heaven who's a peacemaker.

So, the first thing involves a change in perspective. Now I want to walk through, very practically, how we don't suppress those conflicts. When those things pop up, and they make that comment or say that thing or forget to invite me or forget to do something I expected them to do, what do we do with that? To not suppress it, but address it, and walk through a change in your practice. This is going to go through five very specific things as it relates to how to navigate conflict resolution.

  1. Change your practice. First, the Bible says change your perspective. Conflict is not bad. It's an opportunity to honor God and strengthen your relationship, and it's a really big deal to God. The second thing is to change your practice, how you and I go about resolving conflict. The first thing is to overlook an offense if you can. Let me read these words. Proverbs 19:11: "A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense." It's a glorious thing to overlook an offense.

Now, he's not talking about peace-faking in contrast to peacemaking. He's saying it's a glorious thing if when somebody offends you, somebody does something that kind of rubs you the wrong way, you can, with integrity, overlook it, believe the best. "They forgot to say that" or "The way they said that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I'm going to believe the best. I'm going to move on. It's okay. I'm sure they didn't mean anything by it."

Not live in denial and not stuff it down to bring up at a later time, where you're building a case on how they always… That's not what he's saying. He's saying it is a glorious thing if somebody does an action, and you're able to overlook it, to forgive it, to extend grace. So, the first thing is, when somebody rubs you the wrong way, to overlook it if you can. Now, how do you know if you can? Ready? It's really, really important. If you can.

In other words, there are things in life that you'll find yourself unable to overlook, and that's okay. You don't need to pretend that's not the case, but then you have to go on to the next step, and not do so because you're afraid of bringing it up. "I just don't want to have that uncomfortable conversation." No. To overlook it because you genuinely can.

There are moments in all of our lives where you've eaten something, and you know, "Oh man. This is not settling right. This is probably going to come back up, and I'm going to see that food again." Or there are moments where you eat something and you're like, "Man, I don't know. I think I'm going to be okay. It's a little upset, but I think I'm going to be okay." We've all been there.

The same thing is true with conflict. There are times where somebody said something, and you were like, "Okay. That stung, yet I'm sure they had a lot going on. They were moving quickly. Honestly, it's okay." Then there are other times where an event happens. Someone hurts your feelings. Someone does something that is sin against you, and you know, "Man, this is not going away." You're driving down the road, and you're replaying the tape.

You're thinking in the shower about, "Man, if that conversation happens again, I'm going to look at her, and I'm going to go, 'Ha! You're the problem!'" You're beginning to play it out, and there's no one even around you. You have arrived at the destination of you cannot overlook that offense, so you have to do something with that. Thankfully, Jesus gives really, really practical teaching on how you and I are to do this, and he does so in two places in particular. One is in Matthew, chapter 7, and one is in Matthew, chapter 18. He walks through exactly how you do this. Are you ready?

The first thing after, "Can I overlook it or can I not?" is to own your part. Before I go and ask them to own and say, "This is how you hurt me. I can't believe you borrowed my clothes again without asking" or "You always leave the dishes dirty in the dishwasher" or "You forgot about my birthday for the third time," I'm going to go and own my part. This comes from Matthew, chapter 7.

Jesus says, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?" Jesus brings up Jesus jokes, basically.

He tells a story or gives a parable basically saying, "It's like there are two men, and one of them has a little tiny piece of dust in their eye, and there's a guy who has a giant 2x4 swinging out of his face. He looks at the guy with the speck and is like, 'Hey, you know you have a speck in your eye. Let me get that out of your eye for you.'" Jesus says that's ridiculous.

You should first own your stuff, but not stop there and not focus on anybody else, because in the next verse he says, "Then, after you've owned your part, address someone else's part." He says in verse 5, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." In other words, he's not saying, "Never bring up someone else's speck." He's saying, "Prioritize owning your faults first."

In every conflict, broken relationship, or divided relationship, you and I have a part to own. It's like this. We often don't think about it like this, but in every conflict, there's what you would call the blame pie. When you think about the conflict, and you think about the dysfunction you have in your relationship with the girl you dated, and the fact that he cheated on you, and you can't believe that would happen, and all of the ways you think about the conflict or the tension you have with someone else, there's your part and their part.

You could think about it like this is the pie, and this is how much. Often, we'll think, "Okay. Well, is it 50/50?" I don't know anybody who ever thinks it's 50/50. If anything, they're like, "They're the problem, and if they wouldn't have done this and X, Y, and Z…" Let's be more realistic. Maybe you don't think it's 50/50, but you think it's more like 25/75. Honestly, I don't know anybody who thinks it's this.

If I'm being honest, when people come down front, talking about, "They did this, and I can't believe they did this," here's really how they think about it. They think about it like, "They have all of this, and I have this little itty bitty on there. Sure. The fact that I was dating him in the first place, and he wasn't walking with Jesus, that's on me, but what he did…"

"The fact that I was rude to her and talked bad about her behind her back, and I gossiped about her in the name of venting… Sure, that's on me, but it wouldn't have happened if she hadn't have done that. So I guess I have something." Jesus is saying you own 100 percent of your 1 percent. No matter how big or small your portion in that conflict is… As believers, we're to go first and say, "Will you please forgive me for [blank]? I want to own everything I can."

There's a story of a guy who had his life changed here at The Porch, and he grew up in a really abusive environment with his father. His dad was physically violent with him. Neither of them was a Christian. Eventually, this young man becomes a young adult, and he wants nothing to do with his father. He comes to The Porch, and he trusts in Jesus. He's encouraged, "Hey, you need to own 100 percent of your 1 percent."

"Are you kidding me? After all of the years and the pain and the abuse I went through, anything I did was well deserved."

"If you want to experience healing, you have to own 100 percent of your 1 percent."

The man began to say, "Okay. Sure. I could have not cussed him out. I could have treated him more kindly. I was so hurt, and I lashed out at him at times." He went to his father, who was much older now, and he asked him for forgiveness for the way he had spoken disrespectfully, for the words he had used. His father, who was 99.999 percent, fell to his knees, seeing someone who had, according to the world (and, honestly, I think most of us), every right to just move on, despite all the pain, come and say, "Will you forgive me?"

I've seen marriages restored that involved… This is the story of one of our elders. He and his wife… There was an adultery that was committed, and the person who didn't commit adultery but had the adultery committed on them, as they were processing through healing, asked forgiveness for not pursuing them and pursuing intimacy and for not being as present of a husband as God would have had him be.

In that situation, when you're the one who just had adultery committed on you, everything in the world would say, "How dare you? I don't have anything to own." Yet Jesus says you and I are to constantly own our part. Now, let me be very clear. I'm not saying that if you are in a physically or emotionally abusive environment or relationship you need to stay there, but I'm speaking about, as believers, this radical commitment and humbly saying, "Will you forgive me? I'm going to own 100 percent of my 1 percent."

You know what? It's a lot smaller than all of the ways I feel I was wronged, but Jesus says we need to own our part. How do I know what part I likely have to own in my conflict resolution? This is really big, especially if you're a dating couple. Here's how you likely know how you may have contributed to that conflict. You need to check your WENI. Stay with me. What do I mean by that? WENI is an acronym for your style of conflict, for your style of how you fight or how you may conflict with people. It involves withdrawal, escalate, negatively interpret, or invalidateWENI.

As somebody who is in a relationship, you need to know these are the types of patterns we typically have. If when conflict happens you're the classic Enneagram Nine, and you just withdraw and pretend it didn't happen…you just try to move on with life, yet you're stuffing it and stuffing it and stuffing it…you may need to own the part of "Hey, this happened eight weeks ago, and I need to ask for your forgiveness, because it hurt me then, and I didn't bring it up." You're owning your part, that you did not do what Jesus said, which is be quick to address hurts.

Ephesians, chapter 4, says, "Do not let the sun go down on your anger and give the Devil a foothold in your soul." The Greek word for foothold that he uses is literally a room. He says, "Don't harbor anger and give the Devil room in your heart," like you're giving him a place to stay. You work quickly. So, maybe one of the ways you need to own is "Man, I've been holding on to this, and I should have brought this to you."

Maybe you're an escalator, like me. In the midst of conflict, they may withdraw. I'm married to a withdrawer. As an escalator, that just makes you double down. "Okay. All right. We're going on the move? Okay, let's go!" It's so wrong. You're an escalator, and you're like, "Okay." They just say something, and you begin to go back and forth and back and forth. You may need to go, "Okay." It's something my wife and I have had to do.

"We're going to take a time out, and we're going to bring this back up, because you're going to want to withdraw, and I'm going to want to escalate because you're withdrawing." So, if you're the withdrawer, you can withdraw to have some time to process, and you need to be committed that "We are going to come back and have this conversation." But maybe your role is to escalate, and the best thing you could do is just, "Man, I'm going to take time out to breathe."

Maybe you're a negative interpreter, and the lens you see the world through… You're constantly finding yourself as the victim of everything, because you're hurt, and now the person who walked past you and didn't say "Hi…" You're like, "Well, they don't care about me, and they don't care about me, and they don't care about me. My boss said, 'When are you going to have those reports?' and he knows how hard I've been working. My mom called and said, 'Honey, I'm looking for this pair of shoes,' and I bet she thinks I stole them." Everything you see life through is just a negative interpretation.

Or maybe you're an invalidator. The person comes to you… This almost doesn't need to be said, but needs to be said. If somebody says, "Hey, you hurt my feelings," telling them why they shouldn't have their feelings hurt doesn't help anyone, and it has never helped anyone in the history of the world.

So, when I come to you and say, "Hey, man. It really hurt me when you made that comment about me," and you begin to go, "Well, that's just because you're overly sensitive, and you really shouldn't be hurt by things like that. I can't believe you would even be there," you should take that to the Lord. Not helpful for anybody. You're invalidating.

Those feelings may not be reliable. They may not even be anchored in truth, but they're real in the sense that they're what they feel. As believers, James 1 says, we're to be quick to listen, slow to speak, quick to seek to understand, and to own our part and do everything we can to bring unity about in that relationship as quickly as possible.

What if you don't know your part to own? This is where we invite God and ask him through prayer and others around us, "Will you help me see my part?" When I was growing up, I had a friend that every time I went to his house, it smelled so bad. I feel like everyone has this friend. Am I right? If you don't have that friend, you may be that friend.

I would go to his house, and it would smell, and I would be like, "Man, it smells so bad in here." He couldn't smell it. This honestly created a phobia in me of "Maybe my house smells bad, and I can't smell it, and nobody is going to tell me that it smells bad, but it smells bad." True story. To this day, my paranoia is I don't want to have the home that my kids bring people over, and they're like, "Man, this house smells," and nobody has told them.

My friend couldn't smell it. It's all he knew, and unless somebody from the outside comes and says, "Bro, this smells in here," he wouldn't know. That's where we invite God's people in. "I have thought through all of the different ways I could have hurt them, and I can't see any of it. Will you help me so I can own 100 percent of my part?" So, you overlook it if you can, and then you own your part.

Then Jesus goes through the four steps we walk through as we go to them and own our part. Matthew 18:15: "If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault…" If they do something that sins against you, that hurts you, do it just between the two of you. "If they listen to you, you have won them over." This is further where Jesus' teaching is so radical. He says, "Hey, if somebody sins, if somebody hurts you, somebody says something, somebody offends you, you're to go to them individually."

In other words, you're not going to spread around the work office or spread around y'all's other relationships how they hurt you and how offensive and how they always… No. I'm going to go straight to them. I'm going to seek to honor and even protect them. I'm going to go directly to them, and I'm going to own my part and say, "Hey, when you continue to treat me like that, roommate, it makes me feel [blank]." In other words, I'm going to go directly to them, not somebody else. I'm going to go to them, and I'm going to own 100 percent of my part.

That could be, "I need to ask your forgiveness because I haven't brought this to you" or "I need to ask your forgiveness because I've already shared that this frustrated me with someone else. That's called gossip, and that's not right. But when you continue to not pay me rent, it makes me feel anxious about not being able to afford it. It makes me feel like you don't care. It makes me feel like you don't consider how that affects me." Whatever the sin is…

In other words, you focus on the specific action they took and the emotional response it created in you. Let me say that again. You focus on the specific action they did. "When you did [blank], it made me feel [blank]." So often, when we do this, we go to them and say, "How dare you not invite me to go to the movies with you and that group? You know I'm so insecure. This is because you don't care about anybody but yourself, just like the last time you did this."

We focus on motive, and we focus on track record. We bring in all kinds of things that we have clearly been harboring and holding on to, and we begin to prove a case against them. The Bible says love keeps no record of wrongs. So, if we're going to operate in love, which is the way we're called to operate, then we go and say, "Hey, when you didn't invite me with that group, it made me feel like you don't care about me, and that hurt my feelings, because I think of you as a close friend. I felt left out."

So, you focus on the specific action (this is for things big and things small) that was done by them and how it made you feel. It says if they listen to you, you've won them over, and if they don't, Jesus says, then you take the next step. He says in verse 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.'"

So, the steps we take… We overlook it if we can, we own our part, we go to them, only them, and if they won't listen, then we widen the circle slowly and only as necessary. I bring somebody else along. So, on my team, if there's conflict involving me and Josiah or me and JD or JD and Josiah, they're called to go to one another directly. They have that conversation. If they cannot resolve it, then they would widen the circle to one or two others.

Ideally, the person you bring… I love that it says, "One or two." Sometimes you have a mutual person who feels objective. "Hey, we're just going to call them. They're our mutual friend." Sometimes it feels like, "Well, they're going to be on your side, so I need to bring somebody on my side." Ideally, nobody is on sides. We're on Jesus' side. The goal is not to win or convince. It's to restore relationship, to hear and understand, to move toward each other.

Jesus says you then bring somebody else along, and you walk through it again. Specifically, "This is the action you took. This is how it hurt me." Hopefully, they begin to realize they have erred. This is only for Christians, by the way. This is specifically for Christians. They're moving toward one another. Jesus then says if they won't listen still, then you bring it to the church. The word church is the Greek word for assembly. It's the gathering. It's the group. In other words, not The Porch.

If you are in conflict, and they won't listen to two of you, bring them down front, and next week we're going to be like, "This is Bob. Bob wasn't listening to his roommate about…" That's not what it means. It's saying, like, the small group. You widen it only as necessary. That's the principle and the heart of Jesus' teaching. If they still don't listen… Verse 17: "…if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector."

Now, how did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors? He loved them. So, he's not saying shun them or create a closed Facebook page that highlights all of the errors they've had. He says you love them. You just don't call them to follow Jesus in the same way you call other brothers and sisters in Christ to follow Jesus. You're not going to hold them accountable, because they're saying, "I don't want to be held accountable. I want to live how I want."

To that person, Jesus still loved them. He still spent time with them. He still cared for them. He just knew, "I'm not going to call you to following Jesus, because you've made it clear you don't want to. My heart still hopes you do, and I still want you to, but I'm not going to call you to do that, because you've made it clear it's not what you, at least today, want." The heart is always for relational unity together.

The word for Satan in Greek is the Greek word diabolos, like devil. The Greek word diabolos comes from the root of divide, like diameter. It runs right through the middle. Satan's entire offense is to divide. In other words, if you're in a place where you're finding yourself justifying… "He doesn't know what they did and how they hurt me. I don't need to do anything. They need to own their part. I'm not moving toward them."

I just want you to consider if the offense of staying divided is you operating underneath the Spirit of God or the way of the world, which is the way of Satan. He wants division, and anytime we see that happening versus unity and people coming together and having real, transparent, authentic, "I'm moving toward you, and I seek to understand you and seek to support you and seek to forgive you…" Those things are not of this world. Those things are supernatural, led by the Spirit of God.

Anytime we see in culture division happening and dividing, that's his entire… He wants to kill and destroy, and he wants to separate. Right now, in every Community Group and every relationship and every person in this room, that is the offense he is seeking to establish. He hates if people forgive and move toward one another and walk in humility and own their part and come together.

He wants you to go, "Hey, they're not going to change. You could bring that up…" That's what he's telling you. "You could bring that up to them. They're not going to own their part. They're going to look at you and say, 'Your feelings are invalid, and you shouldn't do any of that.'" That is not the Spirit of God.

It may be that same Spirit who calls us to do things that are uncomfortable, like forgiving and being the first person to own our part when we were the one clearly wronged, is exactly the Spirit of God at work in your heart and in your life, making you look more like your Father in heaven who's calling you to forgive. When you do and move toward that person, you're going to experience healing, because you'll be set free from a bondage of bitterness, from a prison of resentment. Jesus is saying you can come out of that cage, but it's going to involve you forgiving and moving toward them.

So, the final example is loving them. Let me walk through really quickly… I'm going to have two people come up onstage and give very fast examples of what this should look like. This is Garrett and Heather. Welcome to the stage Garrett and Heather. Heather is going to have this die. It says "believer" on one side. This is going to have a number of different relationships, because that's the most practical thing people want to know. By the way, these people have no romantic relationship. Heather is actually engaged, off the market. Garrett is dating someone too.

Let's walk through scenarios very quickly, because when they're not a believer, the game changes. The rules change. The most loving thing to do is to not confront them in the same way you would a nonbeliever. So, let's go with unbeliever. Your unbelieving coworker has offended you. They made a comment about the way you dress or the people you spend your time with or whatever it is. What should you do in that situation?

Depending on the level of relationship, it's not inappropriate for you to say, "That hurt my feelings," but high level, the goal in that context is "I am going to extend grace. I'm going to treat you not like you treated me, rudely, but like God treated me in Jesus. I'm going to own my part in any way I can, and I'm going to ask for your forgiveness."

Let's say they're a believer, and they're someone you're in a dating relationship with, and you have conflict. You're feeling some sort of way about the way they treated you and the fact that they didn't take you on a date and they said they were, or they just miscommunicated. Ladies, guys are just idiots at times. We don't even know we've hurt someone. Here's what you do. You go to them, guy or girl, and say, "When you said that, it hurt my feelings. When you did that, it made me feel like you don't care."

This opens the door for them to respond and strengthen your relationship and say, "It wasn't that I didn't care. I didn't call you on my way home from work because I was on a business call that didn't end, and I had to continue that call. So, it wasn't that I didn't want to catch up and I'm not concerned or I don't care about you. It's that I was still working." That thorn that had been planted in your mind of "He doesn't care about me" or "She doesn't care about me" is addressed, and you're able to move toward one another.

Now, let's say they are an unbeliever who's a friend, who you have a relationship with, and they did something, and it really hurt you. If they're not a believer in Jesus, someone operating without the Spirit of God, who doesn't operate… The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, self-control. They're not going to have those things.

So, first, I understand I have a level of grace for them, because they are not walking with Jesus. Of course they're not going to treat people like Jesus calls us to, because they're not following Jesus. I'm going to seek to own my part in every way I can. I'm going to extend grace. Of course there are times where I put a boundary in place because it's an unhealthy relationship or they are treating me in a way that is toxic and unhealthy, but even then, I'm going to hope and desire this relationship gets restored at some point.

Let's say it's somebody who was an unbeliever who you formerly dated, and you were a believer. One of the most God-honoring things you can do… You were dating someone God says in 2 Corinthians, chapter 6, you're not supposed to be dating. He says you're not supposed to have romantic relationships with people who don't share your faith.

Maybe the most God-honoring thing you can do is you need to pick up the phone after this service, or tomorrow, and say, "Will you forgive me? I'm a follower of Jesus, and I dated someone who wasn't walking with Jesus, and that had to be confusing. It at least communicated that my faith is really not that big of a deal and my relationship with God is not that big of a deal. It gave you a watered-down version of Christianity. 'Man, she says she's a Christian, but she still puts out.' And it confused you. I'm really sorry." You're taking an uncomfortable step and seeking to honor God and strengthen relationships.

I'll close with this. The reason this is such a big deal to Jesus is because God's whole mission all throughout the Bible was to establish reconciling and restoring relationships. God has made the first move. He has said, "I'm going to move in the direction of humanity despite all of the ways they have not wanted it and don't deserve it, and I am going to seek to be the first person who initiates. I want to make way for that relationship." Of course he's going to be passionate about it.

In other words, in every dating relationship, there's somebody who makes the first move. We've said before there's either the guy who calls her up… Someday, you're going to tell this story at your rehearsal dinner when the two of you are together. (Like this married couple that's here honeymooning at The Porch. Love that. Some people go to Hawaii. Some people go to The Porch. Let's go.)

You're going to tell your story at your rehearsal dinner, and I bet it happened with them. Somebody gets up, and they begin to go, "Yeah…" The girl tells her perspective on "Here's how he made the move. I was there, and I got a random phone call, and I was like, 'Whose number is this?' He was like, 'Hey, my name is Kyle. I got your number from Kevin, who got it from Sarah, and I just wanted to know…'" You tell the story of them making the first move.

Or it's the girl who makes the first move. He ends up breaking his ankle playing pickup basketball with some boys, and she's like, "Oh man. I just wanted to stop by and bring some cookies over after I spent time praying with the Lord for three hours." She's just making the first move. You're going to tell that story. Every person who has ever lived who comes to know Jesus… Their story is that God made the first move. He invited them into relationship by sending his one and only Son Jesus on the cross.

Let me be abundantly clear. Here's what it means to be a Christian. Here's why God is so passionate about reconciling relationships. The whole arc of the Bible is the story of God seeking to reconcile relationships. He has made a way by making the first move, by sending Jesus on the planet as a payment for your sin. He died in your place, and he rose from the grave so you could have forgiveness of everything past, everything present, and everything future that you have ever done.

Do you know what forgiveness does? It allows the relationship to be restored. You cannot have a restoration of relationship without forgiveness taking place. It does not restore the relationship, but it allows the relationship to be prepared, to be reconciled and restored. God said any person who accepts the payment of Jesus receives forgiveness and is reconciled to God. The whole teaching of the Bible is God's intention to do that with his people.

Then it says when the Spirit of God gets into the heart of a person, they embrace that passion God has. "Until the last breath they breathe, I am going to be about pursuing reconciliation and restoration." I'm going to sin, and you're going to sin, and we're going to mess up, and when it happens, we can either run from each other or run toward each other, because God ran toward us. That's what the Bible teaches.

Tonight, there are some calls that probably need to be made, some texts you need to send. You don't need to raise your hands and say, "How great is our God." You need to say, "Man, I need to talk to you." You need to go and own your part. In that, you may need to share, "This is how it hurt me."

Everything inside of you… It won't feel natural, and you're not going to want to do it, and you're going to want to tell me why I'm wrong, but that's the Spirit of God, if it's moving you toward healing and forgiveness. If it's not and moving you away from it, that is the spirit of this world or that is the spirit of Satan. God wants you to experience freedom and unleash freedom.

So, I'm going to pray, and as I do, there may be names that come to mind. There's someone in your life, and you may need to, before they die, so you don't have to stand at a tombstone someday and say, "I forgive you, and I'm moving on…" They're a believer, and you're going to move toward them.

You're going to humbly own everything you can, and then share the ways that maybe their actions hurt and how it made you feel. The only reason you're sharing is because you want to have a restored relationship. You love them, and you want restoration because of the God who extended restoration to you. Let me pray.

Father, I pray for anyone right now who has a family member, has a hurt, has relational brokenness they're carrying in here, that you would be bigger than the pain, you would be more real than the hurt, and you would strengthen them to move in the direction of that person, even though it's uncomfortable, even though it's not fair, but they would do so because of the way you moved toward us in our direction even though it was not comfortable to be crucified on a cross, and it was not fair that you would die for me and my sin, and you would make us people of grace, love, and forgiveness who run quickly to reconcile. In Jesus' name, amen.