Last month we talked about our relationship with God, and this month I would like to begin to talk about the importance of our relationships with others. One of the most important aspect of relationships, particularly in church, is how we handle problems with each other.
Having lived both out East and here in the Midwest, one of the biggest differences I have observed is how people handle issues with each other. Out East, if someone has an issue, they go right to the person they have the issue with; they don’t always do this functionally, and it often leads to arguments hurting both parties; however, in the Midwest I have found that people are much more likely to communicate with other people about an issue they are having with someone else. Out East this behavior would be shunned; here it seems to be accepted. I also have witnessed, firsthand, here in the Midwest how destructive this “triangulation” is to not only the involved parties, but to the community as a whole…especially church communities and their mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 18:15-17a Jesus says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 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.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church….” This is the model for conflict resolution that Jesus gave to His church…and it always starts with going to the person you have an issue with first.
Therefore, if someone comes to you to talk about an issue they have with someone else, particularly in church, please stop them, and ask if they have first spoken to the individual they are having the issue with. If they have not spoken to the person, inform them that for the sake of the community and the church, what they really should do is go talk to that person first before they tell anyone else about the issue. And for those who have an issue, please approach your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with love, respect and in the spirit of finding resolution and making peace. We all make mistakes, and I will at least speak for myself when I state that I believe most folks here at Centenary would respond with understanding and likely even an apology if they have done someone wrong.
Like has been said for many years here at Centenary UMC: Love God, Love Others and then we can make disciples of Jesus Christ.