“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.”
“To dwell in love with saints above— Oh that will be glory! But to dwell below with saints we know— Ah! That’s a different story!” Life in community can be difficult. It is hard because when spending an inordinate amount of time with someone, challenges inevitably arise. What starts out as someone with a different personality, becomes someone we find annoying, and eventually the personality conflict turns into sin presenting itself.
As we do life in community, Jesus provides His disciples with some practical instructions on how to deal with sin and conflict when they come into the life of the church. He 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” (Matthew 18:15). This is one of the hardest things to do: go and point out to someone where their transgression is. We lean away from conflict, not just in the church but everywhere.
The idea of confronting someone about something to their face, potentially disturbing the peace and hurting their feelings, makes us afraid. Emotions will rise and the relationship may be broken. The person may take it out on us or gather others on their side and bully us, or worse, we may get cancelled by the rest of the community all together.
A study done by CPP Global in 2008 on “Workplace Conflict and How Businesses can Harness it to Thrive” found that 85% of people experience conflict at work, with 29% saying they experience constant conflict. Eighty-nine percent of the people let the conflict escalate and 67% have gone out of their way to avoid the colleague because of a disagreement at work. The sad truth is that this statistic not only applies to the marketplace, but it is also at the church.
What Jesus calls us to do is actually something that is contrary to our normal desires. When someone sins against us, we simply avoid them and let the issue escalate. But here is the problem with sin: when it starts to grow, we cannot hold it in. People start to share about the conflict in the community and it shows up in our conversations with people other than the person who we are in conflict with. We like to shroud it in the form of a “prayer request.”
Yet, in the same study, “76% have seen conflict lead to a positive outcome, such as better understanding of others (41%) or a better solution to a workplace problem (29%).” Although a positive outcome from confronting sin and conflict cannot be guaranteed, we can have comfort that as we do, we are being obedient to Jesus’s teaching.
Lord Heavenly Father, help me to confront sin and conflict when it arises. I ask for Your will and Your favour in the outcome. Thank You, Lord.