House church life brings lives together. When people spend time, life on life, illusions fall away and we see one another for who we are. We can not hide from one another with out dropping out. In house church we do not have the option of attending an earlier service or sitting on the opposite side of the auditorium in order to avoid a person with whom we are in conflict. House church life requires us to talk issues through and at times find help in doing so.
The Bible forbids worldly sinful conflict within the church. Out bursts of anger, gossip, unforgiveness and divisions are prohibited behaviors. Broken relationships require reconciliation. We expect every person in NEO-HCN operate in teachable humility towards one another. The Spirit-filled life draws us to patience, love and gentleness. We cease being quick to judge before having all the information. We also stop being permissive when we do have the facts. True love leads us to action.
Somebody Do Something! Is often the cry when conflicts emerge. Leaders are the ones who have their ears filled with complaints and concerns. The New Testament has pastors guarding the flock but this does not make them the first involved in interpersonal conflict. Pastors counsel about biblical standards and train the church on how to confront, admonish, reconcile and become peacemakers. Conflict forces people to grow up.
Matthew 18 Due process
Jesus gave very specific instructions on conflict resolution. Obedience is a measure of commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Read this:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17, ESV)
Jesus lays out how we address and resolve personal conflict. Here is the process:
The offended person goes privately to the offender. Here an appeal is made requesting restitution and repentance. if there is repentance the matter is then settled. No gossip or rejection.
If there is not reconciliation then the offended person has two or three witnesses meet with the supposed offender. These witnesses act impartially hearing each side. If the matter is judged to be not a true offense the person with the complaint needs to see the error of their judgement. If the witnesses affirm the complaint and the offender repents then the matter is concluded.
If the offender fails to yield then leadership is involved and a house church meeting will need to be called where both parties present their case. The house church members make the judgement and enforce the solution up to and including removal of the offender from the church until they repent. If the person claiming the offense is found to be improperly accusative or unjust they are expected to fully reconcile.
This is not optional for a true Christ follower. It is also harder to do than anger, gossip or running away. Obeying the Bible’s teaching on discipline in the church is a key indicator if a person is truly committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a measure of love. John the apostle adds: 1 John 4:20 “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” This applies not only to a supposed wrong-doer but also the one who is claiming to have been wronged.
The church must always uphold godly standards for conflict resolution. Paul challenged the church in Corinth, 1 Cor 6:5 “I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?” When churches refuse Matthew 18 they are confessing they lack wisdom and wise people. What a shame! When is the last time you saw Matthew 18 modeled by a church? When, if ever, did you hear it taught?
Christian leaders should not be the sole judge and jury. The responsibility for maintaining godly standards inside the church is every believer’s responsibility. Leaders may steer the process but every believer plays a part. Its time for us to be wise.