From the August 12 sermon “Jesus Reconciles Us,” preached by Pastor Mark Driscoll:
How should Christians deal with conflict? Jesus tells us (the offenders, the offended, and those in the middle alike) how to deal with interpersonal conflict in Matthew 18:15–20. He gives us eight painful questions for reconciliation between Christians, culminating with, what does Jesus think about your behavior? Jesus the God-man is the only one who can reconcile us to both God and one another.
We Don't Hide Crimes
There’s a difference between a sin and a crime. A sin is something that Christians are supposed to handle with the presence of God. A crime is something that we need to report to the authorities. One of the saddest things that’s happened in recent years is, regarding Christianity, certain churches or traditions of Christianity have decided that when a crime is committed, they don’t report it and they hide it.
We don’t hide crimes. Romans 13 says to obey the governing authority. So, if someone sexually assaults you, call the police. If you’re working for a company and you’re a believer, and someone claims to be a believer, and you find that they’re stealing, I mean, it’s real and it’s real bad, you need to notify the proper authorities in your company and see what their policies are.
There are times when crimes are committed, and sometimes as Christians, we can misapply Scripture, especially things like Matthew 18, and take a situation that’s only regarding a personal offense, an interpersonal conflict, and apply it, one size fits all, paint-by-numbers kit, for every conceivable situation. It’s not. It’s not. [. . .]
But the question is: has an actual sin been committed? Did a fellow Christian gossip about you? Did they lie about you? Did they misrepresent you? What did they do to you? It’s not a crime. You couldn’t call the police. But it’s a sin.
Talk to Someone, Not about Them
Let me give you some practical, practical counsel. When you’re really frustrated, somebody is driving you crazy, and you’ve got a strained relationship, you may need a lightning rod. You know what a lightning rod is? If you were growing up where there’s lightning, there are lightning rods. Without lightning rods, people die, so lightning rods are very important. What a lightning rod does, it takes all the energy and it grounds it out so nobody dies.
When you’re really frustrated, alright, you been there? You’re going to need a lightning rod. You’re going to need somebody, just, “Gosh! I’m so frustrated! I’m so angry! I’m so hurt!”
Whatever it is to ground out your storm before you go talk to that person. Let that be God. Pray. Read the Psalms.
If you’ve not read the Psalms, the Psalms are a lot of prayers. Some of them are lightning rod prayers. “God, it’s a dark day. I’m depressed. I want all my enemies to die.” Some of you are like, “That’s in there? What a great book. I’m going to start reading it.” Yes, that’s the Psalms, and what that is, that’s allowing God to be your lightning rod, because you know what?
God is big enough to handle it. The God of the Bible can ground out your storm.
For the Non-Christians
Before you think about being reconciled to others, you’ve got to be reconciled to God. And when we sin, it doesn’t just affect others. We tend to see our sin affecting our relationship with others, but our sin also affects our relationship with God.
We see this in Genesis 3. Our first parents sin and they’re separated from God and one another. So, we’re all sinners by nature and choice. We all sin, and when we do, it separates us from God and one another. So, before we can reconcile with one another, we have to be reconciled to God in Christ. This is what Paul tells the Corinthians. He says, “Therefore, be reconciled to God in Christ and then you’ll receive this ministry of reconciliation.”
So, let me ask you, are you really a Christian? Are you reconciled to God the Father through faith in Jesus Christ, that you are a sinner, and that sin has separated you from God, and Jesus has come to live without sin, to die for sin, to be the mediator, the God-man, who comes as God as a man to reconcile men and women to God? That’s why the Bible says, “There’s only one mediator between us and God, the man Christ Jesus.” You can’t be reconciled to God apart from Christ Jesus, and once you are reconciled to God through Christ Jesus, you now can be reconciled to your brothers and sisters in Christ through Christ Jesus. Isn’t that wonderful?
I know for some of you this sounds very painful, but let me say, when reconciled to God and others, it’s incredibly joyful. And so the hope is not in you, and it’s not in me, and it’s not in them, but it’s in him, that if he could reconcile us to God, he could reconcile us to one another.