Conflict Week 3: The Red Letters of Conflict

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

Everyone knows conflict is part of life. There are some who tell stories of strength in relationships, marriages, churches and businesses because of conflict. But, the vast majority of stories seem to have another ending. Most people would love to hear a magic cure for conflict, but we all know that doesn't exist. Conflict even abounds throughout the pages of Scripture within people, between people, within groups and between groups. Sometimes it was handled in a godly fashion, but more often than not, it wasn't.

What if we could resolve conflict better? What if we could grow from it? What if we could learn from it? Maybe, just maybe, that starts now.

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody and, also, good morning to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. So glad that you've tuned in to watch and so glad that you're here at 10:15 for this sermon. You probably were wondering, "Where's Chip at? What's he doing on video?"

I'm actually in Chicago. Mindy and I took Jack, my son, to Chicago. He wanted to go there for his birthday. So, we've been up there running around Chicago on a whirlwind tour. Right now, we probably are in a cab headed to the airport, which is really short of strange. So, while I'm here speaking, I'm really there. I'm doing two things at one time. What's really awesome is I have recorded a video for you at 10:15 that also is going to be a video that goes out into the mobile app and internet. So, this is really mind-blowing stuff. So, we probably just need to stop and pray for a moment and ask the Lord to bless this service. Would you bow with me?

Let's pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You so much for letting us gather here. I just pray that even though this is a little bit different than we normally do church – via a video presentation – I pray, Lord, that You would really speak to all of us this weekend. I pray, Lord, that we'd be able to move past the video and realize that I've prayed and many people have prayed specifically for this weekend and that You would speak to all of us. So, Lord, I pray that we would all commit to really listening to Your voice so that we can walk out of here differently than when we came in. Lord, we thank You for it in Jesus' name, and everybody said, "amen."

We're dealing with this issue of conflict. It's a real issue for all of us. In fact, every one of us knows, at some level in our lives, we always have conflict. Whether it's at our jobs, whether it's with siblings, whether it's with family, whether it's in marriages, we've got conflict. What we're trying to do – and it's what I try to do every time I speak and every time I do a series – is I want to help you and help us as a church get the tools that we need to be equipped so that we can live the life God wants us to live. Being able to handle conflict is huge.

So, even if you're here and this is your first time back in church for a long time or maybe this is your first time in church or maybe you've been a couple of times and you're not quite sure about the God thing or you're not quite sure about the Jesus thing, or even if you've been a Christian for a long time, this is stuff that is practical, real world and it's good for all of us. So, what we're doing is we're spending five weeks talking about conflict and trying to figure out how we can become better at this particular issue of life.

As a general rule, most people don't like conflict. They like to run from it. They like to avoid it. They want to just get away from it. But, there are some that like to win at conflict. Neither one of those are good options, but the ones that like to win remind me of a story. There was a chicken farmer and his best friend was a cow farmer. That's what they did. Their land sort of joined together. One did chickens and one did cows. So, the chicken farmer had a ritual every morning. He would go out to all of his chickens, but he had this one prize chicken that he loved. Because, that chicken, believe it or not, would lay one egg every morning.

So, that was the guy's breakfast. He'd go out and get the egg. He'd go back and cook the egg. He'd eat the egg and then off he'd go for his day. Every single day of every single week, that's what he did. Well, one day he got up and he went out to go see his prize chicken to get that egg. He realized that the prize chicken wasn't in the coop. So, he starts looking around and he's walking around and he looks over into his buddy's cow pasture and he sees his chicken. So, he starts briskly walking towards the chicken because he wants to get the chicken back. But, he also wants to get the egg.

So, he goes out there and he realizes, as he's walking out there, he can see from a distance, that the chicken has laid an egg in the cow pasture. But, what he didn't notice – and he notices at that particular moment – is that his buddy, who does the cow stuff, is on his way out to the chicken and he picks up the egg from the ground. Well, the chicken farmer is like, "Wait! Hey, buddy, buddy, buddy. That's my chicken and that's my egg."

His friend's like, "Hey, listen, man. That may very well be your chicken, but this is my egg."

He's like, "What do you mean it's your egg? It's my egg; it's my chicken."

He's like, "No. It may be your chicken, but your chicken laid the egg on my property. Therefore, it's my egg."

The guy says, "No, no, no. I can't believe we're doing this. We're actually going to have some conflict. There's a way that we're going to have to handle this."

The cow farmer says, "Really? Well, how are we going to handle this?"

"Well, we're going to do it the way my family's always done it for hundreds of years. We have a way in which we handle conflict."

The cow farmer said, "Okay, great. Lay it on me. How are we going to handle this conflict?”

He says, "Well, here's what we're going to do. You're going to go back to your house and you're going to get a pair of boots. I'm going to go back to my house and I'm going to get a pair of boots. Then we're going to come back here to this exact same spot. What I'm going to do is I'm going to kick you as hard as I can in the shin. What you're going to do is you're going to fall on the ground, because it's going to hurt. You're going to writhe around, you're going to sweat a little bit, it's going to hurt. What I'm going to do is I'm going to put on my stopwatch, when I kick you, how long it takes for you to get through the pain, work through the pain, to where you can stand back up. When you can do that, I will stop the stopwatch. We'll write down however long that was. Then, what you're going to do is you're going to kick me in the shin as hard as you can. I'm going to fall on the ground. I'm going to writhe around in pain. I'm going to break out in a cold sweat and all that good stuff. You're going to time me. Then, when I get back up and I've worked through the pain, you're going to write down how long it took me to work through that pain.

"Here's the deal: The one who can get up the fastest, the one who can work through the pain the quickest, they're the one that's going to win the egg."

The cow farmer says, "Alright. I'm in, man. I'm in. You want to do that? That's fine. If you want your egg that bad, let's do that. We're both men. We're grown men. We're both tough men. We're both farmers. Let's do it."

So, they go back to their houses and they get their boots. Now, the chicken farmer had done this before. So, he had him a pair of prize boots. It was a pair of boots with a big steel toe on the front. I mean, he was going to inflict some damage on this boy. So, they go out and mean. The chicken farmer, he rears back and he kicks that cow farmer. I mean, he just tears his shin up.

The cow farmer falls on the ground. He writhes around. He's got some choice words that you can't say in church and all that good stuff. He's writhing around. He's breaking out in a cold sweat and all of that stuff. The guy's timing it. Finally, he gets up. It's been a little over 20 minutes. The cow farmer says, "Well, how long did it take?"

"A little over 20 minutes."

The cow farmer says, "Alright. Give me the stopwatch. I'm going to kick you."

The chicken farmer says, "That's alright, man. You can have the egg."

We don't want to be like that. We're not trying to win conflict. What we're trying to do is we are trying to work on dealing with conflict in our life in a way that is pleasing to God and that is biblical and Scriptural.

So, what we've been doing is the first week, which was two weeks ago, we dealt with the big idea. We looked at some big idea concepts. Then, last week and this week, what we decided to do is we're going to do a deep dive into some passages of Scripture and really dig into them and learn the "whys." What I mean by that is this: Most people, when you talk about conflict, what they ask you is this: What should I do? What should I do with my wife? What should I do with my husband? What should I do with my boss?

We want to get there. We want to get to the "whats." But, to understand what to do, we have to understand why we are doing what we're doing. Because, typically, when you tell somebody what to do, their first response is, "Well, why should I do that?"

That's an appropriate response. It's much like what we do here at church when we talk about our vision. We say that we want to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. That is our "why." So, when someone says, "What do we do?"

Well, we do First Friday as something. That's a what. And when somebody says, "We'll, why do we do First Friday?"

We do it because we want to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. So, we talk about conflict and we say, "What do we do?"

We're going to spend the next two weeks on practical, real issues. I mean, it's going to get real and raw about what we do. But, before we do that, we need to make sure that we understand why. So, last week, we looked at what Paul said to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 6. This weekend, we're going to look at some red letters in Scripture. We're going to look at what Jesus said about conflict. So, in Matthew 18, Jesus has talked to His disciples and He's told them that offenses are going to happen. I mean, there's going to be people that get offended. He says, "When you offend a little one, it's a really big issue. It's not a good thing, because you don't want to offend little ones."

And because Jesus knows that those offenses are going to happen and that people are going to sin against each other, we're going to start in Matthew 18:15 and we're going to look at what Jesus says. Then what we're going to do is, at the end, we're going to look at the underlying conflict truths of why Jesus told them what to do when conflict strikes. So, in Matthew 18:15-21, here's what we have.

He says, "'If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private.’"

Now, there's a lot of things going on here and I want to make sure that all of us understand the dynamics here. First of all, he says, "If your brother sins against you." This is not somebody that's outside of the Church. This is not somebody that's at your work that doesn't call themselves a Christian. This is not any of that at all. The way we handle that's completely different. This is a brother. This is someone that calls on the name of God. This is someone that you know. This is someone that you have a community with. This is someone that you have a relationship with. He says, "If you brother sins against you," – that's you. The "you" in the original language is singular. So, this is a sin against you and me. So, it's a personal thing.

He says, "'If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private.’"

Now, the word "rebuke" – and I've added, here, some parentheses – is "to deal with or to expose." It's a real word. It's not just, "Hey, talk about it." It's a word that really has some bite to it. He says, "What I want you to do is if your brother – someone that you have a relationship with, not someone on the outside of the church – sins against you, what I want you to do is I want you to rebuke them. I want you to deal with and expose what they've done."

And then Jesus says, "And do it in private."

Now, let's back up here because there's a lot of stuff going on in just this one verse of Scripture. First of all, this is a communal passage of Scripture. This is someone that you know. Someone that knows you. You're in a relationship with them and they've done something that's big enough to be called a sin. It's not just a personality thing. It's not just a little miscommunication. This is a sin. Jesus says, "When that happens in the community, we are to go and we are to rebuke them in private. Now, let's be honest. Most of us, when we have someone that's done us wrong or when they've sinned against us, let's be honest, what do we do? We go and tell about four other people – or nine people. We go talk about it to other people. We get them on our side. We tell them, "Hey, this person did this to me."

That is not what Jesus told us to do when we're dealing with conflict. In fact, not only did He tell you to do it in private, but there's a lot of assumptions here that Jesus is making and we're having to understand in this passage. Jesus, this is the way He sees the world and the Church. That you and me, if we are brothers, if we're followers of God, not only should we expect to go to someone when they have done us wrong – and oftentimes, if we're honest, we like to go another way and we don't want to deal with it.

No. He says, "What I want you to do is I want you to go to them, I want you to rebuke it."

But, the opposite is true too. If we've signed up for the Jesus thing, if we've signed up to follow Jesus, then we've put ourselves in a position that when we do something wrong to someone else, they have every right to come to us and tell us that we've done wrong. Which means you can't just do anything you want to do if you decide to follow Jesus, that Jesus has said, "Hey, I want my community to work together and I want this thing to be holistic and I want this thing to work. When there's conflict, I want there to be transformation. I want there to be growth. But, I want you to do it a specific way. If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him. Expose it and deal with it in private."

And then listen to what He says. He says, "'If he listens to you, you've won your brother.'"

Which means you could lose your brother. Which means that there could really be a relationship tension to where it was bad. He says, "The goal here is to transform this conflict. Listen, when somebody sins against you, you need to go to them. You can't run. You can't hide. You can't go tell 15 people. You go to them in private and, if they will listen to you – and listening to you doesn't mean they listen to you. Listening to you means that they agree that what they did to you was wrong."

He says, "You have won your brother."

Which shows that, for Jesus, conflict is not something that we just keep going on and on. It's an opportunity for reconciliation. It's an opportunity for restoration. It's an opportunity for transformation. But, Jesus is a realist. He understands that just because you go to your brother when they've sinned and just because they love God and just because they raise their hands in church and just because they say that they're Christians and all of those good things, He understands that they may not agree. They may decide, "I don't like you coming to me. I don't want to hear a word that you say. I know that maybe I did something wrong, but I'm not going to listen to you."

So, Jesus says, "Well, here's the next step."

He says, "'But if he wont' listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses, every fact may be established.'"

What He says here is, "Listen, if he won't listen, if there's not an agreement, if there's not reconciliation, if you have not won your brother, then take one or two other people..." – and I love this here. He doesn't that they have to be leaders. He doesn't say that they have to be spiritual giants. They've just got to be in the community. Get a couple of other people and go. Then He quotes out of the Old Testament this idea that everything can be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses. And what He's saying is, "Listen, if this brother has not listened to what you've said and he's sinned against you and you take one or two others, what you're doing is you're putting together this collection of work that's showing that this guy or woman who's done wrong is, in fact, wrong."

The obvious hope here is that you brother will listen. That's the hope. But, Jesus lives in the real world. Here's what He says:

"If he doesn't pay attention to them..." – "church" here, in the original language, is singular, not plural. You would expect it to be plural. It's singular, which shows that the church has got a unity to this idea of transformation in conflict. That we do things the way Jesus wants us to do it.

He says, "Tell it to the church."

This is a real foreign deal for most of us, this idea of, "Hey, you know, I did somebody wrong. Could we just move over or whatever? I'm not going to really say anything. They're not going to say anything. We'll just sort of let it go or whatever."

It doesn't work that way. Jesus says, "My followers, that's not the way it works."

When there's sin that's gone on and there's conflict that's gone on and there are problems that've gone on, then what we need to do is we need to deal with it in the right way. We go in private. If they don't listen in private, we take one or two others. If they don't, then we bring it to the church. That's the local assembly. That would mean – and this is sort of radical. These are the passages of Scripture where you start asking the question, "Am I really in on this thing? Am I really a follower of Jesus? Is this really the way I want to do it?"

Because, what we're saying is that when we say, "Hey, I'm in for the Jesus thing," then we're signing up that when we do something wrong to someone else, we are going to allow that to be reconciled and restored and transformed. And there's a process. If we just get a little hard headed or a little stubborn, Jesus says, "We're going to take one or two. If not, take it to the church."

And I doubt very seriously that many people would want to be brought in front of the church. In fact, I would tell you that not many churches do this. But, this is the way Jesus says we ought to handle this stuff. Jesus is also a realist. He says, "If he doesn't pay attention even to the church, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you."

Now, we need to really pause here for a second. Notice here that He doesn't say that he is a tax collector or a Gentile. He says, "Let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector."

But, it's not to the church, it's to you; the one that was offended. Now there is a difference in relationship. This person is no longer a brother. This person is like a Gentile and a tax collector, which means they're on the outside of the community of faith. They're no longer living like a brother. They've decided to live like those people who need missionary work. The tax collectors and the Gentiles were the people that Jesus went to and He tried to restore because they were on the outside. They were not the people of God. He didn't push them away. He didn't hate them or any stuff like that. He loved them, but He knew the difference between those who were Gentile and tax collectors and those that were His followers.

And Jesus says, "Listen, when we're dealing with this conflict thing and we've done something against someone and we're obstinate and we're not going to deal with it and we push it away and one or two others come along and we push it away and then the church comes along and we push it away, there is a break in the relationship and it takes on a different form. They become like a Gentile and a tax collector."

Now, let's continue on here, because all of this goes together. And we're going to not understand what Jesus is saying until we understand the "why." But, we've got to get through the "whats" so that then we can look and sort of boil it down and get to the "whys."

Look at what Jesus says next. He says, "Truly, I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven."

This is powerful. I grew up in a tradition that didn't pay attention to context in Scripture. And I'm not being negative about the tradition I grew up in. There's a lot of things that I'm so thankful about growing up in the Pentecostal church. But, one of the things that we like to do is pull a lot of passages out of their contact. Jesus is talking about sin, forgiveness, reconciliation, conflict, and transformation. And what we would do is we would use this passage and we would run around the church praying against the devil. That's what we would do. It would be, "We're binding the devil. We're loosing the devil. We're loosing angels and binding demons."

I mean, it was crazy. One day I was in church. I always felt like there were 19 devils behind every chair and everybody's like, "Get that devil. Go get him. Bind him. Loose him."

And I started saying to myself, "Man, we've just spent the last hour in prayer and we haven't even talked to God. All we've done is talk to the devil the whole time."

That's not what Jesus is talking about here. He's saying – and this is profound – that when somebody refuses to reconcile, they are bound in their sin. And what the church is proclaiming about their sin has already been proclaimed in heaven that they're bound in their sin. And when the church looses sin, they're merely saying what's already happened in heaven; that the sin has been loosed. This is powerful. This shows you how important the local church is, because we're involved as the heavenly associate or the heavenly representative of sin and forgiveness. This is huge. Jesus goes on to say – this is a powerful passage. This is linking all up together.

"Again, truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven."

Now, I'm going to be honest. This is a passage of Scripture that usually is yanked out of context in every way. And we've all had it. We've all gotten together in a prayer meeting and people say, "You know, we've got two or three people here. If we just agree on this, God's going to do it."

And then we agree and we pray and it doesn't happen. And everybody goes, "Well, what happened?"

Well, Jesus isn't talking about praying about just anything you want to pray about. He's talking about sin and forgiveness. He says, "If two of you..." – it takes two to tango. It takes two to have a conflict. It takes two to have one sin against the other. He says, "If you can agree about any matter..."

Interesting word here. The original word for "matter" is the same word that Paul used in 1 Corinthians 6 that we talked about last week for a legal dispute. "Pragma." It's a Greek word. He says, "If two of you can agree on this matter of dispute that you're praying about..."

In other words, if you can come to agreement that there's been something done wrong, He says, "I will always answer that prayer." That's what that passage is saying. It's all contextual. He goes on to say this:

"For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."

If you've been in church long enough at any time, you've probably heard somebody get up and say, "Hey, it's so great to see everybody this morning. As we know, where two or three are gathered together, He's here with us."

I don't mean to bust any bubbles. I'm not trying to step on anybody's toes. But, you don't need two or three people to have Jesus in your life. He said He would never leave you or forsake you. We don't need two or three people to gather together for Jesus to be there. But, we do need two or three people to gather when there's been a conflict. When they come together and they're there gathered in His name – and His name isn't just J-E-S-U-S, like, you know, we pray in Jesus' name. Everybody thinks we've got to add Jesus on the back of the prayer and we get really cool about that. It depends on what church you grew up in. It's like the more emphatic you get, the more you pray that prayer. You know? In Jesus' name.

That's not what Jesus' name is. It's not adding J-E-S-U-S on the end of a prayer. A person's name is their character. Jesus says, "Hey, listen. If two or three are gather in my name – in other words, they've come together for a spirit of unity, for the right reasons because they've been praying about this, they've agreed about it, they've understood the seriousness and consequences of bound sin and loose sin, I'm there among them."

In case you're just wondering, "How does all of that flow together? Does that really all flow together with this idea of sin and forgiveness?"

Well, look what the Apostle Peter asks Jesus right after He says these words. He says, "Then Peter approached him and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?'"

See, Peter understands what's going on here. He understands, man, this is a serious deal. Because, people do sin against each other and I sin against each other. He's telling me how to deal with this stuff and it's pretty big stuff. It's binding and loosing, getting together, agreeing, praying and being willing to agree and all of that stuff. And Peter says, "Look, here's the deal. I know that some people are like habitual offenders. They're line-steppers. They do this same thing over and over again. All I want to know is – I love this idea of forgiving; I love this idea of conflict resolution. But, what I really want to know is when can I get the back? Right? Is it seven times? That's sounds pretty good, right? Seven times."

And then Jesus goes on and He tells a story. He says, "Hey, listen. There was this guy that had this big debt. He went before the king and he could never pay the debt. He told the king, 'I can't pay the debt,' and the king said, 'You know what? I'm going to forgive you of your debt.'"

And the guy was like, "You've got to be kidding me. Unbelievable."

So, he leaves the presence of the king and then he goes and sees somebody that owes him money; that has a debt to him. And what does he do? He says, "I want my money. I want you to give me what's mine."

Well, the king hears about this and he throws that guy in prison. He says, "Listen: You didn't extent the same grace and mercy to that person as I extended to you."

And what Jesus is saying to all of us is this: This is the way the Church lives. We live in this community that is going to be forgiving, loving, caring and reaching out to people. But, Jesus has also told us that there's issues where it doesn't work. Then that person's relationship changes. Why does He say what He says? That's the "what." The question is, "What's the 'why?'"

What I've done for this series is I'm calling these the underlying conflict truths. Well, what are the "whys" for what Jesus is saying to do? I know what you're thinking right now. I do. I'm pretty good at this thing. What you're thinking is, "Man, that's a pretty profound Scripture. There's a lot of stuff in there. I had no idea those passages all worked together."

The second thing that you're thinking right now is, "Man, I totally forgot this was a video."

And you did. Just admit it right now. We're doing pretty good. So, continue here. Let's lean in and look at these underlying conflict truths. Here's what they are. Write these down if you would if you've got a sheet of paper. This is a great time to take notes. I'm not telling you you have to do that. But, I think these would be great things for you to think about during the week.

First of all: Conflict resolution – this is what Jesus knows. This is the "why" for what Jesus says to do. Conflict resolution is restorative in nature and happens in community. When we have conflict, it's an awesome opportunity for you and me to restore relationship. Whether we're the one that did it or we're the one that received it, it's an awesome opportunity for us to restore. But, here's the big one. Listen to me. This is so important. It happens in community. Here's what we do. It's terrible. We go out into the world with people that we have no community with and we tell them all the things that they've done wrong. That is not what Jesus is saying in these passages of Scripture. It's not His "why." Where we're able to rebuke, expose and deal with are people that are our brothers and sisters. People that we have community with.

I see so many people get on Facebook and they want to rebuke preachers that are on TV and say you're terrible and no good. They don't know these people. And when they do that, they think they're being God's great, big servant and telling everybody what the truth is. In fact, what you're doing is you're making the people in the world just not want to be in church anymore at all because they say, "All you guys do is point fingers at people that you don't even know."

And so often, that's what I hear from people that are outside of the church. Like, "People judge me. They don't know me. They don't know what I've gone through. They don't know why I'm the way I am. They don't know the way I feel."

And that's why Jesus says here, "If your brother sins against you."

That'd be a brother or sister. If it's someone that you know, someone that you're in relationship with. So, one of the "whys" of conflict truths is this: We're to restore, but it's communal in nature. It's who we are in community with. So, before you go and rebuke somebody, before you go jump on somebody that maybe did something against you or something that you see in them, you need to ask this question: Do I have relationship with that person?

Because, if you don't, I'm going to tell you right now that they're not going to listen to you. People who don't know you are not going to listen to you rebuke them. So, the underlying themes here are so important for us to get.

The second one is: Practical holiness for a community member is not optional. When you and I said, "Hey, I want to do the Jesus thing. I'm in. I really believe He's who He is. I'm in," practical holiness no longer became an option for you and me. Because now, the community becomes so important and the witness of the community becomes so important, which means that if we're doing something wrong, we need to be rebuked. Because, otherwise, if it's just left undone, what it does is it damages the witness of the community in the world.

And this is tough for all of us because most of us are like, "Man, I want to be an individual. Don't get in my grill. Don't do this."

But, if you're in a church that's healthy, you should have people in your life telling you at certain times the things that they think would help you become better. Now, sometimes people do it in a wrong way, and we can deal with that stuff and that's wrong. But, people who care about you and want to help you and want you to grow, practical holiness is not an option for you and me. Because, Jesus says, "If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private."

He totally believes that if you're into the Jesus community, you're going to have people that come into your life and tell you the things that you've done wrong. And they're doing it to restore you and they're doing it so that the community doesn't lose its witness in the world. And I'm going to tell you right now: Everything that Jesus talked about, everything He prayed about, there's only one time that He said what would be the real reason people would believe in Him, and it's when He was praying for you and me in John 17. His high priestly prayer. He said it in John 17:21 and He said it in John 17:23.

He says, "Father, let them be one as we are one, so that the world may believe."

What destroys our witness is strife and garbage and railing against each other and the community turning against each other and having all kinds of issues with one another, we grieve the Holy Spirit when we do that. What we do is we ruin our witness in the world.

Listen to this. This is really heavy stuff. This is something that we need to really ponder, but this is the truth: The witness of the community takes precedence over individualism. It's not about you and me anymore. It's about Jesus. It's about representing who He is to the world. And when there's conflict, it needs to be dealt with. The reason it needs to be dealt with is because Jesus wants you and me to be the best representation of Him that we possibly can be as individuals and as a group. The only way for us to do that is for us to be concerned enough about one another to actually go and tell someone when they've done it wrong.

It's great the way He says it. He says, "Do it in private." See, he's not even wanting to get that out in the community so other people can think about it. He's waiting us to go in private and just get it handled and move on, because the witness of the community is at stake.

Third truth: Relationship boundaries are not only healthy, but they're needed at certain times. Notice what Jesus says here. He says, "Let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you."

In other words, what Jesus is saying is that the relationship has changed. There's a boundary now. But, the boundary's not to separate. The boundary's not to hurt. They boundary's there for restoration. Now this person is like a tax collector and like a Gentile to you. So now, they're the purpose of prayer. Now, they're the purpose of outreach. Now, they're the purpose of mission. But, they're not a brother. And so often in our lives, we've got to understand that healthy boundaries are good and sometimes they're simply needed. We're going to talk about that over the next couple of weeks. Because, sometimes, some of the conflicts that we get in, when there is no restoration and it's not possible, sometimes we really have to create a boundary and move on in our life.

We pray for them and we love them. If there's an opportunity that works, that's great. But, sometimes we have to draw a boundary. And that's why Jesus says they're going to be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you.

The fourth thing is that conflict transformation centers around willingness and prayer. Oftentimes, when we really look at our lives, if we're being honest, we don't pray like we should. And because we don't pray like we should, we're not as willing as we should. But, Jesus says here very simply, "Listen, if two of you can agree – that's being willing – then pray. Pray about it and I'll answer that. I'll get in the midst of any type of garbage that's gone on between two believers. If they're willing to agree that there's been a problem, I'll get in there and I'll answer that. Because, here's the deal: If you're gathered in my name, if you're gathered under my name and in my character because you want to see restoration and you want to see unity, I will be there with you."

The last point – and this is so profound. It's incredibly profound. The local church is a heavenly representative. We represent heaven in the world that we live in. Jesus says, "Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven."

I want you to listen to me and hear the heart of your pastor at this moment. The local church is charged by God to be the place that looses people from their sin and binds the sin on the people in the community that don't want to have conflict resolution. We've turned that around. We've bound sin on everybody out there and we've just acted as if nothing's going on him here and we've not dealt with the things that we need to do.

Can you imagine, for a minute, if the local church really saw itself as a heavenly representative? Can you imagine if we saw within our church and within us as individuals that we could go unleash the loosing power of the Gospel in people's lives by being people of transformation? And that when we did bind someone in their sin, it would be for the reason of the witness of the community, not to get somebody back. Can you imagine what that would look like? That's what I want us to be. That's why I felt so much in my heart that I needed to do this series. Because, I believe we live in world where the opportunity for us to handle conflict might be the best time what we could've ever lived in the history of the world. We have such an awesome, awesome opportunity.

I want to ask you to join with me to being that church that really wants to be Jesus people. That wants to be red-letter people when we deal with conflict. I want you to join me for the next two weeks as we look at what we need to do in specific situations so that we can become the people that God's called us to be.

Would you pray with me? Let's bow our heads.

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray right now in Jesus' name for every single person here in this service. Lord, I pray for those that might have just stumbled in here or might have been away from You for a long time or might be trying to figure out what that looks like. Lord, I pray that what they would hear is Your Gospel. That You love people and that You want them to come home.

Lord, I pray that they would see not judgment here, but love. I pray, Lord, that if they're thinking that maybe, just maybe, they've tried life their way but now they want to try it Your way, Lord, I pray that they would make that decision. And Lord, if they make that decision, I pray that they'd find somebody with a name badge on or a Grace shirt and go tell them after service, "I've made a decision. I really want to do the Jesus thing."

But Lord, for the rest of us here, for those of us that are at different places in our journey, I pray, Lord Jesus, that You would really download the truths of this message in our lives so that we can walk in all of the abundance and victory that You have for us. So Lord, I pray that as we leave here, that You would watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us. I pray, Lord Jesus, that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again for Your glory. And I pray, Lord, that we would be bold enough to reach out and maybe bring a friend or a family member next time we come. Lord, we just love You, we praise You, we honor You for everything that You're doing in our lives and in the life of this church.

In Jesus name we pray, and everybody said, "amen." God bless everybody. See you soon.