Jesus has given the Church primary responsibility and authority for resolving conflict among Christians. In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus sets out a process which involves private discussions, mediation and the use of authority to make a binding decision to settle disputes:
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he 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 he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church….. I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them”.
Why is the biblical resolution of conflict among Christians so important?
Inevitably disagreements will arise and the Bible clearly instructs us to do all we can to put matters right without delay. Forgiveness and reconciliation are at the heart of the gospel.
It is important for a Christian to resolve disputes privately or by mediation or arbitration in order to prevent the dispute becoming public and thereby giving others an opportunity to criticise and mock Christianity.
Resolving conflict biblically enables us to demonstrate through our actions that we genuinely believe in Jesus Christ and trust in his teachings. (See John 13:34; 14:15; 17:20-23; Eph. 4:1-3). Peace and unity are of paramount importance to Jesus. He commands us to seek reconciliation with an offended person even ahead of public worship:
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way” (Matt. 5:23-25).
This command is not conditional on how serious the other person’s complaint might be or whether it is even justified. Even in difficult circumstances the Bible instructs us to make every effort to resolve personal differences outside of the courtroom.
The bible clearly states that unresolved conflict between Christians has serious consequences. When relationships remain broken (including the case where an individual professes forgiveness but privately decides to avoid the other party) the individuals themselves and very often the people close to them, continue to be adversely affected. A dispute affects not just the individual but also those with whom they interact, for example the whole family, the local church or colleagues in the work place.
Disunity dissipates spiritual strength and protection. The witness of the whole church is compromised when disagreements continue between Christians. Conversely, the evidence of real forgiveness and restored relationships speaks volumes for the reality of the gospel.
There are many examples where the outcome of Christian mediation has made a profound impact not only on the parties involved in the conflict but also on their legal representatives and acquaintances.
Any type of dispute may be referred to Resolve whether it has arisen in a Business or Commercial context (for example contract, employment, landlord and tenant, property, personal injury or creditor/debtor claims) OR in a Church context. A claim for damages may be irrelevant or a very substantial sum may be involved. However, if Resolve considers that specialist counselling would be more appropriate, it will usually decline to act.
Christians are not free to sue other Christians until they have exhausted the process that Jesus set out in Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 God instructs Christians to resolve their disputes within the church itself, with the assistance of other Christians if necessary.
Moreover, using the courts to resolve a dispute often increases ill feeling and permanently destroys relationships. In contrast, Christian mediation encourages forgiveness and promotes reconciliation, thereby restoring and preserving relationships. The adversarial process generally causes people to focus on their rights and others’ wrongdoing, thereby failing to deal with the causes of conflict, pride, selfishness, fear, vengeance, greed, bitterness and unforgiveness.
This approach often reinforces the very attitudes and behaviour that caused the conflict to arise in the first place, giving an individual a distorted view of, and enabling them to justify, their own position. Christian mediation helps people to identify root problems and to make changes in their lives so that they will experience less conflict and healthier relationships in the future (see Matt. 7:3-5).
YES. God has given the courts jurisdiction to enforce the laws of the land and restrain crime (Rom. 13:1-7).Therefore, criminal acts, constitutional questions and a variety of other disputes may legitimately be resolved through litigation. However, if one of these disputes includes personal differences between Christians, they should attempt to resolve the problem in a personal way before seeking redress through the courts.
Any person or organisation who accepts the Christian nature of the serice and agrees to the Rules can refer a dispute to Resolve, provided the other party does the same. Resolve always retains a discretion as to whether to accept any particular request for mediation.