One thing that I’ve learned about church over the last 20 years is that it’s full of humans. Now that I’ve impressed you with my observational skills, let me just point out that whenever you get a group of humans together, you will inevitably find conflict. The church is no different. “Conflict in church? Meh, there you go, the church is full of hypocrites!” “No…it’s not full, there’s room for one more, c’mon in!”
Here’s the thing. Jesus seemed to anticipate our propensity for conflict, which prompted him to give the instructions we’ll be reading this Sunday in our study through Matthew: Ch 18:15-35.
In v 15-19, Jesus lays out a pretty straightforward outline of how to manage a dispute within the church family. What would you consider the theme of this approach to be? How important do you think communication and listening is when it comes to conflict resolution? The last part of his instructions in v17 sound harsh, but how did Jesus treat gentiles and tax collectors? Read that verse in the Message version. How do you think this would look in a real life application? V 20 gives us hope that as a community we’ll have the right discernment concerning these issues. How can remembering that Jesus is present in our gathering together help us to better deal with our conflicts?
Peter asks a bold question in v21-22. What do you believe Jesus’ answer means – give a person 490 chances but at 491, lower the boom? If not that, what do you think he means? How does forgiveness tie in with the previous issue of conflict resolution?
The story Jesus tells us has a ring of comedic irony to it. It’s possible the listeners were chuckling…right up until v 35. How do you interpret this parable? What is the major theme and the source of the conflict? If this is addressing our motives and impetus, what is our motive for forgiving others?
There is some hefty stuff to dig into this Sunday! Hope to see you there!