James Merritt - Direct Flight
Everyone that enters into any kind of relationship, doesn't matter whether it's a personal relationship, business relationship, whatever, you bring baggage. Everybody has baggage. Even if you grew up in what you would consider to be a perfect environment, that environment itself may have loaded you with baggage. For example, if you've got everything you always wanted all the time growing up, if that was your lifestyle, here's a piece of advice, don't ever get married. Let me give you an example in my own marriage. Theresa, my wife is the youngest child in her family, I am the youngest child, I was the baby boy in my family.
Now, if you're the youngest child your older brothers and sisters will always look at you believing that you are the favorite child. You weren't treated as harshly, you weren't held to a higher standard. You were allowed to do things that weren't, you know they weren't allowed to do, and some of that may be true. But the problem is that when you're the youngest baby, or the youngest child, you do get accustomed to being babied, you do get accustomed to being spoiled. You get accustomed to being treated a little bit differently. You get accustomed to getting your way more often than not, and guess what we learned in our marriage? Only one person gets babied at the same time.
So, we all carry baggage, some that's dirty and smelly, some that's clean and shiny, but it doesn't matter, baggage is still baggage. We've been in this series when we've been talking about how to lose your baggage, we dealt with a baggage of a bitter spirit, and we said if you're going to learn to lose your baggage you've got to learn how to forgive. As a matter of fact, lost baggage almost always involves forgiveness some way somewhere, somehow, and no matter what else you do, I can promise you this, if you know you're carrying some baggage in your life right now, you will not lose it unless at some point you find a way to forgive others who have done you wrong and you find a way to ask forgiveness for those you've wronged. And then we dealt with the baggage of a judgmental spirit. Unfortunately, many people inside the church are too quick to judge people outside the church.
And one of the reasons why people who are far from God don't want to come to church is because they feel they're going to be walking into a very judgmental place. And so we learned that we are to judge, but we're to reserve judgment for those in the family of God and we're to judge ourselves first. In other words, we need to take the plank out of our own eye before we then can take the splinter out of someone else's eye. And then we dealt with the baggage of sin itself, we examine how the early church handled this real life situation where there was a church member and he was living in this terrible, horrible sin, and the church did what the church had to do, they took disciplinary action, and they passed judgment on that sin, and they didn't do it because they were trying to kick the church member out, they did it because they were trying to keep the church member in.
It wasn't primarily to reject him, it was to reconcile with him and bring him to repentance, and we learned that if the church doesn't judge sin in the church, then God will judge the church. Well, today I'm going to deal with some baggage that I think is the heaviest, smelliest, dirtiest baggage of all, it causes the church more problems, it gives pastors like me more headaches than any other, and it is the baggage of unresolved conflict. There are two words in our vocabulary that carry very negative connotations, one is conflict which if you have a family long enough and big enough you'll have, and the other is confrontation.
Now, with a few exceptions, most of us frankly don't like conflict. And how many times have you heard somebody say I just don't like confrontation. Now, I want to make a confession, there are 12 Saturdays in the fall, that I love confrontation, especially when it takes place in Athens, Georgia. And I love this confrontation for three reasons. Number one, I'm not in it. Number two, I get to watch it. And number three, the vast majority of time my side wins it. But in truth, there are some very good reasons why those two words have such negative connotations. Because those two words for example conflict and confrontation led to a world war that cost the lives of 50 million people. And yet today we're going to learn from Jesus that neither conflict, nor confrontation, always has to be negative.
As a matter of fact, sometimes it can be very, very positive. When you read the Bible you'll find that God can draw a straight line with a crooked pencil. And God can use conflict and confrontation as an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Jesus to bear witness to the gospel and to teach us how to work out our differences. Now you live long enough, you're going to learn conflict is a part of life. I don't care how good your marriage is, you're going to have conflict. I don't care how good your neighbors are, you're going to have conflict. And confrontation is sometimes necessary. Here's when it becomes negative, it becomes negative when the conflict is unresolved and the confrontation that needs to take place never takes place.
I wanna tell you about one of the saddest phone calls I ever received in my ministry, and I'll be honest it was one of those phone calls where I was kind of helpless I didn't really know what to advise. It was a phone call from a person and their father had died. And there was unresolved conflict and bitterness between the father, and this child. And even though the father was the one that had done wrong, the child never made any effort to bring reconciliation and that father died with that unresolved conflict lingering between them, and I didn't really know what to say.
So let me just ask you a very pointed question. Is there anyone you know at this moment that if they were to die, you would have regrets that there was unresolved conflict between the two of you, anybody? Is there anyone out there who's hurt you so badly, they've committed such an egregious, horrible offense against you, you think about it, you seethe over it, you dream about it, you go to sleep thinking about it, you wake up thinking about it, and maybe you pray for them but maybe not in a good way. Well if that's true about you, you need to listen to this next statement, listen. There are no problems too big to solve, just people too little to solve them. That is so true. No problem too big to solve, just people to little to solve them.
So what we're going to do is we're going to study what I call conflict resolution 101, got it? Conflict Resolution 101, and if we would just follow these simple instructions that are found in the Gospel of Matthew, the 18th chapter, if you could just follow the simple instructions that Jesus gives, you could defrost a cold marriage, you could resurrect a dead friendship, you could restore a broken relationship quicker than you can imagine. So here's who I'm talking to today. Has somewhat offended you? Has someone hurt you? Has someone sinned against you? How do you deal with it? Number one, you've got to personally admit there's an issue. You have to personally admit that there is an issue.
Now we're in Matthew chapter 18, Jesus is dealing with a situation where you've got conflict, you need confrontation, and here's how he said you should handle it. He said, if your brother or your sister sins, that is they sin against you, they leave you holding the bag, they leave you holding the short end of the stick, they mess you over, if your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. Now Jesus outlines specifically a situation we all either have been or will be involved in at some time or another. So here you have a brother, not a literal brother, but a spiritual brother, a spiritual sister, a fellow believer, someone in the family of faith, someone in the church, and they've done you wrong, they have sinned against you. You are the innocent party, you haven't done anything wrong to them, but they've done something wrong to you, the question is this.
So, what do you do, how do you handle it? Now before we get into the, the details, let me just say this. The assumption here is that this offense rises to the level where confrontation is necessary. Because you see, when anybody offends you, and we all get offended at times, you know, let's just be honest, we're all human. So whenever someone offends you, you can always categorize that offense in one of two ways. Okay? It's either an offense that's so small you can just kind of overlook it and move on. Or it's an offense that's so large you can't overlook it and you can't move on until it's dealt with. Now, to be truthful if you're married you know this. If you took every single offense in your marriage seriously, you wouldn't have a marriage very long. One of the things Theresa and I had to learn early on, and we've been married over four decades, not every war is worth fighting, not every battle is worth going to war over, there are just some things you just realize that's the way she is, that's the way he is, and you just overlook it and you move on.
Now, one of the ways you're going to learn to deal with offenses is you've got to be big enough to overlook the ones that don't really need to be bothered with. The wisest man who ever lived, a man by the name of Solomon, wrote these words in the book of Proverbs. He said a person's wisdom yields patience, and it is to one's glory to overlook an offense. In other words, let me tell you something about, about how to know that you're really growing up spiritually and how you're maturing, the more mature you are, the more you're able to look over an offense that would bother most people, you just kind of have to learn, you know what, this is not DEFCON Six, this is not Code Red. This is not something I need to be getting my blood pressure up over, there's a some things are just not worth fighting over, they're not even worth talking about.
And sometimes the best thing and the biggest thing you can do is just move on and forget it. You may be holding a bag right now, and somebody left you holding the bag. Let me tell you what you need to do with that bag right now, just drop it. Drop it at the feet of Jesus and just walk away from it. Now, obviously you gotta be careful, because sometimes overlooking an offense is not only the wrong thing to do, it's the harmful thing to do. I mean, there are some offenses that can't be overlooked and they shouldn't be overlooked. In fact, the person needs to be confronted not because they have hurt you, not just because of that, because you know two things will happen if you don't confront them. Number one, they're going to go hurt somebody else. And number two, they're hurting themselves.
So, I'm not saying to you hey, it's not a que sera sera, you know, you know, everything will work out, just don't bother with anything, no, there are offenses that rise to the level they must be confronted. That's the situation dealing, that Jesus is dealing with here. He said look, this is something that someone's done to you, and you can't just sweep it under the rug. You can't just pretend it didn't happen. You can't just walk away from it, it's not the healthy thing to do. It's not even the holy thing to do. It needs to be dealt with, and it needs to be dealt with properly. Now let me just tell you in the average situation what people do when somebody hurts them, okay this is what they do. First of all, they refuse to deal with it. I can't tell you how much unresolved conflict we have in our homes, in our marriages, in our families, and in our churches, and then our personal relationships, and in our work places, because people just refuse to deal with the problem.
Doesn't matter why, whether it's a distaste for confrontation, or it's a lack of courage, or what's even worse is, you know, you just don't value the person's relationship enough to deal with it, and so you just don't deal with, I mean I have to be honest with you, one of the reasons why I know conflict is healthy in my marriage, and we have it from time to time, just like you do, it's always a reminder, she still loves me, she still cares about me. She still values this relationship enough that when she gets upset with me she's going to confront me and she's going to let me know it. So, first of all, you know, you want to deal with the problem, because even though you don't deal with the problem here's what will happen to you. If you ever come across, if you if you have a problem in your life right now, somebody's hurt you, and you know you ought to deal with it but you just don't do it, for whatever reason, you just don't want to deal with it, just remember this.
You may not deal with a problem, but the problem with the problem will still deal with you. You may try to walk away from the problem, the problem will not walk away with you. As a matter of fact, the more you don't do anything about the problem, the more it will fester, and the more it will fester, the more bitter you will get, the more bitter you get, the more it festers, the more it festers, the more bitter you get, and you're now you're in a death spiral, and then eventually here's what we'll do, we won't deal with it the right way, we'll deal with it the wrong way, and you know what we do? We go talk to somebody else about it. Why do we do that? Because when somebody really hurts you, here's what you'll find, you got to tell somebody, you've got to vent about it to somebody, you've got to go tell somebody else about it, and frankly, this is when what should have been, or could have been a molehill turns into a mountain.
So let me just remind you something, don't ever forget this, I can't tell many times I've told people this who have come to my office for counseling. When you go to a person about a problem, who is neither a part of the problem, nor can be a solution to the problem, you just made that person part of the problem. That's true. So before you're telling anybody, ask yourself, all right, A, are they a part of the problem? No, well B, can they be a solution to the problem? No, then don't tell them, because then you make them a part of the problem. The first thing you got to do, you got to admit, okay, there's an issue here, I've got to deal with it. You quit pretending you're not upset. Quit pretending you're not bitter, quit pretend you're not carrying a grudge, and admit this person's hurt me, and I must deal with it. Okay, that's step one. Here's step two. Properly assess the situation, properly assess the situation.
Now Jesus uses a word that tells us why confrontation is not only necessary at times, it actually is the most loving thing to do, and the most Godly thing to do. And you know what the word is that he uses? He uses the word brother. He uses the word sister. In other words, he's not talking here about a stranger. He's not talking about someone who's just an acquaintance. He's talking about someone that you should value, someone that you should love, someone who is a part of the family of faith, they're a part of the church. They are your spiritual brother, they are your spiritual sister, you're going to spend eternity with them. And if you got to get along with them in eternity, you may as well start right now. So, if there's anyone who should be able to work out their conflicts, resolve their differences, reconcile their relationships, surely, it ought be people in the family of God.
Now, to put all of this in context, Jesus does something very interesting. Before he talked about a family, he talks about a flock. Before he talked about siblings, he talks about sheep. So we read this in verse 12. What do you think? He's kind of moving forward process along. If a man owns 100 sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? So Jesus begins by asking a very simple question, which is a good one, okay? So what do you think? I'm gonna ask you this right now, and you'd start thinking about it. If you're in this situation where you know you got a conflict, and you know you need to confront, you haven't done it, you haven't worked it out, let me ask you a question, then what do you think you ought to do? I mean what do you think the solution ought to be?
And let me give you some advice. Whenever Jesus asks you what do you think, let me give you a piece of advice, never answer that question. Okay? Because honestly, he's really not asking you because he does not know the answer. And if you tell him what you think he's simply going to tell you, if you tell him what you think, he's simply going to tell you why you're wrong. Okay? So he gives this example of here's a guy, he's a shepherd, has 100 sheep, one's gone astray, one's been lost, one's no longer part of the flock, he leaves the 99, and he goes in search of this lost sheep. Now on the surface, seems kind of strange right? I mean why would you leave 99 good, solid, healthy sheep, and go after just one lone sheep and yet, we're the same way.
Give an example. Have you ever noticed that when you lose something, doesn't matter what is, when you lose something, you're a lot more concerned with what you've lost than what you still have. You ever lost your car keys? What do you do when you lose your car keys, right? You forget about everything you have, it doesn't matter if you've got a million dollars sitting on the cabinet, it doesn't matter if you've got a bunch of gold, gold and silver sitting in a box, you don't care. You want to find those keys. When you lose your car keys you don't go, well, at least I still have my car, or, well at least I still have a nice house. No, what matters more to you than anything else is you want to find those keys. You know, if you're like me, I've got, I have three kids growing up. And when I was a parent, I had three kids, if you've got three kids, right, and let's say you're going to Walmart.
Now all of a sudden let's say that youngest child goes missing. You don't go, well, at least I got two more. We don't do that right? I mean, all of a sudden, you are laser focused on finding that one lost child. You get on the loudspeaker, you get every employee, you get every customer in the store, looking for that child. So Jesus goes on to say in verse 13, he says, and if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the 99 that did not wander off. And the reason why there's so much joy when you find that lost sheep, or that lost child, it's not because that she is more valuable than those sheep, it's not because that child is more valuable than those children. It's not because that child is more loved than the other children.
The reason why you're so happy is that's the child that was lost. That's the sheep that was lost, they needed to be rescued and they needed to be found, and here's the point. When someone has sinned against you, or someone has done something wrong, or someone has hurt you or they've hurt someone else, you need to see those people as sheep who've wandered off the path, as children who've gotten lost in a store, and you ought to ask yourself this question, how much more important should that brother be to me than a sheep is to a shepherd? How much more important should that sister be to me that I'm going to spend eternity with, how much more important should that person be to me, than a sheep to a shepherd?
As you're going to see in a moment, confrontation, listen this is so big now, confrontation is not for the purpose of retribution. It is for the purpose of rescue. When you confront somebody, you're not trying to revenge a wrong, you're trying to restore a relationship, which leads to step three, you ready? And this is big. Privately approach the person, or persons, involved. This is huge. Privately approach the person, or the persons, involved. Jesus gets very specific. Verse 15. He said if your brother or your sister sins, remember what that means? They've done you wrong. They have hurt you. They've left you holding the bag. They've jerked the rug out from under you. They left you with nothing. He gets it, I get it.
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. Now, step one, you got to go. They're not gonna come, by the way, let me just tell you, if you wait till they come, they're not going to come. You gotta go. Somebody does you wrong, they sinned against you, they devastate you by their actions, here's what Jesus said, you don't think about it, you don't talk about it, you don't even have to pray about it. Go. You go to that person privately and you tell them about it. And here is where the problem of unresolved conflict starts, and here's why the problem continues, and this is where the problem festers, I want you to hear me. There is no excuse for not going.
I cannot tell you how many times I've counseled people who are, they're a couple that's separated, or two brothers that are on the outs with each other, or two friends who have had a broken friendship, and I've tried to counsel these people, I say okay, you need to go and I've heard, listen, I've heard them all right? Well, they won't listen, or it won't do any good, or they'll just do it again. Or they'll make them, it'll just make them angrier. Or here's one, but they don't think they've done anything wrong. Well, here's the kicker. All of those things may be absolutely true. Okay? But you still go. Doesn't matter, doesn't matter if they'll listen or not, even if they don't think they've done anything wrong, you still go. Step one.
Now the next step is crucial, listen to this. He says, go and point out their fault just between the two of you. This is such a great principle. And I can't tell you how often it's violated in the church, it is violated in the home, it's violated in marriage, it's violated in families, it's violated in friendships, and you know what happens? When you don't follow this step, when you don't, I mean to the letter, and to the T, if you don't dot every I and cross every T and do it exactly the way he tells you to do it, you wind up creating an even bigger problem, because here's the principle. Whenever conflict occurs, keep the circle people involved as small as possible for as long as possible, because remember, the purpose of confrontation is not condemnation. It is restoration. The purpose of confrontation is not rejection, it is reconciliation.
And I listen, if you're thinking is you know why I want to go to that, I just want to get my, I just want to get my revenge, I want to take my pound of flesh, I want to make things worse. What do you do? It's really easy, just go talk to somebody else about that problem and that's exactly what will happen, you're going to make the problem worse, you go and you say let me tell you what he did to me, let me tell you what she did to me, and what you really want to do is put the other person down why you put yourself up, and what you really want to do without saying it is I want you to look at how bad they are, and look at how good I am. But when you go privately to that person, here's what you just proven, I'm not trying to win an argument. I'm trying to win you. I'm not coming for condemnation, I'm here for restoration. And then Jesus continues, listen to this. He says, if they listen to you, they may not, I get it, he gets it, but if they listen to you, you have won them over.
Now, don't go thinking he won't listen. Go believing he will listen. Because if he does, you've won them over. By the way that word won is a financial term, it refers to winning a prize or to making money and that's extremely important. Jesus said when you choose to handle a conflict with someone the right way, and you privately and you personally go to that person who's offended you, he said here's the good news, it's always a win, win proposition, it's not a win, lose proposition. You're not going to win an argument, you're going to win a brother okay? If he listens, it's a win win for both of you. If he doesn't, it's still a win because at least you've done the right thing, you've done it the right way, you've done it for the right reason, and at least he heard something that somebody needed to tell him.
But if you don't go to your brother, or you go to someone else who's not apart, or is not apart of the problem, you know what that becomes a lose, lose situation. You lose for telling a person that can't help you. They lose because now you give them a bad impression for the other person, and the other person is lost, because they're still hasn't been any reconciliation. You lose, the brother loses, and anyone not connected to the problem loses also. That's why Jesus when he told that story about the shepherd, and how that shepherd rejoices over the one lost sheep is found, it's really hard, I've seen it in my life, I've seen marriages put together, I've seen friendships rebuilt, I've seen relationships restored, and I want to tell you it's hard to top the joy of salvaging a friendship, restoring a relationship, putting a marriage back together, winning a brother, saving people who are self destructing by the way they treat other people from more heartache and from more headache.
Now, I know what you're saying, okay, and you're asking a question right now, and it's a fair question, what if they don't listen? What if it doesn't do any good? What if it leaves them just as angry, and just as stubborn as it was before. What do you do then? All right, here's the last principle. You persistently apply the effort to reconcile. Persistently apply the effort to reconcile. Okay, suppose the person doesn't listen, he doesn't make things right, he won't admit that he did wrong. Jesus said okay here's what you do. But they will not listen, so Jesus knew, he gets it, take one or two others along so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Now go back to the analogy of that lost child in Walmart right? Let's say you go looking for the child, you've looked all over the store and you cannot find that child at all. What would you do? You get somebody else to help you. Now why would you do that? Because you're not going to give up until you've found that child. And just as God never ever gives up on us, we should never ever give up on others. So he said okay, in this case you tried it by yourself, that didn't work, take along two or three others. Now why do you do that? Why do you take two or three people with you? Well there are two reasons. First of all, when you take other people with you you're showing this person look, this is not a personal vendetta man, I'm not trying to burn you here. I'm just trying to show you I'm serious about you, I love you, I value your friendship, I value your relationship, I wanna see us restored.
The other reason is if then that person still refuses to listen, then you've got other people that confirmed that not only is your brother or sister unrepentant, but you've done everything you can do. You are the innocent party, you've handled yourself the way you should have, you've done everything you can to bring healing to where healing needs to be brought. You say, okay, well what if that doesn't work? Jesus says okay there's another step, if they still refuse to listen tell it to the church. And if they refuse to listen even in the church treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Now keep in mind that when Jesus spoke about the church here, keep one thing in mind, there was no church. The church hadn't been formed yet.
So what was he saying? What he meant was take this to a group of people that are trusted authorities, that may also have a relationship with this person, let them know what, that you've done everything possible to bring reconciliation, and yet this guilty party has refused. Now, if you, after those two or three, and this group are rejected as well, he says okay, now you won't have any another choice. You treat them like outsiders. Now what does that mean? Well it doesn't mean you refuse to speak to them. It doesn't mean you have a mean spirit toward them. What it does mean is, you have no fellowship with them. You have no social contact with them until that person make things right.
Later on the Apostle Paul writing to a church in Thessaloniki wrote these words, he said yet, do not regard them as an enemy but warn them as you would a fellow believer. In other words, here's what you do, you continue to pray for that person. You continue to love that person, but let it be made known so that all the circles of influence he has in the church know there will be no fellowship for you. There will be no place of leadership for you until you are willing to make things right.
Now, let's turn this around, okay? Let's suppose that you're listening to me right now, and in the Spirit of God has convicted you, you're not the offended brother but you are the offending brother, you are the one that's caused a breach in the relationship. You are the one that's hurt that person. And because of your pride, or your stubbornness, or whatever, you have never tried to make things right, okay? But you're willing to, hopefully after this message you are, now here's what I would say to you, don't wait for the offended brother to come to you. You go to the brother that you've offended and you say well what do I do? Let me give you six steps to reconciliation, you ready? Here they are.
Number one, address everyone involved that has been hurt or offended, right? So, anybody that's involved, one, two, three, doesn't matter, address everyone that's involved, that's been hurt or offended. Number two, avoid these words, if, but, maybe. For example, if I hurt you. No, no, no, since I hurt you. No ifs, no ands, no buts, no maybes. Number three, admit specifically the wrong that has been done. Whatever you did to hurt them, repeat it to them. I said this, I did that, whatever it may be. Be specific. Number four, accept the consequences of your actions. Hey, I'm here for forgiveness, but I want you to tell me what I need to do to make things right, and I'm willing to do whatever that's going to take. Number five, alter your behavior. In other words, you let that person know I have learned my lesson, I won't do this again, not just you, but to anybody else. And then finally, ask for forgiveness, that's big.
And by the way, I'm sorry, is not asking for forgiveness, it means I did this to you, I'm repenting, would you please forgive me? Now let me tell you why this is so important. It's why I love the Bible, it's why I try to live my life by this book and it's why I love Jesus so much. Matthew 18 what I just outlined for you, it works. It works in a marriage, in a friendship, in a business relationship, in any relationship. When I sin against God, you know what, when I sin against God he doesn't tell Theresa about it. He tells me about it. When a sinful thought enters into my mind or a sinful attitude enters into my into my heart, God doesn't tell my staff and thank God he doesn't tell you. He doesn't blog about it, he doesn't file a nasty hundred 140 character tweet about it. He tells me about it, he convicts me, he confronts me. He restores me, and what God does for me, we should do for others.
So here's what I'm going to ask you to do, I'm going to ask you to do two things. If you've been carrying in your heart an offense on another person, you're bitter, it's time for you to let that offense go, simply overlook that offense because it's an offense that really could be and should be overlooked, and I'm going to ask you to write down the offense and maybe even the first name of the person that's offended you, and I'm going to ask you to let it go. If it's just one of those things you can let go, just let it go.
Now, for those other offenses you say I can't overlook it, it has to be dealt with. It's got to be confronted. I'm going to ask you today if you are the offended person go to the person that offended you, even if you want to take somebody else with you, even if you want to ask permission before you come, whatever you gotta do to take that first step, whatever you've got to go, you go, and if you are the offended person I'm asking you to fess up to your mess up. Step up, restore that relationship, and know that if that brother does listen that relationship will be restored because the greatest rejoicing of all will take place in Heaven with a father who died on the cross, gave His Son to die on the cross, so that his children could be right with each other.