Conflict Un-resolution – Part 2: The Lesson

This is a story about a situation that went really wrong with a friend and employee. If you haven’t read part 1, please read that first. In part 2 I will bring you through the conflict resolution process we followed and what came of it.

The Un-resolution

The Bible is very clear with step-by-step instructions on how to deal with conflict within the Christian community. We took this very seriously and made sure to heed His word through prayer and deed. 

The following steps need to be done in order, otherwise only gossip will prevail.

Matthew 18

Step 1

15 “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.”

This should be done from a heart of humility, extending kindness, and demonstrating God’s love. It should promote unity. The offense should be laid out clearly so that the offender understands what you are saying to them. Be open to their questions. Give them time to process. Allow conversation. Work to maintain a peaceful discussion.

We prayed.

We heeded scripture and went to Donny with multiple times with multiple methods. He didn’t listen. 

However, the day after he was confronted about the damage he caused (three months after he was confronted about the missing money and walked out on his job) he did go to church and “teach.”  Why Pastor George chose to allow this remains a mystery.

Step 2

16 “But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’”

When approaching an outside party, it should be in love and with love. Slandering the offending person with witnesses present will only create more offense with the offender. 

These witnesses should arrive at the situation with an open mind – unbiased to the situation. They are not the judge, but the mediators.

This second conversation should be like the first. Unity, clarity, and openness should guide the conversation. 

We prayed still. We provided testimony from a fellow believer. He still refused to engage in reconciliation. He still refused to bring clarity to why he was offended by me.

Step 3

17a “If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church;”

In your humility you should ask yourself some questions. Did you come to the offender with dignity and integrity? Have you played a role in the conflict? Did you skip steps along the way? What could you have done better in your relationship with the offender?

We prayed some more. We brought it to Pastor George who demonstrated bias toward Donny.  

We offered Pastor George solid evidence of the wrongdoing, provided the testimony from another believer, and presented Biblical truth pertaining to the situation. Pastor George refused the evidence, thinking it unnecessary, pointing fingers in our direction despite the documentation and testimony we offered. 

We were not heard. We did not have a fair trial.

Step 4

17b “and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

If you can answer the above questions honestly and then act upon them with sincerity, only to end up with no resolution, then love them from a distance, letting your actions demonstrate Christ’s love.

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Invite God into the conversation through prayer. After all, God is the one true judge. It is not for us to decide who is godly.

While eventually Donny offered an apology, it was after refusal to engage in finding a resolution. It was a bland offering following the tune of, “I’m sorry for everything that happened.” It lacked ownership of his actions. He didn’t work to right the wrongs. In a word, lack of repentance. 

Donny didn’t commit to a plan for paying back the money which to this day (two years later) has still not been paid. He did not express ownership for how he treated us. I was crushed at reconciliation not taking place and I began a fast dive into manic-depression.

After six months of us attempting reconciliation, Donny and his family cut ties with us and moved out of the country. They left substantial financial debt to us in addition to financial and relational damages to our business. We haven’t heard from them since.

Picking Up the Pieces

We have no other choice but to pick up the pieces and move forward with our lives despite the lack of resolution, the financial pain still weighing on us, and the losses still being grieved. Just as a community must rebuild after a hurricane destroys a city, we must also. 

I’ve been engaging in treatment for my mental health crisis triggered by this conflict. It’s been a hard journey. My husband has had to hold me up while I was falling apart. He’s had to hold up the business. He’s had to hold up our son. 

We were seeking out a new church a short while before this situation. In our short time there, we were warming up to Pastor George’s church where Donny had referred us, but were pushed  away by Pastor George in the midst of this fall-out.I’ve tried to reconcile with Pastor George, as well, but that went just about the same as our attempt with Donny. He offered a similar bland apology and did not own how he treated us unfairly, nor commit to act against Donny’s wrongdoing and to protect his church, Donny’s family, and us from the fallout from Donny’s actions.

We have been visiting new churches since. I don’t know when we’ll feel truly connected to a church again. There’s healing to be done. This is the kind of thing that would cause a person to walk away from God and His church. Thankfully my family and I know that people, even pastors, are fallible but God is not.

Finding the right practitioners for my mental health needs was challenging. Maintaining quality standards in our business was challenging. Going back to work full-time suddenly and blindly and  working whilst dealing with severe mental health issues was challenging.

We take three steps forward and slide back two. With every step we acknowledge the progress (we no longer celebrate), then brace ourselves for what seems like inevitable winds that will push us back down. But we keep climbing. And things get better. A little bit at a time. 

The good news about my family? We’re fighters. With Andrew’s leadership, we don’t give up. We pick up and keep going.

We were finally able to hire someone to take over my job. Now I work with the shop part-time in a role I love and get to spend the rest of the time with our son and finding health. We’re making big plans for our business and we’re grateful to our good friend, Mike, who came back to help us. My health has improved greatly. Our son is a sweet child and excelling academically. We’re not out of the woods, but we can see the light through the trees. And God has given us a good cautionary tale to share with our son and our community.

The Lesson

I’ve worked very hard to maintain fairness in my telling of this majorly severed relationship. While I’ve been devastated by the fall-out, we still love and care for Donny, his wife and family, and Pastor George. We know God’s deep love for them and we want them to experience it themselves. 

Of course we would like the opportunity for reconciliation both with Donny and his wife as well as Pastor George to resurface, but I have peace that I’m right with God and I did everything I could.

Romans 5

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

True reconciliation cannot exist without Christ’s reconciliation in our relationship with God. Without that relationship, how can we navigate reconciliation with fellow sinners? No matter how deeply Donny hurt us. No matter how deeply Pastor George hurt us. If we have experienced that reconciliation with Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to love them in the way that Christ loves us. We have been forgiven for so much more than we could ever have to forgive them for. In that light, how could we refuse to forgive them? We don’t have to like what they did but we are still called to love them.

My Plea to Christ Followers

If you are in a situation where someone has wronged you, no matter how big or small, go to that person and only that person. Don’t go hiding your gossip in “prayer requests” or in requesting “Godly counsel.” If you haven’t already sought resolution with that person does no good for anyone. Adhere to God’s clearly laid out instruction in Matthew 18. He created that process and it works when all involved are truly seeking righteousness through Christ.

I will be the first to admit that this kind of reconciliation is really hard. Confrontation is hard. Recognizing the line between seeking counsel or prayer and gossip is hard. I, as with anyone else, need to continue to write God’s word on my heart so I can easily recognize sin versus righteousness, truth versus a lie. But “hard” doesn’t mean to stop moving forward. Hard means you are on a journey and sticking with your convictions, no matter what anyone else thinks. This  strengthens your bond with God. That’s the relationship that matters most. 

Dealing with conflict the right way brings peace and justice for both parties involved. God celebrates when unity is restored. We’re at peace with God knowing that we did the right thing even if peace and justice didn’t prevail in this situation. There’s not always a happy ending. We certainly haven’t gotten to experience that. We’ve been walking out the ramifications from the situation for two years already and we still can’t see the horizon through the trees.

My charge to you is to be the difference in your relationships that allows for a happy ending.

A Final Word

When we don’t live our lives by what God’s word says, things can go horribly wrong, and people can be deeply wounded. Their lives can be impacted for years. This is why I’ve written these words. Both because I want others to have a chance to learn from what has happened and, honestly, because I’m seeking healing. When I write, I write first for myself, then I edit for my readers.

Arthur will probably be the only biological child I’ll ever have. I waited for him. I don’t know how to express the loss I feel in seeing his hurt and losing time with him. Andrew’s hours are not what they were a year ago, but they are still hard and they’re still long. On most days Arthur asks me, “Is Daddy coming home tonight?” Most nights I don’t know the answer to that question.

You may think you know who this is about. And you may be right. If that’s you, don’t just take my word for it. As Proverbs 18:17 says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.“

We get that you might have questions. There is documentation available. We’re glad to share. We won’t stick you with only what’s flattering to us. 

Whatever shows love you to as our neighbor and honors the truth is what we want to do. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Contact us at Andrew and I both use this email address.