Eight point communication agreement

  1. We will express irritations in a loving, specific and positive way rather than holding things in or 1838b7fbeing negative.
  2. We will not exaggerate or attack the other person during the course of a disagreement.
  3. We will attempt to control the emotional intensity of communication. (No yelling or uncontrollable anger).
  4. We will try not to let the sun go down on our anger or run away from each other during a disagreement.
  5. We will try not to interrupt the other person when he/she is talking.
  6. We will carefully listen when the other person is talking, rather than thinking up a defense.
  7. We will not toss in past failures of the other person in the course of an argument.
  8. When something is important enough for one person to discuss, it is also important for the other person.

Steve Cornell

Four negative communication patterns

Troubled marriages typically display some form of unhealthy or destructive communication pattern.

In his book, A Lasting Promise, Scott Stanely identified four negative patterns of communication that hurt good relationships:

  1. Escalation: What Goes Around Comes Around – Escalation occurs when partners respond back and forth negatively to each other, continually upping the ante so the conversation gets more and more hostile.
  1. Invalidation: Painful Put-Downs – 

a  pattern in which one partner subtly or directly puts down the thoughts, feelings, or character of the other.
  1. Negative Interpretation: When  perception is worse than reality. Negative interpretations occur when one partner consistently believes that the motives of the other are more negative than is really the case.  This can be a very destructive, negative pattern in a relationship.  It makes any conflict or disagreement harder to deal with constructively.
  1. Withdrawal and Avoidance: Hide and Seek – Withdrawal can be as obvious as getting up and leaving the room or as subtle as “turning off” or “shutting down” during an argument.  The withdrawer often tends to get quiet during an argument, look away, or agree quickly to a partner’s suggestion just to end the conversation.

 Top two guidelines for a good marriage

In my five guidelines for a good marriage, the first two will help correct the destructive patterns noted above.

  1. We are teammates not opponents: Marriage partners must look beyond the “me” to the “us”. Marriage is based on togetherness and companionship. Teammates watch out for each another. We guard against forces that threaten our unity. Even our children must sense the priority of our relationship and learn to value and respect it. Children build much of their identity and security on the strength of their parents’ marriage. The potential changes in marriage and family require flexibility and a willingness to make adjustments to protect unity. Work together! You are on the same team!
  1. We will value and respect each other – In a pre-marital meeting, the pastor who officiated at our wedding looked at me and said, “The graces you used to win her love, you must use to keep her love.” Wow! I have not always done as well as I should with that assignment. We tend to try harder to treat each other with value and respect when dating. As the years pass, complacency and a gradual process of taking each other for granted diminishes our commitment to love and respect.
  • To value and respect each other, we must stay “tuned in.” Encouraging words, well-timed compliments, thoughtful notes, a simple hug—these are little but meaningful ways to express value and respect. “I appreciate how hard you work around the home.” “I realize that your job has been stressful, how can I help?” “Thank you for______________.” These are ways we communicate value and respect.

Steve Cornell

What’s love got to do with it?

Valentine’s Day is (for many people) about love.

  • But is there a way to know what love really is?
  • Can we fall in love and fall out of love?
  • When someone says, “I love you,” is there a way to know if he means it?

When couples want to be married, they tell me they love each other. When they want to divorce, they tell me they no longer love.

  • Are we victims of love?
  • Can we train ourselves to love?
  • What is love?

Love is indispensable to marriage, family and community. Relationships are miserable when love is absent. But we need an objective way to understand what love looks like. In Scripture, husbands are commanded to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25); Older women are to train younger women to love their husbands and children (Titus 2:4) and communities of Christians are to be distinguished by their love for one another (John 13:35).

The best available description of love is found in fourteen qualities of love listed in I Corinthains 13:4-8. This is one of the most quoted Scriptures in wedding ceremonies. To protect true love, we should often visit this description of it.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV).

This is God’s prescription for great relationships!

Did you notice how love is anti-rivalry? It is protective of the one loved. It repudiates destructive conflict. Playful rivalry is not bad, but when a relationship deteriorates, some form of divisive rivalry is almost always involved. Let’s take a closer look at each quality of love.

1. Love is patient: It is bears long with others. It restrains anger when provoked.

2. Love is kind: It reaches out in acts of care and concern for others. Love patiently forebears and (in kindness), actively pursues the good of the one loved. Loving people are distinguished by kindness.

3. Love does not envy: It does not resent the blessings of others. An envier gloats over the harm or misfortune of the one envied.

4. Love does not boast: Love corrects the desire to call attention to yourself. A loving person is not a windbag or braggart. He does not parade himself. Love is willing to work anonymously. It does not need a stage. It does not seek an applause.

5. Love is not proud: not puffed up; not arrogant; not full of oneself. A loving person does not think more highly of himself than sober judgment permits (Romans 12:3).

6. Love is does not dishonor others: It is not rude. It is respectful of others.

7. Love is not self-seeking: It does not insist on its own way. It is not self-absorbed.

8. Love is not easily angered: It is not easily agitated nor easily provoked. Loving people are not hot-tempered and short-fused.

9. Love keeps no record of wrongs: Love seeks forgiveness and reconciliation.

10. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: Love rules out gossip, slander, and delight in the downfall of others.

And loves grand finale reminds us that,
“love always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres.” Love brings everything under its influence — “there is nothing love cannot face” (NEB). “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (NLT). Love is tenacious and faithful; brave and noble; love never fails.

Love is “the most excellent way” (I Corinthians 12:31). “These three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:13).

Scripture reminds that God’s love was put on display when he loved the undesirable – “when we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus, the Creator, became a creature; the King became a servant; the Shepherd became a lamb; the sinless one was made sin for us; the High Priest became the sacrifice. This is love.

Let’s make a habit of evaluating our relationships based on the 14 qualities of love in I Corinthians 13.

We’ve printed these qualities of love (along with an eight point communication covenant) on laminated cards for easy use. Simply email your mailing address to office@millersvillebiblechurch.org and we will send several copies to you as our gift. Ask for the love cards.

Steve Cornell

New Identity – New Relationships

There’s a profound connection between personal identity and transformed relationships. How we see ourselves affects the way we relate to others.

Take a close look at three verses that could change your understanding of yourself and the nature of your relationships.

What did the apostle mean when he wrote,

“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:11-13)?

The word – “Here” likely refers to the Church, the gathering of God’s people.

Here — among Christians, the distinctions that fiercely divide social and religious life (Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free), have no place.

Among those who have been forgiven through Jesus Christ, a new identity has been formed that overcomes differences that separate people from each other. Our new identity also leads to a transformation of the ways we relate and respond to other people (“compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”). 

The apostle is saying that our race, religious background or social status no longer define us. As a follower of Jesus Christ, you are distinguished by three powerful identity markers. You are:  

1. God’s chosen people: we are the “elect of God”

God’s choosing of his people reminds us of His gracious initiative in drawing us to Himself and making us His very own people (cf. Matthew 11:26-31;John 6:44, 66). It is a precious and inspiring truth that traces from Old Testament through New Testament. God’s choice of us to be His people is based on love and grace (1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

Scriptures on Election: Deuteronomy 7:6;John 15:16 “You have not chosen Me, but I chose you”; Romans 8:31-39; Ephesians 1:3-7.

2. Holy – set apart for God by God

We will misunderstand this word if we do not first hear it as a relationship before it becomes a way of life. Holy is a word that refers to people who are set apart for God by God. Living a holy life must be based on what it means to be chosen by God — “to be His people, His treasured possession” (Deuteronomy 7:6).

We become God’s people only because we were “bought at a price” and this is the basis for being called to “honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:14-19). 

3. Dearly loved – recipients of God’s sacrificial redeeming love in Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:8 – “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…. We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:9-10,19; cf. Romans 8:35-39).

We must mediate deeply and often on what it really means to be loved by God. Being loved by God is what empowers us to love others with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

The three identity markers above (chosen, holy and dearly loved) are all received as gifts of God’s grace to underserving sinners who call on the Lord for forgiveness and salvation. We cannot earn or deserve these identities. They can only be received by a God who graciously places them on us. Interestingly, although each identity distinctively belonged to God’s people in the Old Testament, they now belong to believers of all backgrounds (Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free).

Five qualities

What would our churches and relationships be like if they were described by the five qualities below? A taste of heaven on earth? Yes. 

Because of our distinction as God’s dearly loved people — those who have had God’s love “poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5), five character qualities or responses should distinguish our ways of responding to others. Like clothing, these five qualities should be plainly evident among us. If a group of believers is characterized by these qualities, a powerful witness will be evident! 

  1. compassion
  2. kindness
  3. humility
  4. gentleness
  5. patience

Imagine a friendship or marriage where these were the dominant qualities! Too idealistic? Verse 13 takes it to real life! 

  1. compassion: actually “a heart of compassion” or “deep feelings of mercy” It’s a response of sympathy or empathy.
  • Ephesians 4:4–“Because of His great love for us God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ.”
  • Luke 6:36—Be “merciful just as your Father is merciful.”
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3—“The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.”
  • Philippians 2:1 calls for tenderness and compassion to be part of their fellowship.
  • Psalmist (Psalm 103:8) “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.”
  • Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:17) “You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” “I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow in anger and abounding in love” (Jonah 4:2).
  • Moses (Exodus 34:6) “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love.”

    2. kindness: compassion in action, a response of grace and generosity. What do we mean when we say, ““He’s so kind”? 

  • Ephesians 4:32—“Be kind and tenderhearted (compassionate) to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4—“Love is…kind.”
  • Galatians 5:22—fruit of the Spirit is ….kindness…
  • Ephesians 2:7— the incomparable riches of His grace expressed in His kindness to us in Christ.
  • Titus 3:4—“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us…”
  • Romans 2:4-5; 11:22 
  1. humility: a lowliness of mind demonstrated in a refusal to demand one’s rights, a servant mindset.
  • Ephesians 4:2—“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
  • Titus 3:2 exhorts us to “show true humility to all people” because “…we too were disobedient, deceived and enslaved…”
  • Philippians 2:3-8—Jesus is the supreme example.
  • John 13; Romans 12:3; 1 Peter 5:5; 1 Corinthians 1:27-28
  1. gentleness: meekness, considerate of others, willing to waive one’s rights out of consideration toward another.
  • Matthew 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.”
  • Galatians 5:23; 6:1— meekness is the fruit of the Spirit
  • James 3:13— meekness is part of the wisdom from above
  1. patience: (makrothumia) long-tempered, not short-fused; slow to anger; restraining retaliation in the face of provocation; capacity to absorb wrong without retaliation
  • Used of God (Romans 2:4)
  • Required of us (Romans 12:17-21)
  • 1 Peter 3:8-9 “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

This final quality of patience fits well with the closing two participles that are presented with as commands (with imperatival force) in the present active tense: “Bear with each other and forgive one another…”

Our new identity as God’s chosen, holy and dearly loved people overcomes differences that separate people and set people against each other. Our new identity also leads to a powerful transformation in the ways we relate and respond to other people. This is the life!

Steve Cornell

 

How men think in relationships

FINALLY, the guys’ side of the story. THESE ARE OUR RULES!

PLEASE NOTE. THESE ARE ALL NUMBERED #1 ON PURPOSE!

1. MEN ARE NOT MIND READERS.

1. LEARN TO WORK THE TOILET SEAT. YOU’RE A BIG GIRL. IF IT’S UP, PUT IT DOWN. WE NEED IT UP, YOU NEED IT DOWN. YOU DON’T HEAR US COMPLAINING ABOUT YOU LEAVING IT DOWN.

1. CRYING IS BLACKMAIL.

1. ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT. LET US BE CLEAR ON THIS ONE: SUBTLE HINTS DO NOT WORK!
 STRONG HINTS DO NOT WORK! 
OBVIOUS HINTS DO NOT WORK!
 JUST SAY IT!

1. YES AND NO ARE PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE ANSWERS TO ALMOST EVERY QUESTION.

1. COME TO US WITH A PROBLEM ONLY IF YOU WANT HELP SOLVING IT. THAT’S WHAT WE DO. SYMPATHY IS WHAT YOUR GIRLFRIENDS ARE FOR.

1. ANYTHING WE SAID 6 MONTHS AGO IS INADMISSIBLE IN AN ARGUMENT. IN FACT, ALL COMMENTS BECOME NULL AND VOID AFTER 7 DAYS.

1. IF YOU THINK YOU’RE FAT, YOU PROBABLY ARE. DON’T ASK US.

1. IF SOMETHING WE SAID CAN BE INTERPRETED TWO WAYS AND ONE OF THE WAYS MAKES YOU SAD OR ANGRY, WE MEANT THE OTHER ONE. 

1. YOU CAN EITHER ASK US TO DO SOMETHING OR TELL US HOW YOU WANT IT DONE. NOT BOTH.
IF YOU ALREADY KNOW BEST HOW TO DO IT, JUST DO IT YOURSELF.

1. WHENEVER POSSIBLE, PLEASE SAY WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO SAY DURING COMMERCIALS.

1. CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS DID NOT NEED DIRECTIONS AND NEITHER DO WE…

1. ALL MEN SEE IN ONLY 16 COLORS, LIKE WINDOWS DEFAULT SETTINGS..
PEACH, FOR EXAMPLE, IS A FRUIT, NOT A COLOR. PUMPKIN IS ALSO A FRUIT. WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT MAUVE IS.

1. IF WE ASK WHAT IS WRONG AND YOU SAY ‘NOTHING,’ WE WILL ACT LIKE NOTHING’S WRONG. WE KNOW YOU ARE LYING, BUT IT IS JUST NOT WORTH THE HASSLE.

1. IF YOU ASK A QUESTION YOU DON’T WANT AN ANSWER TO, EXPECT AN ANSWER YOU DON’T WANT TO HEAR..

1. WHEN WE HAVE TO GO SOMEWHERE, ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING YOU WEAR IS FINE…REALLY.

1. DON’T ASK US WHAT WE’RE THINKING ABOUT UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED TO DISCUSS SUCH TOPICS AS FOOTBALL OR MOTOR SPORTS.

1. YOU HAVE ENOUGH CLOTHES.

1. YOU HAVE TOO MANY SHOES.

1. I AM IN SHAPE. ROUND IS A SHAPE!

1. THANK YOU FOR READING THIS. YES, I KNOW, I HAVE TO SLEEP ON THE COUCH TONIGHT.. BUT DID YOU KNOW MEN REALLY DON’T MIND THAT? IT’S LIKE CAMPING…

  • PASS THIS TO AS MANY MEN AS YOU CAN – TO GIVE THEM A LAUGH…
  • PASS THIS TO AS MANY WOMEN AS YOU CAN – TO GIVE THEM A BIGGER LAUGH, BECAUSE IT’S TRUE!

Source: Hellou.com

 

Suffering in silence

They try to force themselves to appear cheerful as they struggle to survive. But, under the surface, life feels anything but happy as they suffer in silence, shame and confusion.

This was the story for a bright university student who attended our Church. She appeared to be happy and was eager to participate in Church activities. But inwardly she was fighting a losing battle with turmoil, fear, confusion and depression.

As she slowly weakened in her efforts to maintain control, she hesitantly agreed to the recommendation of a friend that she should meet with me to talk about her struggles. In this meeting, she finally gained the necessary courage to tell me a story that she had kept to herself until that point. She had been sexually molested by a family member when she was a little girl and, to my surprise, I was the first person to hear her painful story.

This began a challenging yet essential path to healing and rebuilding. Today she is doing well and able to help others facing similar circumstances.

A time to learn

Several years before this encounter, I was taking a graduate course in pastoral psychology and I impatiently asked myself, “Why do we have to spend a whole section on sexual abuse?” We even had to read a book about it and listen to a guest lecturer. Although I knew little about the subject, I didn’t expect to encounter very often. I was very wrong — and very humbled by God’s grace in equipping an impatient pastor.

Over the next couple of decades, I counseled more people dealing with a history of sexual abuse than I ever imagined. I’ve also repeatedly recommended the book I was assigned in the class. I remain humbled by the kindness of God to equip me to help those struggling to overcome the life-debilitating effects of sexual abuse.

During my graduate class, my eyes were opened to a world of darkness that holds many victims in silent pain. The more we learned about the issue, the more my heart grew heavy for the victims of such evil. 

Most of my counseling has focused on those who were sexually abused as children by family members. They come to me as adults who are struggling to live normal lives. They battle feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

Since their abuse included manipulation and force, they long to feel a sense of security and control. They often substitute excessive and controllable behaviors to feel a sense of normalcy. Extreme exercise and dieting are two examples. Yet they easily spiral out of a sense of control. Inability to function and overall lack of motivation can inexplicably grip them.

It’s not unusual for survivors to experience significant loneliness, loss of appetite and need for unusual amounts of sleep. Mood swings plague those battling the grip of sexual abuse. Unusual gregariousness can give way to unexplainable depression and crying. Other waves of emotion include self-hatred, panic attacks, irrational phobias, guilt, shame, overall sense of humiliation, unexplainable anger and rage, lack of normality and a feeling of being trapped.

Survivors of sexual abuse sometimes turn to other forms of abuse to escape their pain. Obsessive behaviors rang from alcohol and drug abuse to sexual addictions and promiscuity. Sometimes victims engage in self-mutilation and battle suicidal thoughts.

Without help from a caring friend, most victims don’t recognize how badly they’ve been affected. They tend to suppress the past to survive in the present. Victims often conceal their pain and keep others at a distance. Relationships don’t come easily to these adults. Trust, one of main chords of healthy relating, feels out of reach because of their experience of betrayal. Yet they long for close relationships as much as they fear them. They fear that allowing someone to become a caring friend will cause suppressed feelings to emerge. Vulnerability is risky but necessary for gaining freedom.

Marriage and sexual abuse

Those who enter marriage relationships without first addressing their history of sexual abuse rarely do well. To flourish in marriage requires vulnerability, transparency and trust — painfully difficult qualities for victims of sexual abuse. Marriage can also provide a helpful context for recovery and renewal through the love and devotion of a spouse. But it typically requires assistance from a wise counselor.

The person who marries a victim of sexual abuse is often surprised by the effects of the abuse. It’s not uncommon for the mate of a victim to feel frustrated, confused and helpless. Making matters worse, they typically interpret the behavior of the victim as a personal affront when they don’t know the source. When victims put up walls or shut down their emotions, their mates often interpret it as rejection or personal failure.

The intimacy and closeness of marriage requires a level of vulnerability survivors feel unable to give. Adults who are victims of child sexual abuse must seek wise counsel if they want to enjoy healthy relationships.

Overcoming the past

The only thing we can change about the past is how we allow it to effect us in the future. One victim of abuse expressed her pursuit of freedom as a refusal to tie her soul to her abuser. As hard as it will be, victims must courageously acknowledge their pain and confront their past.

The path to freedom requires dealing with the past but the most formidable obstacle is often fear. Those who have been abused should remember that they have been victimized by the evil actions of others. They must reject self-blame and all blame that others try to project on to them. Although difficult, they must reject the powerful emotions of shame, guilt and fear that hold them in bondage.

The book I was assigned to read, “A Door of Hope: Recognizing and Resolving the pains of Your Past” by Jan Frank, emphasizes the importance of confronting your past. As Jan Frank explains, this must also involve some form of confrontation of the abuser. After counseling others through this painfully necessary process, I know with certainty that the freedom awaiting the victim is worth the challenge of confronting the past.

Relating to God

Relating to God is another difficultly for victims of sexual abuse. “How can I trust God if He didn’t protect me when I was vulnerable?” they ask. It is hard to fully understand how God’s control relates to the evil actions of people. And these kinds of questions mixed with feelings of worthlessness and anger combine to obstruct faith in God. Such hesitations and struggles must not be treated lightly. Scripture reminds us to “be merciful to those who doubt” (Jude 22).

Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse need merciful and wise guidance to help them in their struggle to trust God. They especially need help to understand the difference between forgiveness of their offender and reconciliation. See here. 

Many others (like the student who entered my office) have walked this path. It is possible to know the joy of freedom from bondage to a painful past.

Steve Cornell

Resolving conflicts among Christians

We must be realistic about our expectations of life in a fallen world. While conducting our relationships with humble integrity, we must not be unrealistic about differences and difficulties that threaten peace between people — even among those who care deeply about each other. This is a truth that must be taught more clearly in the Church.

Jesus clearly anticipated fractures in Christian fellowship and taught us how to resolve them (Matthew 5:23-24;Matthew 18:15ff). We should not be surprised by them but ready to seek reconciliation.

These fractures are very different from the many minor grievances that should be immediately covered in love (I Peter 4:8) or from non-essential matters that should never be permitted to cause conflict in the Church (Romans 14:1-3). Believers must be mature on such matters.

But when sin divides Christian fellowship, a Church must understand the difference between personal forgiveness and reconciling a broken relationship. It’s possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation. It’s possible for forgiveness to occur in the context of one’s relationship with God apart from contact with an offender (Joseph being a great example). Reconciliation is about restoring broken relationships.

Forgiveness itself is not whitewashing or pretending a wrong never happened when the offense has driven a wedge between people. Forgiveness doesn’t require us to neutralize our sense of justice. The very act itself takes seriously the offense. But forgiveness does involve a surrender of desires for revenge. As such, it is an act of worship in the presence of the God who forgives our sins because it acknowledges God’s sole right to punish the offender (see: Genesis 5:15-20Romans 12:17-21). Forgiveness thus frees us from grudge-bearing vindictiveness and conversely empowers us to love our enemies as God loved us (Romans 5:8).

Priority Scripture places on pursuing peace

  • “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
  • “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace …” (Romans 14:19).
  • “Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
  • “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy …” (Hebrews 12:14).

What to do when peace does not seem possible

This depends on the nature of the situation. If the person is part of a fellowship of believers, we must follow Biblical mandates for protecting the unity of believers. The steps Jesus taught begin with private confrontation (after the personal preparation of removing logs from our own eyes, Matthew 7:3-5). If private confrontation does not remove the wedge, we move to private conference involving the offender brother and two or three others (enlisting those who are spiritually prepared (Matthew 7:3-5), spiritually mature (Galatians 6:1), and entrusted with spiritual oversight (I Peter 5:1-4Acts 20:28).

This only becomes necessary, if the one confronted has as obstinate attitude (Matthew 18:16). When a sinning member of the church refuses to heed the confrontation of a fellow believer, thus refusing to be restored to proper fellowship, the circle of confrontation must broaden to include one or two others.

Those called to be part of the confrontation do not need to be eyewitnesses of the sin (If they had been, they should have gone to confront the member themselves). Ideally, it would be good to include people who are known and respected by the erring member but this is not always possible.

The one or two witnesses are involved “so that every fact may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (v.16). Their purpose is not to threaten or intimidate, but to help the erring brother to understand the seriousness of the matter. Their main purpose is not really to evaluate the truthfulness of the charge, but to strengthen the rebuke and the call to restoration. After private conference, if the erring member remains obstinate and unwilling to acknowledge and repent of the sin, Jesus teaches a fourth step.

Each of the four steps has as its primary aim the restoration of the brother to proper fellowship. The fourth step is public announcement (Matthew 18:17a). Jesus said, “Tell it to the church (the assembly).”

This step is a sobering reminder that sin is not merely a private and personal matter for Christians. Sin that separates and alienates believers, must be dealt with and resolved. But how do we take this step of public announcement? In our church (due to size), we’ve sometimes handled this in the adult fellowship group the member participates in. Other times, we’ve communicated to all the covenant members through a special meeting of the membership. Some churches make these announcements during communion. Others will use a letter to the membership.

All churches should clearly spell out the process in their documents and seek agreement from the membership to follow it. This step also involves the fellowship in some kind of public confrontation. In Matthew 18:17b, Jesus implies that the church (as an assembly) has made an appeal to the erring member.

When the church is informed, (which reasonably implies that the pastors will be involved) warnings should be made about the need for the whole assembly to avoid gossip, slander and a proud or critical spirit (Matthew 7:3-5Galatians 6:1). Members should not play spiritual detective or allow either a lenient or a punitive attitude. They should be encouraged to pray for repentance and restoration, and to appeal to their fellow member to submit to the leadership of the Church. In such an appeal, one might humbly say, “I don’t know all the details, nor is it my place to know them, but I do want to encourage you to make things right with the church.”

No one should give the erring member the feeling that he is in good fellowship with the Church (cf. II Thessalonians 3:12-14). Never act in cross-purpose with the church. We should not do anything that would cause disrespect for the leadership. Remember the goal: “Win your brother.” It is redemptive!

The final step Jesus taught is public exclusion: removal from membership. The primary aim of this step is to protect the purity of the assembly (see: I Corinthians 5:1-11). Failure to practice these steps invites God’s discipline on the entire assembly (see:I Corinthians 11:30-32Revelation 2:5,1620-233:3-19).”

Steve Cornell