Journey With Jesus

Settle Disputes Amicably

Matthew 5:23-25. 1 John 4:20

A Christian businessman made a business decision that he thought, at the time, was in the best interest of his employees. When the economy took a downturn, the decision ended up negatively affecting the balance of all his employee’s retirement accounts. This man admitted his mistake to his employees and committed to make restitution.

One of his employees, who was also a Christian, brought charges against the businessman. The new state prosecutor, looking to make a name for himself, decided to charge the businessman with the maximum penalty which included spending time in prison.

The time away from his family and the emotional distress after his release from prison ended up having a devastating affect on the business man’s marriage, family, and some professional relationships.

Jesus’ directive to the employee in this situation was “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:20-21).”

Jesus’ directive to the businessman before the court proceedings began was, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court (Matthew 5:25).”

In this case, the businessman attempted to settle the matter out of court. The employee saw the error in his actions and attempted to drop the charges. But, the prideful state prosecutor, who was intent on strengthening his name, insisted on proceeding with the case against the businessman.

The businessman served time in prison. The time away from his family and the emotional battle to rebuild his life after being released destroyed his marriage and marred his relationship with his children.

Jesus’ message to both men after this ordeal was “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-25).”

After realizing what his action did to the businessman, the employee sought to reconcile with the business man. The businessman did accept the employee’s apology but their relationship will never be the way God intended it to be on this side of eternity.

Why is it preferable for two people who love Jesus to quietly resolve conflicts rather than battle over them publicly? In this case, the two men had a relationship that was furthering the Kingdom of God on earth before the employee took the matter to court. They could have done other great things together. They could have weathered the economic storm together and built the business into a business that sought the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29:7) and brought glory to God. Instead, a business, businessman and family were broken. The regional press from the court case tainted the name of the businessman. It also discredited God’s name when people who knew the two men were Christians were exposed to this case. 

Why is settling a dispute out of court better than a judge’s decision? Court battles are messy, time-consuming, and expensive. The cost can be more than financial. In this case, it cost a marriage and family. It took an emotional toll on the businessman, his wife and his children who had to be without their husband and father during an important time in their life.

Taking a dispute to court also causes a great divide between the two parties that may never heal until the two parties are in heaven. Even small disagreements that may not end up in court stand a better chance of being resolved peacefully if they are dealt with right away.

What unsettled disputes are keeping you and another believer from living fully for God’s glory?

1. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about this directive?

2. What are you going to do about it?

3. Who are you going to tell?

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