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Disagreements


(Note: This article was written in "Easy English" for use in countries where people speak English as a second language. That may explain some of the stilted language.)

In any group there are disagreements. Disagreements can be very bad for the whole group. But the Bible gives us an easy way to fix disagreements. (Matthew 18:15-17)

The first step is to talk to the person who disagrees with you. But you must do it without bringing other people into the disagreement. At this time, you must not talk to any other person about the disagreement.

There are many names for this action of talking secretly to other people about a disagreement you have with another person. It is called "whispering" (2 Corinthians 12:20), backbiting (Romans 1:30), "murmuring" (Philippians 2:14) or "gossiping".

You do not even need to talk to leaders about the disagreement. It is cruel to the person you disagree with if you say things against him or her when the person is not there to protect himself or herself.

(There may be times when you cannot talk to the person. If the person does not want to talk to you, then you may not be able to have him/her with you if/when you talk about your disagreement. But when this happens, you should not say anything that you would not be happy for the other person to hear you saying.)

Leaders should not say that they need to talk about followers when the followers are not present. Some people give reasons like, "We will know better how to pray for that person if we talk about the problem." This is not true, and it is not a good reason for breaking the rule. God knows all that he needs to know about it, and other people do not need to know about it to pray for you.

Many disagreements can be fixed (and people can become good friends) when the two people who disagree talk face to face about the disagreement. When you face the person you disagree with, you show that you are willing to listen to what they have to say. And you show that you do not want to hurt them by talking to other people about them. You really want to fix the disagreement. (James 5:19-20)

If you cannot fix the disagreement in this way, the second step is to ask for one or two other people to help you. These people should try to get both people to listen to each other.

Sometimes the people who are asked to help with the problem will try to say that there is no problem. This often means that the listeners are being lazy. If there was no problem, they would not have been asked to come and help in the first place. If you are asked to help two people with a disagreement that they are having, try not to say things like "It is only a personality difference." And do not say that both people are equally wrong. There is a problem, and you need to find the best place for them to start in fixing it. Covering your eyes and waiting for the problem to go away will not help.

Good listeners will listen closely to what the two people are saying. They will learn to see the spirit that is making them say what they are saying. (See Try the Spirits.) If a person does not want to talk about the problem, it is a sign that the person knows that he/she is wrong. A person who is hiding from the truth does not want to have other people hear the truth.

When one of the people who has a disagreement tries to hurt the other person with words, it is a sign of a bad spirit too. Look for signs that they are really trying to fix the problem; and discourage them from trying to hit out at the other person.

If one of the people with the disagreement is not happy after talking about it with one or two other people listening in, the last step is to bring the whole group together to hear about the disagreement. Most disagreements are fixed before this happens. But if they are not, you all need to understand that the problem is a serious one.

If the whole group cannot fix the problem, then the group will be forced to say who is wrong, and to ask that person to leave the group. (1 Corinthians 5:5)

When a person is fighting against the truth, they do not really want to be in the group, and often we find that they have been using all of these meetings as one way to fight against the group before they leave.

Some people want to stay, but they have been lazy about fighting the bad spirits in themselves. They could learn a good lesson if they stop all that they have been doing, and go without food for one to three days as they pray for a better spirit. This is something that we have added to the plan from the teachings of Jesus. We do not see it as a way to "punish" the person, but as one last way to get around the real punishment (that is, asking them to leave the group). If they want to try fasting and praying for a few days, they can do it in a place by themselves and then return for another meeting with the whole group. This time of quiet prayer is enough for most people to get over a bad spirit. If the group feels that they have stopped having a bad spirit, and the disagreement can be fixed, the person can, at that time, return to the group.

The easy three step plan that Jesus talked about could fix problems in any group, if people would use it. We find that the more we use it, the closer together we are as a group.

(See also Criticism.)

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