March 13

Numbers 22:31-32 (NIV) 31Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. 32The angel of the LORD asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.

It is interesting that animals can see the spiritual realm, but man must have his eyes opened. Balaam's donkey had tried to avoid the angel in the road with a drawn sword. Balaam could not see the angel at first, and so he beat his donkey for what he thought was stubbornness. The angel of the LORD (Whom I believe is Jesus) enabled the beast to talk. Then the angel asked why Balaam had beaten his donkey. It seems God cares for these beasts. Proverbs tell us that a righteous man regards the life of his beast.

Though the LORD gave Balaam permission to go visit with the leaders that wanted to curse Israel, we later find out that Balaam's heart was giving in to greed. He knew God did not want to curse them, but he was holding out hope that he could somehow receive the reward offered. We have to watch carefully for these subtle heart changes from obedience and submission to greed. Don't dwell on what the world has to offer.

The LORD was angry with Balaam, even though they seemed to be on talking terms. The more we know, the more we are accountable for. Balaam knew God and communed with Him, but greed captured his heart. He spurned his relationship with God by going after gain. When our path is a reckless one that will harm us, the faithfulness of God comes to oppose our recklessness. That is the mercy of God.

Meditation: Have I met the resistance of God opposing my recklessness? Do I recognize it as God's mercy?

March 13

Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV) 15"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

This is the only passage in the New Testament that tells how to practically go about resolving a conflict between brothers in Christ. If we would follow it carefully, we would resolve many conflicts before they got to the point of being irreparable. Step one: The one who is offended goes to the one that offended him, one on one. 90% of issues will be resolved there. Usually it is a misunderstanding or something that was done unintentionally. Do it quickly before bitterness takes root. Once you become embittered, no response will be sufficient to restore the relationship.

Step two: If there is no resolution, the offending brother refuses to listen, then take along two or three witnesses. Ideally there should only be five people at the most that know about the problem. We get into trouble when we start telling others and forming groups to support one another's perception of what happened. Everyone wants support and sympathy, but the godly way is to keep those that know limited in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Finally, if the brother refuses to listen, then take it to the church. Some interpret this to mean the elders of the congregation you attend. Others believe this means to bring it before the entire church body for resolution. If the brother refuses to listen to the church, (this assumes the church will be of one mind) treat him as a pagan or tax collector. This is one of Jesus' few teachings about the church. Jesus is referring to believers that gather to worship. It really did not exist at the time, so Jesus is looking into the future and specifically addressing a future need for His followers in a corporate setting.

Then the question is how to treat a pagan or tax collector. Is Jesus saying how the Jews treated them or how He and His disciples did? One of them was a tax collector. Treat them as those in need of salvation, loving them, but not considering them a part of the body of the local church. That would still offer hope that things could be restored if they would repent.

Remember: Commit yourself to follow Jesus' conflict resolution pattern.