It always bothers me when someone uses Mathew 18 as the handbook for conflict resolution in the church. Sure, it contains some important conflict resolution principles, but the main point of the passage deals with sin that could result in someone being kicked out of the church. Here’s my issue, one person’s sin is another persons bruised ego. I wonder how many church splits have occurred over disagreements that were misinterpreted as sin and used Matthew 18 to guide them.
So how should we handle difficult and tense disagreements in the church?
For me the answer to this question is found in one’s understanding of the biblical view of Reconciliation. Many of the concepts we take for granted today, especially in the finance and economic world are inspired by the Greek words for Reconciliation used in the New Testament. Actually, there are four such involved in our study:
- Katallasso (καταλλάσσω) verb
“Properly denotes “to change, exchange” (especially of money); hence, of persons, “to change from enmity to friendship, to reconcile.” With regard to the relationship between God and man, the use of this and connected words shows that primarily “reconciliation” is what God accomplishes, exercising His grace towards sinful man on the ground of the death of Christ in propitiatory sacrifice under the judgment due to sin (Vines)”
- apokatallasso (ἀποκαταλλάσσω) verb
“To reconcile completely” (apo, from, and No. 1), a stronger form of No. 1, “to change from one condition to another,” so as to remove all enmity and leave no impediment to unity and peace (Vines).”
- katallage (καταλλαγή) noun
“Akin to A, No. 1, primarily “an exchange,” denotes “reconciliation,” a change on the part of one party, induced by an action on the part of another; in the NT, the “reconciliation” of men to God by His grace and love in Christ (Vines)”
There are many great studies on these words, but today I want add the Greek verb diallassō (διαλλάσσω) to the discussion. This word appears to only be used once by Jesus in Matthew 5:24 when he tells his disciples to “go and be reconciled to your brother first…”
When I examine the all the uses of these words in comparison with the word diallassō in their biblical contexts, I observed:
- Katallasso, apokatallasso and katallage are all very much focused on man’s reconciliation to God. In economic terms, this makes sense. God is the banker and we are the borrower, and we are reconciled to the banker. Furthermore, God is the only banker, all is creation (Us) are borrowers.
- In the spirit of Eph 2:16 where we find the verb apokatallasso, According to Vine’s, “’to reconcile completely’ (apo, from, and Katallasso), a stronger form of Katallasso, “to change from one condition to another,” so as to remove all enmity and leave no impediment to unity and peace. With this definition in mind, it would be ridiculous to think we, as borrowers, would have any credibility introducing other indebted souls to the banker who could redeem and absorb their debt if we did not embody and demonstrate the banker’s spirit of reconciliation. Especially since He completely transformed us from deeply indebted borrower to family member.
- Finally as I place a modern world view in this ancient concept, I found that the noun katallage translates directly to payment/transaction and the verb katallasso translates directly to the English word catalyst. Since Kata means (down or completely) Llage means change and Llasso means “I change,” we can surmise that Katalasso can literally be interpreted in context as “I [God] have paid your debt and completely changed you.” Therefore, our role as ambassadors of reconciliation can be summarized as catalysts of God’s catalysis or in less esoteric terms, catalysts of God’s transformation in others.
Now enter diallassō. Why is it important to include this perspective?
- This verb give us a practical example of what it looks like to be a “Catalyst of God’s Transformation”.
- The direct translation of diallassō Is “to exchange.” There is no banker/bower relationship here, just two former borrowers transformed into family members.
- The example in Matthew 5 appears to be between 2 believers or (spiritually reconciled), but I believe it is fitting for the Godly Catalyst to behave this way toward everyone; lest we forget we were once borrowers ourselves and recipients of God’s apokatallasso. Plus, who know, perhaps the borrowers we encounter may be completely reconciled as well.
Implications for the Spiritually Reconciled
- As I mentioned above, the spiritually reconciled (katallasso) should always have a spirit of (diallassō) with others even if they aren’t believers. At the very least, if they don’t come to Christ, it may stop them from becoming your “banker.” (Matt 5:25).
- The world has it’s transnational way of doing life, but believers are expected to live differently. I know that I can’t directly control the outcome of others, that would make me a banker and we’ve already established there’s only one, but in the spirit of Romans 12, a beginner’s guide for spiritual katallasso behavior, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men (Rom 12:18 NASB).” In reality life is complicated. We are, after all, just jars of clay, (2 Cor 4:7), but with such truth in mind, anyone who comes into contact with me should expect that I have a katallasso mission and a diallasso heart.
- This is especially true when a believe comes to me looking for reconciliation. Obviously, there are evil people in our world with evil intentions, and not all reconciliation results in close friendships. Nevertheless, none of the worst that world can offer should stop me, the spiritually transformed, from ever being willing to exchange enmity for peace.
- The world may expect such behavior, but my brothers and sisters in Christ should be able to count on it from me and I should be able to count on it from them.