In one of the churches we pastored there were two college girls (Debbie & Charla) who roomed together and taught our children’s church together. They were friends, but their constant exposure to each other at home, at school, in daily activities and at church, was beginning to grate on both of them. They were getting on each other’s nerves wherever they went, including church.
One of the other teachers informed me of an ongoing feud that they were having right in front of the kids they were teaching.
“Debbie, would you get that pencil for me?”
“Get it yourself Charla. I’m not your slave.”
“Why do you have to act so snippy?”
“Me? You’re the one who is obnoxious.”
Right in front of the kids! The children were turning their heads back and forth as if they were watching a tennis match, with their mouths open in awe of the verbal battle going on between their teachers. One would serve up an insult and the other would return it.
I called the two young college girls into my office the next Sunday after church. This is what I said to them.
“It has come to my attention that you aren’t getting along very well.”
The looked at each other with daggers in their eyes and conceded that, indeed, there was a problem.
“But Debbie’s such a jerk all the time.”
“Yeah but you’re the annoying one.”
I quickly stopped them before they killed each other right in front of me. I said, “Girls, first of all, this is not pleasing to God. He wants you loving one another, not hating one another. I know you are probably starting to get a little sick of each other, but your fighting is starting to affect our church and your ministry to our kids. People are noticing, and it says to me it is starting to get out of hand.”
They hung their heads in shame, but the daggers were still in their eyes.
“It’s her fault.”
“No, it’s hers.”
I said, “Ok, this is what we are going to do. Debbie, you and Charla are going to stay here in my office until you love each other. I don’t want either of you to go home until this situation between you is resolved and each of you has completely forgiven the other. When you love each other again, come to my house and let me know. There are only two rules: no hitting and no throwing things.”
I lived close to the church and they both knew where that was. I bid them farewell and left them to their own devices. I was a little apprehensive because I didn’t want a murder to take place on church property—especially in my office. But I left them there just the same.
About an hour later there was a knock on my door, but it wasn’t from the two girls. One of our church’s board members had come to church to do something and he heard the two girls going at each other in my office. He wanted to make sure I knew about it.
He said, “Pastor, did you know that there are two girls in your office, and they are about to kill each other? Do you think I should intervene?”
I smiled, though a bit nervously, and said, “No, I am going to trust that they will be able to work it out on their own.”
He said, “Ok,” although did so very hesitantly, and then left.
Two and a half hours later there was another knock on my door. This time it was Charla and Debbie. They had big smiles on their faces and their arms were around each other.
“Pastor,” Debbie said, “Thank you for treating us with tough love. It was the best lesson we have ever been taught.”
I told them I was proud of them and had every confidence they would come away from their meeting loving each other.
I hugged them, prayed with them, closed the door, turned to my wife and said, “Thank God that is over. We won’t have to call an ambulance after all.”
“If your brother or sister sins (against you), go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” — Matthew 18:15