Matthew 18:16, a portion of the dispute resolution protocol presented by Jesus, reads: “If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
This step in the process has two applications: The first and most common understanding involves bringing one or two neutral witnesses with you to observe the dispute resolution conversation. The witnesses can then testify to the events that occur between the two disputants. A mediator or an elder in the community might be logical choice as a witness.
The second understanding might inspire us to bring expert witnesses who can establish the truth regarding an issue under dispute. Disputants, when they are men or women of goodwill, will welcome the opportunity to establish a baseline of truth. If their intentions are sound, they will welcome the effort to establish a common ground or foundation regarding the reality of the matter in dispute.
Expert witness participation will often clear away obfuscating confusion and misunderstanding. The testimony will expose misinformation, deception, and manipulation, which have often been planted by destructive hidden influences. Upon such testimony being presented, disputants often see the situation more clearly and reconciliation soon follows.
However, there are times when party does not intend to reconcile in good faith. They may have come to the table with other intentions—with the intention to deceive, trick, or mislead the other party. With expert witness testimony their lack of good faith is soon exposed. It becomes clear they have not met with the intention of mutual reconciliation, but rather to manipulate the other party.
Both approaches to the protocol may and should be combined, depending on the circumstances. A neutral mediator who observes and facilitates the process is invaluable. An expert witness who can set the table with an accurate account of the facts, the evidence, the reality in play also contributes to reconciliation. Perhaps the ideal approach combines a mediator who can facilitate the disputants’ conversation with the expert witness.
In most major conflicts we face today, it will be necessary to establish a basis of truth, a foundation of factual evidence. Attempts to manipulate, deceive, coerce, and confuse are rampant. With this in mind, it makes sense to carefully plan the second step of the process, “bring a witness.”