Resolving Conflict: God's Better Plan
GOD - we look upward for perspective (our first stop, not our last resort)
ME - then we look inward for inspection (slows us down & softens us up)
God's Better Plan in navigating conflict is an upside down wisdom from our normal path, where we usually start by focusing on the other person and dwell on the conflict.
Ken Sande: "Jesus doesn’t mean that our own sins are necessarily bigger or worse than others’. But they are our responsibility; they are under our control. So even if I’m only 2 percent responsible for a conflict, I’m 100 percent responsible for my 2 percent.”
GOD - we look upward for perspective
ME - then we look inward for inspection
THEM - then finally we look outward for resolution
Not only do we need to take responsibility for our part of the conflict, but we also need to do something about it. We need to push past the barriers that stand in our way, which usually have more to do with desire rather than knowledge. In other words, we probably know what’s the right thing to do; we just don’t want to do it.
Admitting that we've blown it and done (... or said, posted, tweeted, snapchatted) something wrong that contributed to the conflict is one of the most difficult things we’ll ever do. The three hardest words to say in the English language are not, “I love you,” but they’re “I was wrong” and “I am sorry.” So yes, apologies are hard, but apologies are necessary.
Bad apologies avoid responsibility. They use words like "but" and "if" to evade, criticize, or blame-shift.
A good apology has three components:
SAY IT specifically
OWN IT completely
MEAN IT sincerely
Depending on the situation, we might also need to add statements “Will you forgive me?” or “What can I do to make it right?” but not all the time.
Some of the things we hold on to in a conflict just aren’t worth the fight. Overlooking an offense is an intentional choice (fueled by the grace of God) to let go of our need to win and to leave our hurts in His hands.
Not everything should be overlooked. If the offenses are sinful, severe, and repeated, that’s a different story. But if something is more along the lines of a random offense or a one-time slight, we probably just need to overlook it.
If we are genuinely going to try to live at peace with everyone, then there will be those times when we need to approach the other person in love and address their offense. As hard as that seems to do, this has to be part of how we work through conflict. Why? Because some times people don’t see it. They don’t. They don’t know that they’ve hurt us or they don’t have a sense of how severe it is.
The Bible uses the word "rebuke." While it may sound harsh and critical, biblically-speaking a rebuke is more like speaking an uncomfortable truth out of love about their sin because we honestly have that person's best interest in mind.
Now there are some qualifiers here about a rebuke. If it’s something we take great pleasure in doing... or if it’s something we do frequently... or if it’s something we do with people we don’t even know, then we're doing it wrong.
A rebuke is something we do in the context of a relationship. We do it prayerfully, patiently, and purposefully with the goal being resolution and restoration.
Jesus’ Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18 shows that we who have been forgiven much by our great and loving God need to be able to extend that same kind of forgiveness to those who have wronged us. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13).
Now if apologies are hard, then forgiveness seems impossible. Yet our God is the God of the impossible, and that doesn’t just include miraculous healing, abundant provision, and those things we naturally gravitate to in our prayers. No, it also includes the difficult yet necessary acts of obedience God calls us to like forgiveness.
Forgiveness can be complicated with lingering emotions and leftover consequences. Don’t let complexity get in the way of what Jesus commands here. When we forgive someone else, we make the decision to release the offense—where we’ll no longer bring up it, nor will we punish them again later on for what they did. We also give up the right to get even and leave the revenge business up to God. Things won't always go back to “the way they used to be,” but a specific, forgiven offense should no longer stand in the way of the other work that needs to be done for reconciliation and peace.
3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
“What about the person who doesn’t repent? “What about the person who doesn’t apologize or say they’re sorry?” Does God still say that I’m supposed to forgive them?”
It depend how we define forgiveness. Some say forgiveness is a unilateral decision we make on our own, so only one person is needed to make it happen. Others say that forgiveness is primarily a relational word, so it requires two people for actual forgiveness to take place, where the offender repents and the offended pardons. Forgiveness is a relational word. While it seems that complete forgiveness can't truly take place without two parties involved, when we’ve been sinned against, there is a releasing… or a “giving-over-to-God” journey we need to take with Him, even if that other person never repents or offers a sincere apology.
As hard as it is to do, there is a loving, beautiful Savior by the name of Jesus who wants to take all that bitterness and carry our burdens for us. He invites us to get rid of all that hurt, all that pain, all that baggage we’ve been lugging around on our own for years, and release it over to Him. Our God is not just caring enough to want to do it, but He’s also strong enough to be able to do it. He can handle whatever we throw His way.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
With these five specific actions of looking outward toward the other person, and moving forward in your pursuit of peace:
How’s God speaking to you today? Which one of these is the Holy Spirit nudging you to pursue? Who’s the person? What’s the situation. Life is messy and relationships are complicated, so don’t try to fix your world in the next seven days. Don’t fix; just follow.
Tell the Lord that you need Him. You need His wisdom to know what to do.
You need His power to be able to do it. And you need His sovereign creativity to open doors for you and to orchestrate circumstances so you’ll have just the right opportunity to do it.
With Community Groups winding down this month, Connections will be taking a break for the summer. We'll resume in September.